Mid-Swim (or -Kick) Glide Drill

The Mid-Swim Glide drill can give you lots of feedback about your posture, line and balance while swimming. It can be done at nearly any time while swimming - in a pool or in open water.

In a nutshell: While swimming normally, finish one of your strokes in a side-gliding position – the arm that just finished pulling simply lays on your side and the other arm remains extended out front – nose pointed at the bottom of the pool and no kicking. See how far you can glide, purely on momentum, just short of coming to a complete stop, then resume swimming to finish the length. Best to first learn and master this drill using a training snorkel.

The Mid-Kick Glide drill will teach you a lot about your side-gliding skills. Unless your kick is highly effective (you are one of the fastest nekked-feet kickers in the pool) you'll only do this drill with fins.

In a nutshell: While kicking in side-glide position simply stop kicking and see how far you can glide, purely on momentum, until coming just short of a complete stop, then resume kicking. Once you've regained speed, do it again. Best to first learn and master this drill using a training snorkel.

The details: It's not that you do it that is important, it's how you do it and what you make of the results of each repetition. The rest of this blurb applies to both Mid-Swim and Mid-Kick Glide, except that the references to taking strokes obviously don't apply to the Mid-Kick Glide.

There are three possible results of your glide endeavor:

  • You glide quite a distance, hips and legs staying right at the surface (the arm on your side remains exposed to the air from shoulder to wrist) for several yards of gliding and just prior to stopping completely you resume swimming (or kicking) seamlessly. If this is you, congratulations! You are in the minority – you are streamlined, horizontally balanced and need not read further.
  • You glide for a short distance as your hips and legs sink slowly. To start moving again it takes a stroke or two (or several seconds of kicking) to regain your normal position and rhythm. If this is you then you have some work to do tweaking your position. That your hips and legs begin to sink as soon as you cease propulsive activity means you were already out of balance – swimming (or kicking) with the brakes on.
  • You lurch immediately to a stop as your hips and legs head briskly toward the bottom. You have to start moving again from a dead stop and it takes several or many strokes (or kicks) and significant effort to get back to your original motions and speed. The whole endeavor is resoundingly awkward. You curse the coach.

How this Mid-Swim (or -Kick) Glide works for you depends on 4 things: the momentum created by the immediately preceding strokes or kicks, how streamlined you are, how good your aquatic posture is and how well balanced you are:

  • Momentum - this is simply a function of how fast you are moving when you shut down propulsion.
  • Streamlining - do you have all your body parts assembled into the longest, skinniest line possible, pointed at the far end of the pool? Be sure that your legs are together and your toes pointed toward the end of the pool, not the side or bottom. If your lead hand is near the surface then it is higher than its shoulder - this will cause you to "ski up" an imaginary ramp out in front, which, of course, means your hips and legs will sink. If anything, you want a bit of a down angle on that leading arm.

    It is these next two items where most people have the most to gain...

  • Posture - Good aquatic posture means using internal muscular tension to keep your core line tight and tall (lower abdominal tension that pulls navel toward spine, upper abdominal tension that tucks in your lower ribs as if to knit them together and neck tension that tucks your chin in and extends your spine so you are taller). If your core line is sufficiently tight, whatever you do at one end of your body will instantly affect the other end of your body. The most common fault here is to lose the tight line as one rolls to the side - possibly going as far as to arch the back (which tends to cause the roll to keep going beyond the side-lying position and onto the back).

    Another very common posture error is to have the nose pointed somewhere other than absolutely straight down or very slightly forward. Pointing the nose too far forward may tend to drop your hips and legs.

  • Balance - With good tight-line posture, if you press your buoy (your lungs – the only part of you that really floats) toward the bottom, the resulting increase in buoyant force is instantly transmitted to your hips and legs, lifting them toward the surface. If you have schlumpy posture instead of a tight tall line, pressing your buoy lifts your hips less, and your legs perhaps not at all. Good posture, then, is a prerequisite for achieving balance.


  • Be sure to continue gliding until the glide begins to fall apart - your hips and legs drop, or you roll off of your side, or you get catywumpus in the lane, etc. Only by holding it long enough that it starts to fall apart can you get feedback about what tweaks you migh apply to improve on the next repeat.
  • Work glides on both sides equally. Perhaps in each length do a Mid-Swim Glide on one side, then, after at least 3 strokes, do another on your other side. Or, if doing Mid-Kick Glides, maybe take a single stroke at mid-pool so you do a half-length on each side. Or simply alternate sides by length.
  • No floppy arm entries. Firm, forward, piercing (at a bit of a down-angle) entries only.
  • Be sure that, in going into the glide, your arm extension is straight forward (at a bit of a down-angle), not pointed somewhat toward one side of the lane or the other.
  • During the entire glide the palm on your lead arm should be facing the bottom of the pool not the side.
  • During the entire glide your feet should simply stay out at the edges of your "tube" (the leg connected to the top hip in front of the body plane and bottom hip's leg behind the body plane) rather than returning to or beyond center.
  • After each glide, the first recovering arm should get well past your head before starting the first pull of that next set of strokes (i.e. make that transition from glide to strokes very front-quadrant).

Variations: Following are a few variations on the Mid-Swim Glide Drill:

  • Using a training snorkel with this drill really helps to keep the urge to breathe from being a big distraction. When you are first learning these drills you should definitely use a snorkel.
  • Use different speeds - entering your glide from a faster swimming or kicking speed should net you longer glides.
  • Fins allow you to go into the glide with greater speed, allowing longer glides. Be sure to use fins that are neutrally bouyant instead of the heavy/sinky variety.
  • Once you've gotten really good at these drills with nose-down glides, start working them with nose-up glides. This gives great feedback about choices you are making when you go for a breath. If you find that your glide is shorter in the nose-up position than in the nose-down position then you have some work to do on your going-for-air skills. Or you may find that you do a better job of maintaining momentum in the nose up position - usually a result of closer attention to balance details required to acheive a "breathable" nose-up balance position. Whichever way gets the best results, use your experiences there to look for tweaks you can apply throughout your freestyle.
  • And then try doing your mid-swim glide just as you return to nose-down after a breath. Many people find this the trickiest stroke of all for acheiving a long glide.

Got beeper?: Since, over time, your goal is to lengthen the duration of glides, a beeper can lend great objective feedback to the process (ex. "My glides used to last almost 2 beeps and now they last more than 3 beeps" is far better feedback, not to mention more motivating, than the wholly subjective, "I'm pretty sure my glides are lasting longer."):

  • Set your beeper to whatever stroke rate you are using. If using a Tempo Trainer Pro by Finis you should be in Mode 1 (seconds per beep).
  • When you hit your glide position, count how many beeps go by before your balance and momentum get gnarly.
  • Count "zero" on the beep that coincides with hitting your side-glide position, then count "one", "two", etc. on the ensuing beeps.
  • If your beeper is set to 1:00 sec/beep then getting to "three" will be a 3-second glide. If your beeper is set to, say, 1.33 sec/beep then a count of "three" will be about a 4-second glide. Do your math.
  • Can you get 4 or more seconds of impeccably balanced side-gliding in this drill?

Consider this: If, as you play with the mid-swim glide drills, you find yourself doing something "different" or "more" or "longer", etc. in preparation for your longest glides, it is quite possible that "different" thing needs to be part of the other strokes as well. After all, don't you really want to reap momentum and streamlining bennys with every stroke you take?

Put it in your lane: Do the Mid-Swim (or -Kick) glide from time to time to get feedback about your posture and balance and see if you can release the brakes on your swimming! And definitely get with a swimming buddy and partner-coach each other on the fine points.

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