Best Ironman Triathlon Swim Technique

Learn the best Ironman Triathlon swim technique and never fear the Ironman swim again.

If you are new to the Ironman Triathlon and especially to swimming 3.8k in the open water, your worry and fear can build to a fever pitch by the time the gun sounds to begin the race.

You’re not even in the water past your waist and you’re pretty much already an emotional wreck and your heart-rate is red-lining.

During all those hours you spent doing countless laps in the pool back home the Ironman swim was always there in the back of your mind.

Bike 180k in howling wind and blazing heat? Run, walk, and shuffle for 42k? Seldom did thoughts of the Ironman bike or run ever strike fear into your heart as you prepared for one of the most challenging days of your life.

After all, you can get off your bike out on the course any time. You can put on the brakes if you’re going too fast.

If you get tired in the run you can lay down in the grass on the side of the road if you want.

Nothing too scary there.

Of all things Iron, it’s the swim that terrifies you the most. Once you get out there….Once you commit yourself..there’s no turning back and there’s no wall to hang on to.

You will be surrounded by hundreds of people, but will feel more alone than you ever have in your life.

You never could swim that well, or maybe not at all, but the call of the Iron Gods to come, come show us what you are made of was so overwhelming that you just have to make it to that Ironman finish line and the open water swim is a necessary evil.

There is just no getting around it.

And so on and on it went………Fortunately, learning the best Ironman Triathlon swim technique is not all that difficult.

Even though through all those months of flip-turns and leaky goggles the feeling of dread was always there…an ever present demon that simply would not let go it’s icy grip on your soul.

You think to yourself over and over…….What have I gotten myself into?

Yet here you are. The gun about to sound and a you can think of is two and a half miles of watery Hell standing between you and Ironman glory.

Your knees are shaking, you want to pass out or throw up and the fear reaches a fever pitch!!

But Wait!!

It doesn’t have to be like that. Not even close to that. Let’s back up a step…


A lot of the fear that triathletes new to open water swimming face is caused by the fact they always feel like they’re struggling in the water.

Their legs keep sinking, they have to keep their arms moving as fast as possible or they’ll sink, and they swallow mouthfuls of that chlorinated water as they struggle to take in air.

The faster they try and go the more of a disaster it becomes.

They go to the pool day after day because they know if they don’t they have no hope of ever becoming an Ironman. That’s just the way it is.

They lean on that kick board and hardly move forward at all no matter how hard they kick. As a matter of fact some people don’t move at all.

There is no real enjoyment in their swim training sessions because it’s always such a struggle, but they soldier on.

Besides, their wet suit will get them through the Ironman swim…won’t it?

They put in lap after lap of inefficient swim strokes because it’s the only one they know.

Yet the more they do it, the more they ingrain that inefficiency into their muscle memory and it’s that very stroke they will be taking to the Ironman with them.

One of the major keys to enjoying and not fearing the Ironman swim is to develop a stroke that many triathletes claim is the best Ironman Triathlon swim technique. It’s a technique that puts the focus on remaining efficient and relaxed.

Once you understand how buoyancy works and how effortless and smooth it will make your swim stroke you will lose your fear of the Ironman swim.

Swimming faster has nothing to do with moving your arms fast. It has everything to do with decreasing resistance.

Best Ironman Triathlon Swim Technique

The Ironman swim start can be a scary time, but a long, smooth swim stroke can give you a much different outlook.

This is how Total Immersion creator Terry Laughlin put it in a chapter he wrote for me in my book Triathlete In Transition.

In order to move your body forward, the propulsive force you generate must be greater than the resistive force (drag) of the water. To move forward, you must increase the difference between propulsive and resistive forces. Increasing propulsive force takes work. Decreasing resistive force does not. This makes the resulting increase in speed sustainable–I.E. you’ll be able to hold a stronger pace longer without fatigue. Therefore always focus on reducing drag first.

To put it more plainly, moving your arms as fast as you can would be trying to increase propulsive force in order to move forward faster.(or in the case of many new swimmers, in order to stop from sinking). It’s important to grasp this concept as it’s important to achieving the most efficient and best Ironman Triathlon swim technique.

That’s a losing proposition in an endurance swim like the ironman and it’s simply unsustainable.

But, if you can lessen the resistance and the amount of water your body has to plow through your stroke becomes much smoother and relaxed and you will become much more comfortable and confident in the water.

What a remarkable difference this can make when it comes to keeping your heart rate down and saving valuable energy. Many people are exhausted after the swim yet still have a 180k bike and a 42k run to make it through.

If you learn the best Ironman Triathlon swim technique available it doesn’t have to be that way.

The next time you go to the pool try this……..

Swim to the end of the pool and back again using your usual swim stroke and count how many strokes it takes you.

Now try it again and this time push your upper body from your neck to your waist toward the bottom of the pool.(count your strokes again)

If your feet have been dragging underwater behind you since you first began to swim, something different is about to happen.

Within a few strokes you will feel your feet rise toward the surface of the water. Kick your feet a little and you might even feel your heels break the surface……

SUDDENLY…you are more streamlined…and all it took was about ten seconds. Now slow your stroke down and add a glide to the end of each stroke while continuing to push your upper body towards the bottom of the pool as you make your way to the other side and back.

My guess is that not only will you shave strokes off, but you will find it takes way less effort to swim.

So here’s what happened.

We all have a natural buoyancy. Our buoy is our lungs. When you press your upper body toward the bottom of the pool, your lungs or natural buoy are trying to push your chest back up.

But because you are maintaining the downward pressure something has to give, so your legs rise. It’s simple physics and once you get it, your swim stroke will change forever.

It’s like taking a balloon full of air and trying to force it down in a tub full of water with one hand. The force of the air will make the balloon impossible to hold down because it will go around your hand to find a way to explode to the surface.

So when you push your chest down the force created by the upward pressure of your lungs has to go somewhere, so it forces your legs up.

In the process you become more streamlined.

Right away you have reduced the resistive force, as Terry put it.

Swimming becomes much easier because there is less resistance and you don’t have to fight to stay afloat. You are more on top of the water instead of always feeling like your legs are sinking and dragging behind you like an anchor.

At first you will have to make a concerted effort to push your chest downward, but it soon becomes second nature.

Most likely you will have to break your swim stroke right down and re-build a much more efficient, relaxing stroke into your muscle memory.

There are swimming drills that will help you achieve this.

I would strongly recommend adopting the Total Immersion swim technique developed by Terry Laughin. I learned what I just shared with you a few decades ago from Terry’s original book and it changed the Ironman swim and how I approached it forever. His book will show you the way to the best Ironman Triathlon swim technique.

I’m sure you can find a used copy of his book somewhere.

Or you can use the link below and get a book or DVD’s right from the Total Immersion website and Terry will even give you an Ironstruck 10% discount.


TOTAL IMMERSION is offering all IronStruck visitors a 10% discount on Books, DVD’s, and all other

Total Immersion teaching tools.

Simply click on TOTAL IMMERSION to go to their store

page. Use the Coupon Code “ironstruck” (all small case letters) into the shopping cart coupon box

and you will automatically receive your 10% discount!

Instead of fearing the swim, I began to look forward to it. I was relaxed when the gun sounded and I felt great when I got out of the water.

The strangest part of all was that even though the Ironman swim seemed more effortless, my times were faster. It was hard to argue with that.

It will be the same for you. You will never fear the Ironman swim again if you take the time to learn the best Ironman Triathlon swim technique you will find anywhere.

Check out these IronStruck articles on swimming….

Open water swimming tips

Swimming technique

Ironman swim training

Beginner swim workout

Swim technique



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