To carry on our discussion of How To Use Drills, I will provide an outline here for how they can be incorporated into your practice time.

If you haven’t read it already I point you back to the previous post Using Focal Points to scan that first. This post will make more sense with the concept of Focal Points understood.

What are the point of drills? I’ll name a few…

  • To slow things down in order to expose Improvement Opportunities (weak spots)
  • To isolate a certain area of the stroke so that specific corrections can be made one at a time
  • To give the brain the ideal conditions it needs to make motor corrections and imprint them deeply
  • To refocus the swimmer’s attention
  • To heighten the swimmer’s sensitivity to external and internal feedback
  • To rest one area of the body/brain so that another can be challenged without distraction or competition for resources

Drill work generally requires ‘slower’ swimming (or even barely move along), though that doesn’t always need to be the case, as I will explain later. And Slower does not necessarily mean Easy.

One of the mantras we use is:  “Slow Down To Speed Up.” It has multiple layers of meaning. Actually, we can do drills (or whole stroke) at:

  1. Slow speed, low intensity
  2. Slow speed, higher intensity
  3. Moderate or higher speeds, low intensity
  4. Moderate or higher speeds, higher intensity

Each combination has a particular purpose and are very effective… when a swimmer or coach knows how to use them.

People new to TI will immediately be introduced to the first, and before long will encounter the second. As we progress in our TI study and experience we discover the purpose and power of the last two, and how to use all four as a set of training tools.

Here are at least 4 ways (among many perhaps) to insert Drills and corresponding Focal Points into your practice:

  • Drill-Only sets
  • Drills and Whole Stroke Mixed
  • Whole Stroke Intervals with Drill Tune-Ups
  • Whole Stroke with Focal Points

In advanced TI Training a swimmer’s training path-to-goal is customized to her individual needs, designed and adjusted according to objective and subjective feedback and measurements taken in each practice, and in periodic baseline test swims. Because of this I am not eager to publish ‘workouts’ and prescribe distances as if they are suitable for anyone. This is why I do private coaching:  when I take the time to know where you are coming from, study where you are at, and listen to where you are going then we (together) can design a path for you far more exciting and effective than what you may have imagined possible before.

However, for the purposes of supporting your Self-Coaching efforts I will give some examples of drill patterns below. I hope you will take liberty with the distances suggested, experiment and modify to suit your own condition and goals. The variations may be virtually endless, yet there are some important principles we use to design drills to create an ideal brain-training pattern which I won’t go into right now.

Examples are given for a 25 m/yd pool. FP = Focal Point. WS = Whole Stroke.

The point of the Nasal-Only breathing rest (mouth closed, not talking) is to activate your para-sympathic nervous system which helps regulate heart rate more effectively, and to keep your mind reflective on what you just did and what you are going to do better on the next length. Drills are predominantly about brain-work after all.


Pick 3 Focal Points A, B, and C

  • Do the following sequence 3x (for a total of 450 m/yd)
  • 2x 25 drill, with FP A
  • 2x 25 drill, with FP B
  • 2x 25 drill, with FP C
  • 6 to 8 deep nasal-only breaths at the wall between each repeat

Or, try this variation:

  • Do the following sequence 6x (for a total of 300 m/yd)
  • 3x 25 with FP A on #1, B on #2, and C on #3
  • 6 -8 deep nasal-only breaths at the wall between each

After doing one of the previous sets successfully take the next step in complexity:

  • Do the following sequence 3x (for a total of 450 m/yd)
  • 1x 25 drill with FP A
  • 1 x 25 drill with FP A and B
  • Nasal-breath rest at wall
  • 1x 25 drill with FP B
  • 1x 25 drill with FP B and C
  • Nasal-breath rest at wall
  • 1x 25 drill with FP C
  • 1x 25 drill with FP C and A
  • Nasal-breath rest at wall

Drill With Whole Stroke Mixed

Pick 3 Focal Points A, B, and C

  • Do the following sequence 3x (for a total of 450 m/yd), with FP A on #1, B on #2, and C on #3
  • 2x 25 drill
  • 2x (1/2 length drill, 1/2 length WS swim)
  • 2x 25 WS swim
  • 6 -8 deep nasal-only breaths at the wall between each

You can increase complexity by blending (=holding attention on) two Focal Points at the same time: AB, AC, BC

Or to increase challenge you can increase duration: increase the distance of each repeat, or increase the number of repeats.

Whole Stroke Intervals with Drill Tune Up

The possibilities are endless…

  • Do the following sequence 3x (for a total of 900 m/yd)
  • 25 drill, 50 WS swim
  • 25 drill, 75 WS swim
  • 25 drill, 100 WS swim
  • 6 -8 deep nasal-only breaths at the wall between each

You may use FP A on cycle #1, B on #2, and C on #3. To increase complexity, you can blend Focal Points (AB, AC, BC), and/or increase distance of the repeats, or add more repeats.

Here is one I might do as a marathon distance swimmer:

  • Repeat this cycle 4 to 6 times (for a total of 1600 to 2400 m/yd).
  • 300 m WS swim, 100 m drill

I would do the 300 at higher intensity, then use the drill as active rest (no rest at the wall, just flip into drill mode and keep swimming). I might pick my Focal Points based on the observations I made during the WS swim. The one or two FPs I used during the drill I would also use during the next WS swim to test my focus.

An open-water version of this is to simply count strokes – 3x 100-strokes WS swim, and 100-strokes drill.

Whole Stroke Swimming with Focal Points

This is more straight forward. You swim any continuous distance or set of distance intervals. You simply pick a set of Focal Points and cycle through them as you swim. You change Focal Points after a certain distance, or certain number of repeats.

An example:

Swim a continuous 1500 with a Focal Points A, B, and C. Break the mental part of the swim down into 5x (3x 100, with FP A on #1, B on #2, and C on #3). You can place a rest interval in between each 100, or between each 300 if you need to, or just swim continuous without a break and simply change the FP at each interval.

As you achieve your improvement objective for each particular Focal Point you can increase the complexity by blending FP’s, as I mentioned previously: AB, AC, BC, and even ABC. Or pick new ones as you discover things to work on during the swim. Or you can challenge the endurance of your attention by increasing the duration you will hold those Focal Point blends.


The point of teaching you about how to use Focal Points and Drills is so that you can start to use these tools to customize your own training path, rather than rely on some generic plan that has taken little of your personal needs and capabilities into account.  Certainly, you may use those as a starting point, but the more you learn, the more experience you gain, the more you’ll want to modify those to suit your needs, for sure. Anyway, its much more engaging and satisfying (for me and many others at least) to study and build your own.

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