Tarzan Drill

Would you like to become a stronger swimmer? Would you like to develop better rhythm and timing with your stroke?

If so, here is the drill for you! Tarzan drill, aka water polo drill, is a great drill to practice regularly.

 If you have never done Tarzan drill or it has been awhile since you’ve performed it, I recommend starting off with a short distance.

 Try a set of 4x25’s as 1/2 length Tarzan drill followed by 1/2 length swim with a high turnover resting 20 seconds after each 25.

If that feels too easy try 4x50’s 25 Tarzan drill/25 swim.


How to do this drill properly:

-     Swim with your head out of the water and your chin at the surface of the water.

-     Keep your head as straight as possible only turning it to the left or right to get a breath of air.

-     Pick up your turnover and swim with a strong cadence (no gliding).


Adding Tarzan drill to your workouts will improve your swim strength and cadence of your freestyle!

Pacing and the Finis Tempo Trainer

Have you ever started out too fast in practice or a race and had your stroke fall apart half way through? This ailment affects many swimmers and is commonly referred to as PAC (Pace Awareness Challenged). It’s not really, I just made that up!


To get better at pacing I suggest using a Finis Tempo Trainer. These little yellow discs slide under your cap and are the perfect companion to keeping you on pace. For example, let’s take a 100 yard swim in a 25 yard pool with a goal time of 1:36. To swim a 1:36 evenly you’ll need to swim each length in 24 seconds. Set your tempo trainer (TT) to 24.00. The TT is now set to beep every 24 seconds. Place the TT under your cap and begin swimming. If you arrive at the wall before the TT beeps you’ve gone out too fast; swim slower. If it beeps before you get to the wall you’ve gone out too slow; swim faster. It’s perfect pacing for people afflicted with PAC. Once you are comfortable with swimming with the TT at your current pace you can make subtle reductions each week making you a fitter, faster swimmer. (Example: Week 1: 24.00, Week 2: 23.90, Week 3: 23.80, Week 4: 23.70 etc.)


Not sure what your pace is or where to begin? Try taking a CSS Test explained here


Check out the FINIS Tempo Trainer.  Readers of the Modern Swim Blog receive 25% off their entire order with the code OGREN25 at checkout.

Happy Swimming!

Tempo Trainer .jpg

Swim Success

“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. “ - Jim Rohn 


I’ve ponder this quote and how it could relate to swimming. Is your swimming successful? Is it a failure? (I hope no one answered yes to this question because we are all works in progress).   Maybe you are somewhere in between. 


Below are a few simple disciplines you can practice everyday. 


These are the foundations of great swim technique and are the simplest things you can do to ensure your swim success! 

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Brighton Swim Academy, plus a podcast! 

Greetings all! It’s been a little while since my last blog post and I am happy to reconnect with you. 

I have been hard at work constructing my very own swim facility here in South Carolina. 

Our indoor facility is set to open January 2019. (see images below)

My wife Carlie and I began working on the concept for Brighton Swim Academy a little over 2 years ago and we are thrilled to be getting close to the grand opening! Brighton Swim Academy.com (naming Brighton)


Recently I was interviewed on the Healthy Charleston podcast. Have a listen here!

Episode #25 Highlights 
00:01 Intro and background 

11:50 Human Optimization - 30 Day Challenges/ Fasting /Hanging/Squats /Cold Showers

23:55 English Channel - comfortable with the uncomfortable

27:45 Best advice for swimmers

31:45 Spit fire questions: Definition of health/What am I best at?/ #1 Thing to maintain your health/ The Price is Right!


Just Hanging Around

A simple yet effective exercise for your overall health is hanging.

I started hanging about a year ago and the results have been incredible. Hanging has improved my shoulder mobility, strength, and posture; three imperative things for swimmers. 

Hanging also helps develop wrist and forearm strength aka grip strength. Why is it important to develop wrist and forearm strength? Think about it, if you are going to do any exercise that requires the use of your hands, developing grip strength is a great place to start. 

Another benefit of hanging is that it decompresses the spine. If you are seated for long periods of time, run, walk, cross train -your spine can become compressed. Hanging will help undo pressure built up in your spine. 

Here are two hangs to get you started:

1. Passive hang - grip bar and relax the entire body down. Shoulders into ears, keep elbows straight and let gravity do the rest. 

2. Active hang - start off in a passive hang and simply lower your shoulders down keeping the elbows straight. Active hangs can be done as reps or for time. 


A great dry land exercise for swimmers are pull-ups yet they can be challenging if it’s been a while since you last did them. I’ll often recommend passive and active hangs to build a base before moving onto pull-ups. 

No pull up bar, no problem. Visit Amazon and pick up one of these for your home and office. I received one about 10 years ago as a Christmas gift (thanks JG) and have since gifted a few myself. Unfortunately, the code Ogren25 won’t work on Amazon, but it’s still good for all your swimming needs at the Finis store


Until next time, hang in there. 

First 15 minutes after practice

Congratulations, you just swam swim practice. You found time as a busy adult for your health and well-being. Bravo! 

Now that your workout is done, it is time to start thinking about how to replenish your body and get it ready for your next workout. 

There are 3 components to consider when it comes to post swim nutrition:

1. Rehydrating

2. Replenishing carbohydrates

3. Consuming protein to help repair and rebuild muscles

Hydration is so vital to your overall well-being. When I was a wee lad we didn’t bring water bottles to swim practice. No joke. Thankfully today when I walk into age group swim practices water bottles are omnipresent. Take a cue from the kids and get serious about staying hydrated. One of the best recovery tricks is to hydrate pre, during, and post workouts.

Now onto food. Carbohydrates and proteins are needed to return the body to its pre-exercise state and timing is paramount. Aim to eat a snack or exercise drink that includes protein and carbohydrates within 15 minutes of finishing practice. Waiting to get home or to the office before refueling with a quick snack can lead to a ravenous appetite and overeating. Carry snacks in your swim bag or glove box to make sure you don’t miss this window. 


Stay beautiful mermaids and mermen!

Spring Update

I am continually impressed with the quality products FINIS develops to enhance swim technique and enjoyment in the water. Since last year I have been in partnership with FINIS and am excited to continue this partnership into 2019! Friends of Ogren Swim Coaching receive 25% off site-wide with the new code, Ogren25.


This year has been a blast meeting so many new swimmers in Connecticut, southern California, Virginia, and South Carolina. I will be adding more Swim Smooth camps and clinics to the calendar soon so please stay tuned. (see pictures below) 


If you are a US Masters swimmer I hope you had a chance to check out April’s Swimmer Magazine, Ask the Coach, featuring yours truly. For those who are not Master swimmers the main points of the article can be read here.


Swim well my friends,


Open Water training at the pool!

In my last blog, I spoke about Swim Smooth’s three keys to swim development, which are Technique, Training, and Open Water Skills.

How do you train for the open water in the winter? Easy. 

Here are 5 skills to work on (in the pool) to ensure you’re ready for open water season. 

Breathing: make sure you are practicing breathing onboth sides (bilateral breathing). Your favorite side to breathe to may not be an option come race day due to waves, sun glare, or navigation benefits. Learning how to bilateral breathe also helps you swim straight!

Sighting: grab a pair of fins and sight every 6 strokes. I have found that sighting is easiest when combined with breathing to your favorite side. 

Drafting: swim with a buddy and stay right on their toes focusing on swimming in their bubbles. Swim 200 yards switching the lead position after each 50 so each swimmer can feel the difference of drafting as opposed to being the leader. 


Tarzan swimming/water polo drill: swim with your head out of the water for 10 strokes then finish the length with your head in the water. Try to keep your head straight when performing this drill. 

Side by side swim: arrange 2 or 3 swimmers across in a lane and perform 8x25’s fast. This will get you use to swimming in close quarters, mimicking a race start. 


Give these ideas a try and you’ll be ready for the open water this season!

The 3 Keys!

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If this is your first time seeing Fig. 1, it is the Swim Smooth 3 keys to swim performance and it is the foundation of the Swim Smooth method of swim development. 

This simple pie chart depicts how to divide your training schedule giving each area of the chart equal training time (33.3% training/33.3% technique/33.3% open water).


Admittedly, before Swim Smooth, my training looked more like Fig 2.

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As you can see I spent much of my time just training, which I viewed as absolutely necessary considering I was preparing for marathon swims such as the Swim Around Manhattan and the English Channel. 

I can’t help to think how I would have fared if I had had a more balanced approach. Would I have saved myself some unnecessary shoulder pain and soreness if I had swum with better posture after performing Kicking on the side drill? Would I have had better catch set up if I had paid more attention to the scull drill? Could I have recruited the right muscle groups for enhanced propulsion if I had done more doggie paddle?


Are you frustrated because your swimming has hit a plateau? If so, I strongly suggest taking your technique training seriously by giving it the time it deserves. It might be what is holding your swimming back! 


I will be returning to Clermont, Florida for another 2-day Swim Smooth Camp, March 17th and 18th. 

The camp features:

  • Full video analysis and stroke correction to improve your freestyle technique

  • Development of critical open water skills

  • Key training principles to maximize your fitness gains

  • Development of critical open water skills to transfer your pool swimming ability across to the open water.

Two great core exercises for swimmers! (video)

Two great exercises that I often recommend to swimmers are the Quadruped and the Dead bug. 

Both exercises have the emphasis on utilizing opposing limbs i.e. right arm/left leg and left arm/right leg. 

The Quadruped

1. While maintaining a neutral spine, kneel on the floor with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders.

2. Raise your opposite arm and leg straight out with your abs engaged. 

Perform a static hold on each side for 20 to 30 seconds based on your fitness level. Repeat 3x. 

The Dead Bug

1. Lie supine with your lower back flat on the floor. (Note, you shouldn’t be able to fit your hand in between the floor and your lower back.) Hold this position throughout the entire exercise.

2. Slowly lower the right arm and the left leg down to the floor simultaneously. Keep the back flat and your feet off the floor. 

Aim for 3 sets of 20 repetitions. 

Give these two exercises a try and see how they improve your strength in and out of the pool.


Dead Fish Handshake

Swimming with a relaxed recovery is great, just don't go too far and allow the wrist/fingers to go limp upon entry into the water. Aim to keep the fingers held gently together with moderate tone throughout the hand and wrist. 

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Conversely, too much tension in the hand and wrist can travel up the arm and cause the swimmer to swim stiff. Getting hand tone correct may sound a bit confusing, but while in Perth, Australia studying alongside Paul Newsome, founder of Swim Smooth, he demonstrated proper tone. He had a swimmer give him 3 handshakes; a really strong handshake, a dead fish handshake, and one in the middle spectrum of the previous two.

Dead Fish.jpeg


Practice the scull drill and aim to keep that middle of the spectrum tone in your hand and ditch the dead fish!

Registration has opened for two events in 2018.

January 12, Stamford, CT:  Swim Smooth 1 day Clinic 

February 24-25, San Diego, CA: Swim Smooth 2 Day Camp

Hope to see you there, register today

Still doing Catch-up Drill? (abridged)

This is a condensed version of last week’s fabulous Swim Smooth blog, Still Doing Catch-Up? You Need To Read This.

At Swim Smooth we discourage performing the wildly popular catch-up drill because it promotes overgliding in the stroke.

Main drawbacks of Catch-Up drill: 

  • encourages improper swim timing by overly lengthening the stroke while adding a dead spot in the front end of the stroke
  • reduces the amount of body rotation which can lead to shoulder injury from swimming flat
  • promotes crossing over your centerline


Instead of performing the catch-up drill utilize the 6/1/6 drill. 

Benefits of performing the 6/1/6 drill: 

  • works on alignment, posture, and rotation
  • promotes proper catch set up
  • rotation enhances proper catch technique engaging the chest and back muscles instead of taxing the shoulder 

6/1/6 Drill is simply kick on your side drill with rotation. With fins on, perform 6 kicks on your side/1 arm stroke (then breathe)/ 6 kicks on the other side. You can also perform it as 6 seconds of kick. Watch the kick on side drill video.

Check out Swim Smooth’s Standard Guru for a complete library of Swim Smooth drills and video for just $2.99 per month. It’s a fantastic value and something I encourage all my swimmers to invest in.  https://www.swimsmooth.guru.

Drill Smarter, Swim Faster!

Where did my stroke go?

What do you do when your stroke starts to breakdown in practice or a race?

Over the years I’ve experienced my stroke breakdown (or fall apart) countless times. Most often in practice, but I have had it happen during a few races and even a couple marathon swims. Not pretty!

What is stroke breakdown? It simply means you lose your form and the ability to maintain your desired pace. 

In practice it is ok to breakdown and you should strive to push yourself to your limit, like super star Olympian Katie Ledecky. She often pushes herself into breakdown territory in practice and in doing so has learned her threshold and how to pace her longer swims. 

What do you do when your stroke starts to breakdown? 

1.) Breathe. When things start to fall apart in my stroke I revert back to the first lesson I teach to nearly every swimmer, breathing. Check in on your breath work. Are you holding on to your breath? Or panting like a dog? Do you have a panicky feeling that you can’t keep up and need to stop? 

When things start to get tough in practice and I have only 5-10 seconds to recover on the wall before I am off doing another 100 or 200 I get control of my breathing. My aim is to get out of the panting, woe-is-me mode, and try to get a solid inhalation and exhalation going. Two or three focused inhalations really rejuvenates my fatigued lungs and body.  

2.) Once I regain my breath I can switch my focus to swimming with purpose. If my stroke has broken down from overall fatigue I recall what I’ve been recently working on such as my catch or head placement. The key is to redirect my focus from my overall fatigue by calming my breath and staying present in my stroke. 

Give these tactics a try the next time you feel like you’ve lost your stroke and feel like giving up. You will be able to finish stronger than you thought you could! 

Happy Swimming


Have you ever sabotaged your workout during warm up? Maybe you started a workout and immediately thought:

    ⁃    I don't have it today

    ⁃    I feel like I’m swimming in molasses  

    ⁃    My stroke feels like crud 

    ⁃    This is going to be a long practice

    ⁃    I should have stayed in bed


We’ve all been there. Yet, it’s how we respond to the above negative chatter that will decide the outcome. 

When I’m feeling like this the first thing I try to do is lighten up and stop overthinking. It’s just warm up. I remind myself that when warm up is over I'll feel differently than I did when I started, so I try to stay out of my head.

When I was training for the triple crown of open water swimming I sometimes would not warm up until I was 2,500 yards into the practice. Other times I didn’t feel good for the entire practice. 


Sometimes you are the hammer and sometimes you are the nail.


On days when I just don't have it, I give myself two options: get out or get technical. I almost always opt for get technical. I grab a toy i.e. fins, paddles, or a pull buoy and focus on one specific aspect of my stroke. Donning fins will make nearly any swimmer faster, but knowing I made my workout physically easier with fins let's me challenge my mind. 

For example, if I’m doing 100’s I challenge myself to sneak in a length of kick on side drill and focus on great posture to prevent crossover for the remaining lengths. 


Can I perform a length of 616 drill then focus on great rotation through the core?


Can I grab a pull buoy and simply focus on one of the following, exhalationhead position, one goggle in/one goggle out, or try to remove a thumb first entry?


I encourage all my swimmers to listen to their bodies. When you don’t have it, don’t sweat it. Shift the focus to technique and don’t sabotage the opportunity to improve your swimming.

Swim Camp San Diego
I am happy to announce a 2-day Swim Smooth Swim Camp Oct. 21/22 in San Diego, Ca. This will be an incredible weekend and I'm excited to work alongside fellow Swim Smooth Certified Coach John Chipponeri. Register here, SS CAMP SD!

What are you looking at?

In my last blog, I wrote about excessive head movement and how it can negatively affect your swimming. Since then I received quite a few inquiries about what is ideal head position and where a swimmers eyes should be focused. Should they be looking completely forward to the other end of the pool? Or straight down at the black line? Or somewhere in between? 

In 1988, while swimming for St. John’s University we were taught to look straight ahead, eyes forward with the water line at our forehead.  This position is not the best for most swimmers and should not be adopted unless you have been analyzed and your body line can afford this head position. 

Here are a couple of pictures from my Charleston, SC Clinic last month. Notice the difference between the eye/head position and body line with regards to the surface of the water. You can clearly see how looking forward negatively impacts her body position, sinking her hips and legs in image 1.

image 1

image 1

In image 2 the swimmers eyes are looking diagonally downward toward the bottom of the pool. Notice her body position instantly improves. (also observe the great exhalation coming out of her nose/mouth also helping to improve her body line.) 

image 2

image 2

A low head position with eyes looking straight down toward the bottom of the pool is often advised by swim coaches as a way to help lift the legs. At Swim Smooth we treat this as a last resort to improve body position.

Looking straight down (image 3) or down and back (image 4) lessens the swimmers' peripheral vision and proprioception of the lead arm, making it difficult to learn proper hand entry. It also hinders good spinal alignment. Furthermore, swimmers who normally have good body position may feel unbalanced when looking straight down, as it could lift their legs too high in the water. 

image 3

image 3

image 4 

image 4 

Bottom Line: You have a variety of head positions to choose from and unfortunately it’s not one size fits all. Head position is truly individual, but the one that works for most swimmers is in image 2 (eyes diagonally downward).
And by all means, keep your eyes open when you swim!

Head Strong

Where the head goes the body will follow. 

Excessive head movement can disrupt your freestyle alignment. I often see swimmers look up, look down, and from side to side while their face is in the water. The most harmful culprit is rolling the head to the non breathing side.  

image 1 

image 1 

Try this: upon returning your face to the water after a breath, aim to stop your head movement once it is in line with your spine (image 2).

image 2

image 2

When I see the artwork or logo on the side of a swimmers cap on their non-breathing side it clearly indicates excessive head movement (image 3).

image 3

image 3

Next time you are in the pool, focus on your head position and repeat a simple mantra of “breathe, center” or“breathe, straight”, returning your head to be in line with your spine after you take a breath. For now simply focus on keeping the head as straight as possible when swimming. You can also try swimming with a snorkel. A snorkel can offer great feedback if you roll your head excessively because it will be difficult to keep it in your mouth. 

Lastly, I have seen swimmers who normally demonstrate little head movement resort to excessive head movement when sprinting, thinking it will provide extra OOMPH. It doesn’t work.

Minimize your head movement and swim fast!

5 Open Water Skills To Work On – Part 2

Swim Straight! When you think about it, everyone swims relatively straight in the pool. Why would it be any different in the open water, you say? Well, the pool has a thick black line on the bottom, lane lines, and angry lane mates working synergistically to keep us on the straight and narrow.


To see how straight you really swim give this a try. 
At your next open water workout (within the confines of safety and your swim companions alert to what you are doing) try taking 25 strokes with your eyes closed. Swim straight? If you did not, have no fear most of us don’t. Here are a few tips and drills to getting you back on course, swimming straight. 


Typically, the most common cause of swimming off course is having a crossover in your stroke. If one arm is crossing over your centerline you will gradually be pulled in the direction of that arm. Work on your posture and focus on placing your hand in front of your shoulder upon entry and you will begin to swim straighter. Use the Kick on Your Side drill to help keep you swimming in a straight line.


Sighting is a great skill to begin working on in the pool. When sighting, aim to lift just your eyes out of the water to see where you are going. Take a breath of air to the right or left as you would normally do when swimming instead of breathing forward. By lifting just your eyes out of the water you will maintain good body position which will reduce drag and keep you swimming fast.


Practice drafting. It has been shown that swimmers who draft can save anywhere from 11%-38% of their energy expenditure. There are two types of drafting; in-line which is one swimmer stacked behind the other and arrowhead which looks like geese flying south for the winter. 


Drafting is easily practiced in the pool. Try this handy in-line drafting set: If you are swimming with two other people, swim directly behind each other and aim to stay in their bubbles. Try to swim as close as you can to the person in front of you without touching their toes. After each 100 switch positions so you can all experience the draft. 


Happy open water swimming!


5 Open Water Skills to Work On – Part I

WARNING: Please don’t wait for the week before your race to practice your open water skills! Start now, my friends. If you are an open water swimmer or triathlete it is imperative to practice open water skills and make them a regular part of your training. Training in the open water is great practice for open water racing, but if you are limited to just pool training, try these five drills to improve your open water skills. 

Bilateral breathing is a skill that needs to be developed for your open water swimming. The benefits of Bilateral Breathing in the open water include swimming straighter, better visibility of competitors and drafting opportunities, and the option of breathing away from sun glare or chop.

Even if you feel you can swim faster breathing unilaterally chances are you will swim straighter in the open water breathing bilaterally, thus saving you time due to less distance traveled. 

Take the Swim Smooth 2-week bilateral challenge to get over the bilateral hump. For two weeks swim as much of your workouts breathing bilaterally as you can. We have found that after two weeks things begin to get easier and bilateral breathing becomes much more manageable.   

If you struggle with bilateral breathing have a look at The Most Important Swim Blog of 2017.

Tarzan swimming aka water polo drill is simply swimming with your head out of the water. This drill is helpful because it is an exaggerated sighting technique. In this drill your whole head comes out of the water (compared with just the eyes when sighting). If on race day you are confronted with choppy conditions you might need to raise more than your eyes out of the water to sight. By placing similar demands on yourself in the pool you will build your stamina for those tougher days in the open water. 

If you struggle with this drill try alternating 10 yards drill/10 yards freestyle or, try using fins or a pull buoy. 

In next week’s blog I will talk about sighting, drafting and crossover. 


Bigger is Sometimes Better

A bigger fin has been stigmatized as a crutch or cheat at many swim practices across the globe, yet nothing could be further from the truth. 


Fins are an excellent training aid when used for drills. When I prescribe drills such as Kick On Side for stroke correction the primary focus is on the upper body (posture, alignment, or hand/arm/elbow positioning). If the swimmer attempts to do Kick On Side drill wearing no fins or short fins like Zoomers the effort level increases to the point where it’s almost impossible to focus on doing the drill properly. Wearing a bigger fin decreases the energy expenditure and allows the swimmer to concentrate on the fine points of stroke correction.  


A bigger fin is also good for ankle flexibility. The large surface area will help plantar flex and dorsiflex the ankle. Chances are if you are not working on your ankle flexibility you have stiff ankles. Stiff ankles stuck in the dorsiflexed position will drag your legs down compromising your overall body position in the water. Wearing fins of this size will help stretch them out, so strap them on and enjoy the ride!


I recommend using the Finis Floating Fin. If you are a shared size go up a size. For example, if you are a size 7 and the fin options are 5-7 or 7-9, choose size 7-9.


As a sponsor of Ogren Swim Coaching, Finis offers all readers 25% off their online purchases with the promo code ogrenswim

Registration open for Stroke Correction Clinics in Sterling Va. and Charleston S.C. Register here.

Happy Swimming!

The Power of Mindset

In my seven years as a professional swim coach I have seen a lot of success and a lot of frustration from my swimmers. 

While observing the differences between swimmers who succeed and those who fall short, I have noticed patterns. The patterns that dictate whether swimmers succeed or fall short are demonstrated in their mindset everyday at practice. 

Try to answer the following questions and see where you fit in:  

- Were you able to make it to practice on time today? 

- Do you stand on the deck catatonic from the neck down waiting for the coach to give warm-up? 

- Are you allowing external factors dictate your mood (i.e water temperature, air temperature, lane space, not my favorite coach)? 

- Are you a little tired, possibly regretting getting out of bed?

- Are you lamenting that you can no longer swim as fast as you use to (whether it was last season or 15 years ago)?

- Did you forget your water bottle in the locker room?

Now, try these out:

- Are you on time, ready to go? 

- Are you performing some dynamic stretches on the deck before warm-up?

- You remembered your water bottle!

- Did you the leave the outside world at the gate?

- Are you ready to work on a specific technical flaw pointed out in your last swim lesson?

- Are you focused on the things you have control over, such as your breathing, your mind, and your positive attitude?

- Are you fueling properly throughout the day so you can recover better for tomorrow’s workout?

- After the workout did you congratulate yourself for the effort? (High fives!) 

Hi Five! .png

Attitude and preparedness will change your workout. Your mindset will determine your success.