Nathan Adrian's Favorite Freestyle Drill

Nathan Adrian’s Favorite Drill: Single-Arm Freestyle

Nathan Adrian is one of the best freestylers on the planet.

Adrian is an Olympic gold medalist, winning the 100m freestyle at the London Olympics, and a pair of bronze medals in the 50 and 100m freestyle at the Rio Olympics.

(He is also a cancer survivor and the owner of his own swim school and club, the AC Swim Club.)

Adrian has been a fixture on the podium in international competition for well over a decade. His consistency over the years is staggering, with Adrian unrelentingly banging out world-class times year after year.

  • Swum a sub :22 50m freestyle at least once each year over the past 11 years.
  • Adrian has swum the 100m freestyle in :47 thirteen times
  • And swum the 100 in :48 over 75 times.

Although Adrian has put up world-class times with seeming ease, he admits that he doesn’t focus that much on the times, instead focusing on building an excellent race over the course of the season.

This attention to detail and process (obviously) extends to his freestyle technique.

And his favorite freestyle drill for improving technique, getting more power from his stroke, and mastering body positioning is a familiar drill that every swimmer tackles at one point or another…

Single-arm freestyle.

Here is Nathan Adrian to explain why he likes this drill so much and how to do it properly.

Nathan Adrian’s Favorite Freestyle Drill: Single-Arm Freestyle

My favorite drill is putting on fins/paddles/snorkel and going through one-arm free progressions. You can work on pretty much every aspect of your stroke in this way.

Start on the wall and do a surface push. Arms shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Using big, deliberate strokes try to maximize your efficiency and work on your core/lats/stabilizer muscles engaging all at the same time.

All of the power in your upper body comes from your trunk so if you are doing this correctly your lats and abs should be more tired than your forearms/triceps.

Nathan’s Tips for Single-Arm Free’ing Like a Champ

  • Body position/head alignment must be good. These are your foundation so if you can’t complete this drill with a good body line and steady head position work on that before progressing to this.
  • Steady legs. It is easy to overthink about what is happening with your arms and get lazy with your legs. Keep your legs moving steady and consistently the entire time.
  • Go slow and take plenty of rest. Nothing bothers me more than coaches that put in new or really difficult drills on tough intervals. There is a time and place for that. It is not, however, when trying to perfect a new skill.

** A big thank you to Adrian for sending over his breakdown of single-arm freestyle and why he digs it so much.

More Stuff Like This:

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Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

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