Swim workout definitions help

I am reading through the SUF triathlon training plans, and have three sets of questions about swim workouts:

  1. I read through the description for the elbow-hip-elbow drill on the Technical Swimming Definitions page (Technical Swimming Definitions – Sufferfest Support), but am having trouble picturing this one-- might there be a video somewhere to which I can refer? I tried superficial Googling, but didn’t find it;

  2. When a workout calls for -x yds, does that mean x yards with a negative split? If so, how is this different than a build effort? I couldn’t find a definition in the FAQ. In any case, I presume it does not mean that the pool gives me x yds :slight_smile: ; and

  3. When the workout calls for kicking or pulling, does that automatically imply with fins + kickboard/paddles + pull buoy? Or are those only to be used when specified?

Thanks for any help!

Hi @latimerlabrat,
Good questions you ask here. Unfortunately, we don’t have videos for the swim drills ready to share yet, so I’ll do my best to explain the elbow-hip-elbow drill another way. This drill will be easier with fins and a snorkel if you have them to help you stay high and balanced in the water and breathing normally so you’re not rushing the drill in order to take a breath.

Elbow-Hip-Elbow Drill:
1- Push off the wall in the streamline position.
2- As you surface, keep the left arm extended in front of the body and take a pull with the right arm.
3- When you finish the right arm stroke, keep your left arm out front and your body rotated with the right shoulder up. With your right arm, begin your recovery as usual, however instead of entering the water for the next stroke, hold your side-glide position and touch your left elbow with your right hand, then bring your right hand back to touch your right hip, then back up to touch the left elbow, then finally enter the water with your right hand and pull with your left arm.
4- Hold the right arm extended out front and pause with the left arm at your side in the side kicking position while you kick for a count of 8.
5- Continue to hold your right arm extended out front. Keeping the elbow high, bring the left hand up to touch the right elbow (that’s extended out front), then bring the left hand back to touch the left hip, then forward again to touch the right elbow, then enter the water and stroke with the right arm.
*If you know the zipper drill where you’re pulling your fingertips up the side of your body, imagine that position/drill with the added actions of touching the elbow, then hip, then elbow again. This drill emphasizes the aspects of rotation, balance and kicking on your side.

Question #2- I think there’s just a miscommunication regarding the ( - ) before the distance in the workout description. That (-) is just like a bullet point, not a minus sign, as you’re reading it. We’ll take that as a note to reformat those workouts to clear up the confusion.

Question #3- When the workout calls for kicking without specifying how, you can really do it however you choose: On your belly with a board out front, on your side, or on your belly without a board, using a snorkel. Fins are ok sometimes, but not every time. It’s good to develop some kicking strength and efficiency without the fins.
For the pulling, a pull buoy is a must, otherwise, you aren’t actually pulling. Some workouts will specify paddles or no paddles for pull sets. If it doesn’t, swim without them. It’s good to do some pull sets with paddles to develop strength, and some without to develop technique. If you use aids like fins and paddles all the time, you won’t develop your strength and skill nearly as well. I know that’s more of a guide than a black and white answer, so use your discretion where necessary and mix things up… Work on your weaknesses rather than keeping them weak by relying on the fins and paddles as crutches!

I hope that helps clear up some confusion!


Thanks so much, @Coach.Suzie.S! I will put this info straight to use this week!

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