This month there has been a water polo tournament at our pool, we took full advantage at swim squad. The pool was set up at 33m with no lane ropes, a perfect opportunity to practice open water skills and mix it up with a bit of intensity in the chop. One of the main focuses was drafting, more specifically drafting on the hip and working with the swimmers around you.
Drafting is when an athlete swims directly behind or just to the side and behind of another swimmer. Riding the lead swimmers bow wave correctly can save up to 25% of energy expenditure, meaning that you can have the ability to swim with and faster than the swimmers who usually beat you in the pool!
I believe the best position for drafting is to the side and behind of the lead swimmer on their hip. Whether you swim on the hip or directly behind on the toes can be a personal preference or dependant on the conditions and venue on the day.
So how can you practice swimming on the hip correctly?
A drill progression I use is the high five drill. This drill progression will help you firstly get use to swimming close to other swimmers, sync your stoke rate so not to disrupt the other swimmers and place you in the correct position to take full advantage of the swimmer’s bow wave. It is also good for a laugh!! Firstly pair up with a training partner who is a similar speed in the water as use. Push off the wall at the same time side by side and start to swim. At the top of your stroke during the recovery phase with your inside arm “high five” your partner then carry on your normal swim stroke with your outside arm and repeat. At first it will feel disjointed but after two or three attempts you will get in rhythm. You can steadily increase your pace focusing on staying in time with each other. Each length will allow you to practice both sides.
Once you have mastered the above then you can move back half a body length so that your head is in line with the lead swimmers hip and tight in. The focus now is to not high five at the top of the stroke but to stay in time with the lead swimmers stroke rate to enable you to swim as close to their body as possible. As their inside hand recovers so does yours, as their inside hand enters the water so does yours. All that is separating you is that half body length and you are swimming perfectly in time. Again once you have mastered this at a slower stroke rate, progress to a faster and faster rating. Then simply add more swimmers!