My favorite drill: The cobra drill

My favorite drill: The cobra drill

Grote, Kurt

Perfect Technique

Endless laps eventually take a toll on swimming technique. But property performed drills can repair and even prevent the damage if incorporated daih into workouts. Most coaches and swimmers would agree that with a balance of good technique and a high level of fitness, you give yourself the best possible chance of reaching your goals in swimming.

As a breaststroker, my focus in drills changed when I began training at Stanford University in 1991. Coaches Skip Kenney, Ted Knapp and Bill Boomer taught me to refocus from my hands and feet to the movement of my hips and the core of my body during the stroke. This change in focus has resulted in tremendous improvements for me, and I believe the same can be true for anyone who learns to add the hips as a source of propulsion in the breaststroke.

In this article, I demonstrate my favorite drill which goes by the code name “Cobra” at the Stanford Swim Camp (you’ll see why). This drill teaches exaggerated hip movement, which translates to more natural hip movement in normal breaststroke. I do this drill just about every time I get in the water, but especially when I’m at a big meet

I recommend that you do this drill with a partner who can watch you from underwater. At first it is difficult to feel whether you are moving your hips enough. For beginners, it usually feels much more exaggerated than it looks, and your partner will teN you to move your hips more. If you are having trouble doing the complete drill break it down into parts and work on one aspect at a time (for example, the “set-up or the “press”) before you put them together.


Start the drill lying flat on the surface of the water with a light flutter kick to keep the legs afloat. The hips and shoulders should be at approximately the same level in the water-and the head should be in a “neutral” position-in line with the body. The back should be straight, not arched, and the arms should be in a streamlined position.


Keeping the head in line with the body, press the chest and head forward and down as a single unit (do not tuck the chin down to the chest). This will lift the hips-like a teeter-totter. Keep the line from the hips to the head perfectly straight. Separate the hands to a wide “Y” position as you press forward and down with your body.

Hip Drive

This is the most crucial and exaggerated part of the drill, in which you will learn to press the hips forward in your stroke. From the “Y,” quickly and aggressively push the hips forward and scull the hands together until they meet. Pushing the hips forward will cause the upper body to lift up. I never think about lifting my body with my arm pull; pushing the hips under it lifts the body.

In Photo #3, you can see why this drill is called “Cobra.” The body is coiled and ready to strike!

In Photo #4, notice that the body is nearly vertical when the hips are driven forward. The knees are not pulled forward, and the legs should feel relaxed. The abdominal muscles are tight, helping to pull the hips forward.

Dive Forward

In the last part of the drill, dive forward to a streamlined position. I am using the leverage of my hips under my body and the potential energy of my upper body lifted out of the water to throw myself aggressively forward. My goal here is to get my arms and head into a streamline as quickly as possible so that I can take full advantage of my kick. I am just starting to catch water with my feet as my upper body finds the streamlined position.

After completion of the kick, reset in a streamlined position and do the drill over again. I usually repeat it 10-15 times, and it leaves the hip movement in my breaststroke feeling very natural and easy.

About the Author

Kurt Grote, a 1996 Olympian, won gold in the 200 meter breaststroke at the 1998 World Championships in Perth, Australia.

Copyright Sports Publications, Inc. Aug 1999

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