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Tri Medley: The 3/2/2 drill

Pro and age group athletes on deck before starting their tri-medley warm up.

The 3/2/2 drill is our way of doing butterfly. It incorporates the butterfly strokes off the wall followed by two single strokes on one arm, then two single strokes on the other arm. We try to fit at least two sets of 3 strokes of butterfly in each 25m.

Why do we swim butterfly this way and not straight out?

1) Butterfly is very demanding in both technique and effort. Most elite swimmers are not big fans of doing the full stroke and it is often used as a punishment in swim squads. With good reason, it hurts even the fittest of swimmers.

As a swim coach all my male flyers’ used this drill exclusively in their aerobic butterfly sets.

We believed that the full stroke was too strenuous and thus affected their sprinting technique long term. Permit me to say we had great success with our fly swimmers using this methodology. Between 1980 and 1990 we had a member on the Australian swim team each year.

Pro triathlete Carina Brechters demonstrating the 3/2/2 drill for the age group campers.

2) We are using this drill to improve our freestyle feel of the water. Breaking down the actual drill we see the three strokes as double-arm freestyle. Breathing each stroke encourages the athlete to accelerate their hands through the stroke, as one needs to get the head up for the breath.

Thus, it works a very important part of the freestyle stroke.

It also works the hand at the shoulder entry, stopping a lot of the athletes who cross the centre line of their entry into the water. Finally, it promotes a more thumbs first entry of the hand, ensuring the training of a good press at the start of the stroke.

3) The 2/2 part of the drill incorporates relaxation into the technique. Most age-group athletes rush their recovery. In this part of the drill we try to slow it all down. We breathe each stroke and we breathe to the side just as we would in freestyle. This again slows the arm rating, allowing more time for recovery, while teaching somebody awareness into the stroke.

We do not do flutter kick, but try to encourage the head to adopt a fluid motion of a dolphin.

The 3/2/2 drill brings to the table all the benefits that butterfly technique can bring to your freestyle without the stress of over-training in a discipline that you are not highly skilled at. Indeed, international swimmers use it for the very same reason.

I will caution those who think doing straight butterfly is a good tool for conditioning. It isn’t. It is a great tool for making sure you are overtrained. Your next bike and run sessions will be impaired by the ‘butterfly makes me tough’ mentality.

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