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Tri Medley: The 3/3 drill

We will conclude the series on the Tri Medley by discussing the last drills we use following the 3/2/2 drill and the breaststroke with dolphin kick.

The 3/3 Drill

This drill is basically single arm freestyle, with the following twists:

1) We breathe each single arm stroke to the side. 2) We do three single arm strokes and breaths to the left side and using the same technique do three on the right side. 3) We do not do flutter kick, but use a butterfly body motion and kick!

Breathing on one side without the flutter kick promotes the break up of the freestyle stroke into three key sections – place, press, push. The major stroke flaw of many age group and professional athletes is the rushing of all three in the stroke into one. The 3/3 drill allows us to break it up with the head and hip action, while giving us time to really concentrate on the most important element in swimming – the acceleration of the stroke through the push phase. This drill is brilliant for setting that up.

Another benefit 3/3 produces is how the non-breathing arm being outstretched very rarely crosses the centre line of the body. It generally holds its position to balance the stroke at the shoulder entry point and stays there. Thus keeping the body aligned. When teaching I rarely have to talk on this point, as even for chronic centre crossover athletes the 3/3 drill tends to straighten them out.


This stroke is for relaxation. After the strenuous efforts of 3/2/2 drill and the explosive motion of the breaststroke what we are trying to do is to simulate the freestyle single arm stroke while isolating one arm at a time. We keep the non-used arm up front for balance. This allows the athlete to concentrate on the underwater movement of the arm in rotation. We add the fly movement so we can learn to relax the body, thus mimicking the dolphin like movement. It allows athletes to slow down and feel the different components of the stroke, and get a sense of how their usual rushing through the stroke restricts them.

The movement, once mastered, also has a therapeutic effect within the Tri Medley. Remember, we are not racing or rushing for time in these first three disciplines, but trying to acquire a skill enhancement in different but very important swim fundamentals in moving the body through the water.

With that, the fourth component of our Tri Medley is freestyle. Here, we use the same technique and breathing pattern we use in a race. We want the speed to be at minimum level race pace. We want to incorporate the skills we have practised in the first three legs of the Tri Medley to be worked into our race stroke. Anything less than race speed on this leg will not enhance the skill acquisition.

For age group athletes, we keep it short. 100m increments with at least 15 seconds rest between each repetition. The key element is to take your time on the first three disciplines. Learn to relax. This will help you develop swimming’s three R’s: Rhythm, Range and Relaxation.

By race pace on the last leg do I mean all out fast? No. Budding new swimmers race pace is far from all out, but more like a good tempo speed. If you need a number, I’d say 85% your best pace.

I hope those intrepid enough to try this the Tri Medley drills are able to give it enough time to let it work its magic. Thank you for taking the time to read.

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