Felix Wong swimming in the Colorado State University Recreation Center.
Photo by Joshua Geisser

My Swim Form Analysis Session with a Swim Coach

Over the years, I have made sporadic efforts to swim as a form of cross-training. While I have long “retired” from triathlons, I’ve nevertheless wanted to improve my swim ability, especially in case were I to become interested in doing a swim-bike-run competition again. Living in Pontevedra, Spain–an epicenter of the triathlon world–has only increased this interest, especially since we live right across from the river where last year’s World Triathlon Cup Championship Finals was held.

Although I do believe my swimming has vastly improved since my last swim form analysis in 2010, I knew it still could use some work. So while I was in Colorado in early June, my friend Matt highly recommended doing a a swim consultation with a young swim coach named Josh. Matt had been taking an Adult Fitness class in Fort Collins over the past year and had made remarkable progress in his swimming, improving his 60-yard swim time from 92 seconds to 55 seconds. Impressed by Matt’s improvement and the credit he gave to his coach, I decided to give Josh a try. Josh, if I recall correctly, is a graduate student at CSU in Exercise Physiology and is extremely knowledgeable about swimming.

We scheduled a 90-minute session at the Colorado State University Recreation Center, where I outlined my swim goals: improving my form and efficiency for long-distance triathlon swimming. I was less interested in flip turns and more focused on the overall swimming technique.

The pool at the rec center was 25 yards, a bit longer than my usual 20-yard community pool. Josh first had me swim 100 yards. I felt good, clocking in at 1:39 off the bat without giving it my all. This was probably my best time ever (at least the best I have ever timed), so it was a promising start.

Josh took the following video of my swimming and then gave me detailed feedback.


Here’s what he noted:


  • My pull was “really good.”
  • Hand entry at 45 degrees was good.
  • I had good rotation and arm extension.

Areas for Improvement

  • My hips were sinking due to my kick.
  • I was kicking from the knees instead of the hips.
  • My head needed to be tucked more, with my chin touching my neck and looking directly downward.
  • On the recovery stroke, my arms were too flat and needed a higher elbow.
  • My arms sometimes crossed the center line instead of staying parallel like “railroad tracks.”

The main takeaway was that I needed to work on my kick to prevent my hips from sinking. Josh was the first to identify my kick as the source of my sinking hips–in the past, I had always believed it was because of my head and chest position. This revelation is a potential game-changer for me. We spent a significant portion of the session working on various kicking drills.

Drills and Techniques

Kicking Drills

  1. Regular Kicking with a Kickboard: Initially, I could make it across the pool, but when I focused on kicking from the hips with a straight leg, I struggled to move and quickly got tired. Wearing fins helped with propulsion.
  2. Back Glide Kicking Drill: Focus on keeping the head in a neutral position, reaching arms out in a streamline position, keeping chest and hips up, and driving the kick from the hips.
  3. Side Kicking Drill: Work on full rotation with one arm outstretched and the other glued to the body, focusing on strong kicks and full shoulder rotation.
  4. 6-Beat Side Kick to Front Kick to Side Drill: Alternate between kicking on the front and sides, focusing on strong kicks and rotation.

Josh recommended incorporating 200-400 yards of kicking drills into every swim session, focusing on kicking from the hips with straight legs, pointed toes, and flexible ankles.

Additional Drills

  1. Catchup Drill: Work on keeping arms parallel to the body and avoiding the center line. Josh emphasized that for long swims, relaxation, smoothness, and efficiency are crucial. The catchup drills helped me stay extended and glide through the water.
  2. High Elbow Drill: Focus on a high elbow during the recovery stroke.

Breath Test

Josh noticed I sometimes held my breath unconsciously. He had me do a breath test where I kicked with fins, focusing on exhaling throughout the length of the pool. The first time, I made it 20 yards, and the second time, I made it all the way across.

While Josh seemed pleased with my breath control, I was reminded that I do need to be breathing out while I am underwater. Doing so may help me not gasp so much for air when I am swimmiong long distances.

Key Takeaways

  1. Kick Improvement: Focus on kicking from the hips, keeping legs straight, and pointing toes.
  2. Head Position: Tuck my chin to my neck and look straight down.
  3. Arm Position: Keep arms parallel like railroad tracks and maintain a high elbow on the recovery stroke.
  4. Breathing: Exhale continuously when my head is underwater.

Despite the challenges, especially with the kicking, I left the session feeling optimistic and equipped with actionable steps to improve my swimming. I look forward to integrating these drills into my routine and making steady progress. Maybe if it gets good enough, I will even think about entering a race involving swimming in Spain!

Felix Wong swimming in the Colorado State University Recreation Center.
Photo by Joshua Geisser
Felix Wong swimming in the Colorado State University Recreation Center.