The athlete’s training process is a complex process and a complex symbiosis of several different elements that are practiced through continuous exercise that activates the physiological processes of supercompensation and adaptation of the organism. The consequence of this exercise is the improvement of physical, motor, technical, tactical, psychological and other elements in athletes. All of these elements must be practiced as a one because they are interconnected in a way that affects the performer’s performance. There is a close connection between all types of preparation of athletes, where it is necessary to work in parallel, where at each training period an emphasis is placed on one or more types, in order to develop the athletes’ performance in the most efficient and economical way. The technique is defined as a set of methods and processes that are applied in a work (Klajn, Šipka, 2006). The technique is often defined as a form or style of movement, whereby the form implies the structure of the movement or exercise. There is a difference between the form and the technique of movement. The movement technique, which was created during the years of training, constitutes a special form of movement, which is directed towards the goal of the most efficient movement on the move. The tactic is defined as a well-designed and prepared plan of activities that enables successful use of individual, group or collective abilities and characteristics.

It is important to point out that the standard technique, that is, the model that is considered to be the most perfect, does not exclude the possibility of individual variations in certain elements in certain individuals, because all athletes are different and it is crucial that in their technique there is no violation of the basic laws of physics at which are based on the movement ie. application of the technique. This is easily noticeable in various sports where we can see athletes who achieve top results, and perform technical details in a drastically different way. The technique is enhanced by work and repetition, with the pre-requisite that the exercise is carried out in the proper way and that the coach or the person working with the athlete has advanced knowledge in knowing the technical elements. It can not be mistaken in the claim that the technique is largely determined by motor abilities and that the number of repetitions of a particular movement or exercise has the greatest impact in developing a motoric habitation that is dependent on age, previous motoric experience, concentration, level of coordination, and other important factors.

Technique and tactics are two essential elements of the athlete’s abilities, regardless of the sport they are dealing with. In some sports, technical skills are more important than others, as is the case with artistic sports, while in team sports, tactics are expressed. There must be no coarseness in the line between the importance of the type of training because no training must be neglected in any sport, and all sports require constant work on all types and elements of training. Triathlon is a cyclic sporting endurance that consists of swimming, cycling and running. Each discipline contains of standards and accepted technical elements as well as individual swimming, cycling and athletic sports, but there are differences and deviations due to the specificity of the triathlon.

Technical basics in the triathlon

The technique of movement  in swimming, cycling and running constitutes the position of the body, a path of movement determined by the direction and amplitude of the movement, the speed, tempo and rhythm of movement, and the internal and external forces that have a certain impact on the movement. Internal forces are the forces of active muscle activity, internal resistance, muscle friction, and reactive force that occurs in the moving apparatus. In the external forces, the forces of the Earth are more severe, the reaction force of the surface and the force of resistance of the external environment.

Even the great experts from other sports see triathlon through each technique in particular, but what is specific is that a swim triathlon technique is not exactly the same as the classic technique for swimmers, and even more so there are significant differences in certain elements. Running technique in triathlon is not entirely the same as in athletics. The same goes for cycling. The reason for this is that in the last two decades a specific triathlon technique developed all three disciplines, which primarily allow triathlets to be economical in a race that requires great physical ability of athletes and high levels of aerobic ability and anaerobic capacity. Therefore, it is important to highlight the most basic swimming elements and to clarify the principles on which economical swimming is based, and then to find out the differences between classical swimming technique and triathlonline swimming that takes place in open waters.

Swimming technique in triathlon

Swimming is technically one of the most demanding disciplines in modern sports. The reason for this is that the body moves in the water where there is a full freedom of movement of all parts of the body, and because a high level of coordination and motor development is needed in order for the movements to be realized correctly and efficiently, and the coordination and motor skills are developed by continuous training in the period which is counted in years.

It is recommended that the child starts swimming training from 4 to 7 years to properly develop his motor skills and the quality of movement necessary for competitive swimming and proper swimming in later years. Because in the period of 4 to 6 years of life the greatest development in speed, flexibility, force and endurance in the movement of the child occurs, and from 7 to 10 years the motor experience and coordination of movements in time develop. Because of that, the learned technical bases in that period have great benefits because the child accepts, remembers and automates the movements much easier than the older child who started swimming a few years later.

The swimming technique can be explained in several different concepts, because there are more types of freestyle technique (surely the focus is on the crawl, because this is the fastest swimming discipline, therefore it is a logical choice of crawl technique in the triathlon).

Although the differences between these types are small, they are not negligible. There are several different ”schools” and each nation (mainly a strong swimmers nation) has its own type of development of swimming technique. The following elements should be distinguished as basic when it comes to the usual regular technique, from beginners to advanced swimmers:

  • Breathing
  • Body position
  • Leg movements
  • Rotation of the body
  • Continuity of strokes
  • Timing of strokes
  • “Catch” or a grip


Breathing is the biggest problem for beginners when they begin to learn the swimming technique. Not because they fail to find the breathing frequency, but because of the fact that their wrong breathing or wrong breathing rhythm disturbs the position of the body, the continuity of strokes and the timing of the strokes (on the timing below). Breathing can be lateral and bilateral. Laterally it represents breathing on one side for every 2 or 4 (mostly 2) strokes, and bilaterally represents breathing on both sides of the body, mostly on each 3 strokes, rarely at 5.

Proper breathing involves a constant exhaustion of air through the mouth in the water

The first important thing when breathing is that it should be mostly bilateral, as it stimulates a more proper technique and a symmetrical movement of the body, since swimmers practicing constant lateral breathing generally have a disproportionate arm movement and an asymmetrical position of the entire body as well as asymmetrical rotation from the hips. Breathing on every second stroke is mainly used in the race for better oxygen supply, and is practiced in training with strong batch or interval.

The exhaling must be constant when the head is in the water, as this causes the air to be pulled out of the lungs, thereby avoiding the excessive rise of the body to the surface of the water, which causes a fall in the position of the leg. So the overall result is a better and more correct position of the whole body. It was once believed that it was more effective to hold the breath, but this is the past, and if analyzing the swimming of better swimmers, it is very easy to spot, thanks to the “balloons” that emerge from the mouth, that they constantly breath out the air through the mouth from the first moment when the head is dives in the water.

Body position

Horizontal position of the body in the water, with outstretched legs

The body’s position can be described so that the whole of the head-body-legs should be horizontal at the surface of the water, and from the bird’s eye there is no curling or bending of the spine. This is achieved by a series of different elements that are factors for the high horizontal position of the body: the exhale, the direction of the head at an angle of about 45 ° from the surface of the water (it looks “downward”), the leg kick is from the hips, with legs that are bent slightly in knees, only a few degrees, and where the feet and fingers on the feet are relaxed and stretched, and the most important element is a rigid body.

Position is something that has been practiced for a long time and which requires improvement of other elements in order to make progress in the position itself, but these elements are an effective guideline for those who need to work and learn about the correct position.

Leg movements

Proper work (outstretched) legs

The work of the leg is distinguished by blows from the hips, not from the knees. If the knees were too flexible when kicking  and if there was too much bending, it would slow down the body in the forward direction and cause unnecessary resistance. It is therefore important that the legs are almost completely extended and to relax the joints (articles) and let the feet relax in a propulsion, with the highest point just above the surface of the water. The toes should be directed as far back as possible, so that a straight line from the hips to the finger of the thumb on the feet can almost be withdrawn.

Body rotation

Good rotation of the body is described by an angle of 45 ° to 60 ° in every curve. Rotation takes place from the hips together with the body. It is very important that the body rotates as a whole and that there is no “twisting” or “differentiation” between the hips and the body.

Rotation of the body while swimming

When an athlete focuses on proper rotation, he should concentrate on hips, but also on shoulders, because good rotation starts from the shoulder. Proper rotation of the body in the water allows better buoyancy and more efficient strokes and reduces the water resistance when moving forward. If the body does not rotate during each stroke, during the water ‘catch‘ phase, the shoulders and the front of the body will sink to the bottom, which would cause higher water resistance. When breathing air, the head rotates together with the body, and for that reason proper rotation has a great deal to facilitate proper breathing, which is an additional benefit and importance of this technical element.

Position of the body when rotating from two angles

And probably the most important element of rotation is “catch” or part of the stroke when the water is caught and that is just beginning at the moment when the body is in rotation, since the muscular groups of the back and the body that are strongest then are engaged in the most efficient work, because if the ‘catch‘ starts when the body is horizontally in the shoulder axis, only the muscles of the shoulder would be engaged.

Continuity of Stroke

The moment where there is an overstated gliding of hand and fist, which leads to a dead point in the stroke

Although the term continuity of the stroke is not strictly defined, when writing about this element of proper swimming technique, then it is emphasized that the rhythm of stroke as cyclical movements and the absence of dead points are crucial for efficiency. We can intuitively conclude that in stroke where there is no moment when the hands are not in motion it is effective for propulsion and movement through the water. Dead spots and congestions are avoided by avoiding overstretched slipping when the arm is stretched forward. It is clearly visible in the photo that the fist and the fingers go towards the surface of the water, and that there is additional resistance and the inertia from the previous curvature is lost. What is not seen in the photo, and is  direct consequence of the error is the fall of the hips and the poorer position of the body, because the speed of movement is lost. Beginners often try to imitate the swim stars or long-distance swimers, but because their stroke is very strong and efficient, and because they have a high operating frequency of the legs, at first glance it looks like they glide with a forward arm, but their stroke does not contain dead spots. Therefore, the constant continuity of strokes without delay is one of the basic elements that athletes need to focus on when mastering the swimming technique, or when practicing and applying the previously learned technique that requires high and constant concentration.

Stroke timing

Incorrect timing of the stroke and proper timing

The moment in which the hand (fist) touches the water is very important and it is marked as the timing stroke because it can start in several stages of stroking. The right timing (right in the picture) is the one in which the stroke begins at the moment when the air is taken, because then the body is in the position to engage the greatest force collectively through the strokes.

A common mistake is that at that moment the hand is already low in water, causing premature timing, and then it is not possible to apply the full force for propulsion (left in the picture).

“Catch” or a grip

Importance of the initial bending of the fist from the wrist

The catch or also popular term capture, is the first part of the stroke when the fist and the upper arm push the water back and forth in order to take advantage of the force of resistance that is created and which allows the body to move forward. The product is a crucial technical element because it requires a large amount of time spent to practice the proper movement. Several factors influence the efficacy of swimmers – morphological traits, muscular strength of the upper body, arm and shoulder, level of flexibility, etc. The catch begins with the hand from the extended position in front of the head moving to flex first from the arm of the hand where the hand bends downwards to catch up and push a larger surface of the water, then bends from the elbow and pulls backward until the elbow stays in a high position, without ruining or twisting inward. With such a movement of action, the greatest thrust of water is achieved as the sum of the pull and thrust, because the forces from both directions influence the forward movement.

The similarity between the movement of the hand and the propeller rotation (Bernoulli principle)

In the past decades, there was a great controversy that has a greater impact – the “drag” force, ie the horizontal force of the pulling or “lift” force, or the vertical force of the thrust. In the 1970s, the opinion was that it was most effective to focus only on hand and hand pulling backwards, or that the horizontal force was predominant (Braun, Kunsilmen 1971, Kunsilmen 1971). Subsequently, studies showed that the vertical force had a large and crucial impact, when a sculling element of the curtain emerges.

These studies demonstrated the similarity and efficiency of the sculling of the movement of the hand and propeller, where the application of the Bernoulli principle derived from the law on the maintenance of energy comes in, where as a consequence we have, if there is an increase in speed, that pressure must be reduced. An example is an airplane that has a larger upper surface and therefore the air above the wing has a greater path to cross, therefore it must have a higher speed, followed by lower pressure; ie, under the wing there is a higher pressure in relation to the wings above, so that the lifting force arises and therefore the plane can fly. This principle has also been guided by the studies that dealt with the demonstration of the importance of the vertical force of the thrust, which comes in the wrong path of fist and hand through the water.

In his book “Swimming Biomechanics”, Kraus Reisle explains that the propulsion is the result of a horizontal force (drag) and dynamic vertical forces (rising, ie, thrust)

Then, in the 1990s, the studies prevailed (Kapaert 1993, Kapaert, Reisle 1994, and Reisle et al. 1994) which show that more importance for the importance of moving the body forward must be given to horizontal drag forces.

It is not necessary to explicitly separate any model as completely correct, but to describe the stroke and the catch and movement of the body through the water as a symbiosis of forces acting from several directions and which are both horizontal and vertical, but can be perceived on the basis of the studies done the pull force effect is greater than the force of the thrust. For this reason, the bending of the fist in the wrist, and then the thrust towards the back, the basic part of the curvature that affects the movement of the body towards the front, although they must not be completely isolated or neglected as other elements such as the position of the body, the work of the legs, the rotation, the breathing, the continuity of stroke and the timing of stroke . It can be concluded that the essential factors for the performance of swimming techniques of the crawl (freestyle), through analysis of biomechanics, are active horizontal towing force, effective propulsion force, efficiency of “propelling” (scaling) and output power. The speed of the swimmer is determined by the ability to generate the force of propulsion with the reduction of resistance when moving forward (Tousejnt, Taurus 1992).


🇬🇧10 times Balkan champion, professional triathlete (representing Serbia), half-marathoner, ironman 70.3, traveler.

🇷🇸10 puta šampion Balkana, profesionalni triatlonac i reprezentativac, polumaratonac i maratonac, svetski putnik.

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