To Drill or Not To Drill

Jan 7, 2012   //   by admin   //   Articles, Strength & Conditioning, Training  //  No Comments

There’s been an interesting debate on slowtwitch recently, triggered by a tweet from Paulo Sousa and a blog entry by Joel Filliol.

They suggest that triathletes shouldn’t do formal drills and that for most, swim fitness, not technique, is the key.  I think this is a simplification of their argument – they do emphasis use of paddles and band to ‘force’ good form on to swimmers

I can see some logic to the argument – if you can swim 200m at a pace you’d be happy with for a 1500m, the problem isn’t your technique, but having the fitness to maintain that technique over a longer time.  What doesn’t come across in the discussions is the importance of ‘deliberate practice’ when completing your drills.

I (and I guess most people) have been guilty of rolling through sets of drills, just waiting to get to the main set.  I’ve also been guilty of racing drills, or abandoning some of the technical emphasis in order to hold my position in the lane.  In these cases, I’m sure the ‘no drill’ brigade are absolutely correct – I was wasting my time.

However, I also think there’s defintely room in the training plan for a sprinkling of focused drills.  I think the keys to success are:

  • try to get someone to confirm your form during these drills
  • pick appropriate drills for your ability – if its easy, its probably wasting your time.  Deliberate practice should be hard, both mentally & physically
  • if you start to lose the laser-focus, then stop – even if the plan says to complete more sets
  • if you’re not learning from the drill, then stop and reconsider – why are you doing it
  • drills do not replace hard graft – for a typical triathlete your plan should include a mixture of longer reps at threshold pace or below and a smattering of quick stuff
  • when swimming your intervals, you should still be concentrating on form


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