In this "Dance with the Water" article series, we continue discussing the idea that an athlete must listen to the signals the water gives, like a dancer, following the lead of their partner. Move to your own beat, and not in rhythm with the water, and you're bound to struggle. In this article, we again highlight the concept of pressure and how it can make you faster overnight.
One of the more popular drills among athletes is the fist drill. Ask an athlete what the fist drill is for, and you might get a variety of answers. The main idea of the fist drill is to challenge athletes to use their forearms to catch water by greatly reducing the surface area of the hand.
The biggest problem with the fist drill is it goes against our natural tendencies and desire to swim with our hands open. So naturally an athlete begins to cheat and open their fist, even if just ever so slightly. But if we place a tennis ball in the hand of the swimmer, they have to focus on keeping the hand closed around the tennis ball.
Tennis balls are one of the most effective tools I have found in teaching athletes the concept of pressure in the water. Sure, sometimes my athletes get strange looks at the pool when they pull out the tennis balls, but they normally don't care once they see how fast they are swimming. The concept of pressure in the water can dramatically and instantly add speed to a swimmer!