Updates on North Dorset Triathlon Club training, races, and events

Swim Types - Coach Frazer McCarthy


Let’s be honest, for some of us, if not a lot of us, swimming can be a challenge. Sometimes you can leave the Saturday session wondering what just happened for the last 90 minutes. Questions like, why am I awesome with a pull buoy and yet sink like a brick without one? Why am I exhausted after kicking drills? Why are my legs sinking, sinking, sinking? And plenty more, but perhaps the answer to many of the questions can be found by considering  what type of swimmer you are, your ‘Swim Type’….

Consider your swimming lane

Thinking of the lovely swimmers in your lane….we have tall ones, short ones, young (ish) and not so, we have competitive ones, we have chilled out ones, we have nervous and fearless ones, we have beginners, swimmers and we have triathletes…..to be fair we have a bit of everything, but surely we can’t all swim the same, have the same flaws that require the same fixes, can we?

Swim Types

The Swim Type system is the invention of Swim Smooth. Their experience and research has resulted in the following 6 Swim Types –

1. The Arnie

2. The Bambino

3. The Kicktastic

4. The Overglider

5. The Swinger

6. Mr(s) Smooth

I’m sure from the description you may be able to decide which one you or your swimming buddies are already. Each type has its own pros and cons, and each type comes with a battery of solutions to improving swimming technique. To describe in detail each type is beyond this brief bulletin but I recommend the website www.swimsmooth.com, in the mean time we’ll consider one….let’s look at Arnie.

Swim Type – Arnie

This is Arnie according to Swim Smooth, this might be you or you might recognise him/her from your lane. Normally a male but can be female. Naturally athletic and may even come from a competitive sporting background. Because of this they sometimes struggle to understand why they can’t swim to the same level of their previous sport. This may lead to frustration….


Swim bio

Fights the water.


Lean build.

Good at land based sports.

Finds swimming hard.

Good sprinter.

Legs drop in water.

Poor pacing.

Poor flexibility

Arnie’s Stroke Flaws

As Coaches we are always looking to improve a swimmers technique, we consider the problem and then work back to the reason for the problem, commonly known as ‘cause & effect’.



Holding breath underwater

Buoyancy in chest, lifting chest, dropping legs, creating drag, sinking legs.

Kicking from the knee

Creating drag, sinking legs.

Poor rotation

Overuse of shoulder muscles, poor endurance

Poor rotation

Cross over at front of stroke

Crossover at front of stroke

Scissor kick creating drag, sinking legs.

Lifting head to breath

Legs drop creating drag.

Poor ankle flexibility

Feet become a rudder, creating drag, sinking legs

Early, horizontal pull at front of stroke.

Lifts head and chest, creates drag, sinking legs

Straight arm pull

Over worked shoulders, injury.

Arnie’s Drills

Before we consider which drills are best for our Arnie, a quick point on drills. They replicate the correct movement of the stroke, they break the stroke down into smaller parts and they help to highlight inefficiencies. Drills are massively important to stroke development and must be done correctly and with diligence. If you find that a particular drill is difficult, that’s good, it’s probably highlighting an area in the stroke that can be corrected/developed.

Area for improvement



  • Sink downs

  • Breathe/bubble/bubble/breathe


  • Popeye breathing

  • Split Screen visualisations


  • Ballet Kick

  • Torpedo Kick


  • YTWL

  • Kick on side

  • 6-1-6

  • 6-3-6

Catch and Pull

  • Doggy paddle

  • Sculling


Equivocally, swimming is the most technical discipline of the 3 in Triathlon, and perhaps the most frustrating. But don’t despair. There is a very good chance that you come under the umbrella of one of the 6 Swim Smooth Swim Types. And with careful practice of the drills prescribed development of your stroke becomes a little more objective. Remember – Practice does not make perfect, rather perfect practice makes perfect.


My reference is taken from the following book – Swim Smooth, The complete coaching system for swimmers and triathletes, Paul Newsome and Adam Young, 2012. If you haven’t heard of Swim Smooth I highly recommend everything from the website – www.swimsmooth.com,the books and equipment, most excellent, you will not be disappointed. Frazer McCarthy.