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As if swimming isn’t hard enough already, try swimming with a band around your ankles.

Securing a rubber band around your ankles is a great way to improve your swim in an effective and short workout. Using a band makes the workout more difficult and your arms will be lashing out at you in no time flat. With this tool, you’ll get  immediate feedback on different parts of your stroke — body alignment, catch, rhythm, timing of your stroke. This helps you develop a better swim quickly, which translates to efficient open water swimming. The key to this workout is using correct form!

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When I first started with a band, I’d use every cheating method in the book to get to the other side. I’d still kick slightly (having wrapped the band to allow this) and used a butterfly kick so that I could make it. Cheating doesn’t make you a winner in life, so before long, I realized I wasn’t improving my stroke. I forced myself to start out with 25 metres and enough rest at the wall to get my body aligned, picked up speed and have a solid catch/pull with each arm.

A band can be made with an old inner tube from your bike by looping it around your ankles. Tie it so there is minimal ability to kick.

When swimming with a band, treat it like a drill and swim short distances of 25 and 50 metres repeatedly with ample rest. The band increase your drag and loads your shoulders significantly because of this. Some key tips to keep in mind:

  • Focus on finding a rhythm – this will keep you from those dead spots (pauses) in your swim stroke that slow you down
  • Keep your body aligned while rotating. Your feet will drag some with the band and you’ll need to be highly aware of your body position.
  • Point your toes
  • Work on your catch and pushing the water behind you instead of below you.

Here is one of my favorite, go-to workouts. This short and sweet set will have your arms on fire!

Strength Swim – Band only 25 repeats (2100m)

Warm-up
500 with every 4th 25 over-kicking (kick more than required)

Main set
10 x 25 band only with 15 seconds rest. Hard. Focus on rhythm, strong pull and taut body
200 buoy, band and paddles All-out, 1 min recovery
10 x 25 band only with 15 seconds rest. Hard. Focus on rhythm, strong pull and taut body
200 buoy, band and paddles All-out, 1 min recovery
10 x 25 band-only with 15 seconds rest. Hard. Focus on rhythm, strong pull and taut body
200 buoy, band and paddles All-out, 1 min recovery

Cool down
250 easy, no gear