Sculling: The Most Important Drill for Developing Your Feel for the Water

Swim Speed Secrets underwater vortices

Last week we posted a short video of Sheila casually creating water tornadoes with her hands while sculling. (You should really check out the video. Go do it, we’ll wait!)

Here’s the real kicker: at least one top Olympic swimmer has used this tornado sculling drill as his entire workout!

Swim Speed Secrets underwater vortices
A swimmer’s trail of vortices

In Swim Speed Secrets (p. 94), Sheila tells this story:

“Sculling is the most important drill for learning feel. The best way to convey its importance is by the following true story.

In 1996, at our Olympic swim team training camp in Knoxville, Tennessee, one week before the opening of the games, I was doing a 5,000-m workout with a few people on the team. Other teammates were in their lanes churning out workouts, but Gary Hall Jr., our top sprinter on the team, was standing on the deck in the sun. After soaking in the rays for awhile, he decided to slip into the water in the lane next to me.

I was repeating 100s, and every time I came to the wall there was Hall, standing in the water chest high, never getting one hair on his head wet, sculling his hands back and forth in the water slowly and with great concentration.

After 10 minutes he got out of the pool, and I heard him say to his coaches, ‘OK, I’ve got my feel for the water. See you later.’

Hall won two gold and two silver medals at those Olympics, and he went on to make two more Olympic teams in 2000 and 2004, winning gold in the 50-m freestyle both times.

His entire workout that day was sculling.”

In Swim Speed Secrets, 4-time Olympian, gold medalist, and triathlon world champion Sheila Taormina reveals the swim technique used by the world’s fastest swimmers. Find new speed in the water with Swim Speed Secrets.