Lesson for Training with Tempo

Get Familiar with the Buttons

The very first task is to practice using the buttons on the Tempo Trainer Pro (TT) and get familiar with the sound of the BEEP and what the numbers on the screen mean. You can read more about this in Tempo Trainer Pro Basics.


Practice Coordinating Movements with the Beep

The second task is to simply get acquainted with how to coordinate your stroke rhythm with the BEEP of the Tempo Trainer Pro.

For this we recommend starting with a tempo of about 1.45 second per stroke (with the TT in Mode 1, click the left or right button until 1.45 appears on the screen). That is slow enough that most people will find it comfortable.

It may be easiest to coordinate the entry with the BEEP. Do a few short repeats or a few lengths to get familiar with how to do that, and observe the effects it has on your stroke and on your attention.


Finding Your Current Comfortable Tempo

Starting at 1.45 seconds may or may not be your most ‘comfortable’ tempo. We encourage you to experiment with it, trying gradually slower or gradually faster tempos until (like Goldilocks) it feels just right for your attention and control.

There are two buttons on the lower part of the device face. You slow the tempo down (the seconds go up) by pushing the right button – one click decreases it by +0.01 seconds (a hundredth of a second). You speed up the tempo (the seconds go down) by pushing the left button – one click increases it by -0.01 seconds.

You may view more guidance for Finding Your Current Comfortable Tempo.


What is ‘Fast’ or ‘Slow’ Tempo?

What is fast or slow compared to other swimmers, you mean?

If you are not sure what is too fast or too slow compared to others, you may read more in What is a Functional Range of Tempo?. It may help to have some sort of reference point for what is considered a ‘slow’ or ‘medium’ or ‘fast’ tempo, compared to swimmers, or what is considered appropriate for certain kinds of events (like sprinting versus long distance).

Not only do you want to develop your capability to hold good form at the tempo appropriate for your pace goals, but also to be capable of swimming with good form at a wider range of tempos along that absolute scale from very slow to very fast.

If this interests you, there is a lot more to study on tempo in the Knowledge Base.

Lesson for Synchronization

How To Work With Combinations

You start with paying attention to the connection of two synchronization points at a time (like EC, or CR), examining and refining them. After working with related pairs for a while, you may ‘zoom out’ to hold attention on hold three points at a time (like ECR), feeling how they all work together. In the end, you intend to have all four working in smooth synchronicity, but it will be easier to arrive at that when you work on these in pairs, rotating through the combinations.

Eventually, all the individual pieces are brought together here in the full stroke to create a smooth, powerful, synchronized, whole-body propulsive movement.

Description Of Synchronization Combinations

In your session or practice time you should examine each of these combinations several times, making observations about how well the parts feel connected and moving smoothly together.

EC – The Entry and Catch Combination

The moment the entry hand (E) pierces the water is the moment your lead arm (C) sets the catch. If that entry happens a little too late or a little too early, then you are not able to connect the rotation power to the catch.

You may read more detail about the The Entry and Catch Combination.

ER – The Entry and the Rotation

One view…

ER: The entry arm (E) is entering and extending underwater and the body rotation follows after it, as if the torso is pulled by an elastic band.

A second view…

RE:  The extending arm (E) underwater feels as if it is being pushed forward by the rotation of the body. It is another way of viewing the same connection as ER.

You may read more detail about The Entry and the Rotation.

CR – The Catch and Rotation

The catch arm slides into catch shape (C) but then hesitates for a microsecond as rotation begins, then the catch arm can gradually increase pressure and shift the loading to the back muscles, lightening the load a bit on the smaller shoulder muscles. Imagine an elastic band tied from the hip to the wrist, and as the hip turns it pulls the wrist of the catch hand with it.

You may read more detail about The Catch and Rotation.

LR – The Leg Press and the Rotation

The press of the leg (L) in a downward arc helps rotate (R) the same side of the torso upward.

You may review the previous lesson on the Leg Press.

LC –The Leg Press and the Catch

Being connected through the torso, the press of the leg also assists with the catch – the press of the leg downward (by helping the torso rotate upward) lightens the loading on the catch arm slightly.

You may read more detail about The Leg Press and the Catch.

LE – The Leg Press and the Entry

Being connected through the torso, the press of the leg (L) on one side of the body helps the entering arm (E) extend fully into Streamline Position on the other side of the body.

You may read more detail about The Leg Press and the Entry.

Lesson for Stroke Counting

The most common way to count strokes is to count each arm entry. When you push off from the wall, you will glide for a moment with the arms extended in streamline in front of your head. As your body approaches the surface you set the catch with one arm and that becomes the “0” stroke count. That arm exits and swings forward to entry, and as it enters, that becomes “1” stroke count, and then you count every entry after that until you touch the wall on the other side of the pool. 

Another way to count is to count that first underwater catch (rather than wait for it to go all the way around to the entry), and then count every catch after that. This will result in 1-stroke higher count than the previous method. 

It does not matter which way you choose to count as long as you are always counting the same way every time you do stroke counting. If you want to compare your count to someone else’s count make sure the pool length is the same and that they are counting the same way you are. 

Your count will be affected by your push off from the wall. You should practice pushing off and gliding the exact same intensity and distance every time (when you intend to count strokes). If you push off and glide the same distance to your first stroke on every length of the pool, then your stroke count can be compared from length to length. But if you push off and glide less or more distance on each length then your stroke count will be affected – if you glide less distance then you have to take more strokes, if you slide more you take fewer strokes. 


What Is A ‘Good’ Stroke Count For You?

There is a lot of variability in what would be an appropriate or ‘good’ stroke count for different people in different situations and purposes for swimming. 

You can read more on the discussion of stroke counts in these articles:

Stroke Count Charts

When Choosing Optimal Stroke Count

Back Story on the Stroke Count Charts

Regardless of what is a ‘good’ stroke count for you, your first objective is to get in control of your stroke count and learn how to shift it up or down and develop the strength to hold consistent your current stroke count for longer durations of swimming. Then you will be in better position to know how far you should aim to improve it and what kind of work will be involved to do that.

Lesson for 2 Beat Leg Press

We recommend developing the 2-beat press skills in the following order….


Step 1: Quiet Legs

The first step is to train the lower body to be connected to the upper body and form one long, straight, firm frame or fuselage (referring to the fuselage of a sleek sea kayak, jet plane or submarine). Hopefully, you developed this skill in the Freestyle Fundamentals stage of your training.


Step 2: Counter-Balance Leg Position

We’ve recently started referring to this as the counter-balanced ‘leg position’ rather than the ‘foot position’ to take attention off of the feet and onto the legs as a whole.

We sometimes introduce this skill in the Freestyle Fundamentals course, if a swimmer appears ready for it then. Otherwise we leave it for this course.

We first want to train the legs to find their counter-balancing position while the body is in streamline position. This is the start and the finish position for each leg press. This is the position the legs are locked into while the front of the body is locked into streamline position. This is why you want to develop this skill before the movement part – the legs need to know where they belong so they can find that position immediately on each switch.

As you can see in the side view in the photo below, the streamline side leg is straight and reaching up while that side of the body is down (they are counter positioned to each other). Meanwhile, the recovery side of the body is up, while the leg on that side is straight and pointed down. This counter-balanced position makes it feel like the legs are almost (but not quite) twisted around each other.

Looking at the rear view you can see how this places the streamline side foot higher than the recovery side foot. The feet are angled opposite to the torso’s angle. In your brain it will feel like the feet are ‘stacked’ on top of one another vertically, when in fact they are slightly apart and angled like this. However, you can’t see your own feet this way!

As you become more refined in this leg position, you can make it even better by rotating the streamline side foot inward, in what we might call ‘pigeon toe’ position. This turn of the ankle places a little torque inside the hip joint on that same side and supports the rotated position of the hips. The recovery side foot remains comfortably pointed. The upper thighs should be lightly touching each other. The knees should be close but not touching each other. The legs should remain close and almost wrapped around each other, maintaining an extremely low profile, hidden behind the torso.

The legs will have a tendency to spread apart when the brain detects instability in your upper body – the legs spread to stabilize. The stronger you are in the fundamental skills, the more stable your upper body will be in streamline position and the less your legs will be pulled away from this slender counter-balance position.

This is the position your legs will hold while your body is in streamline, and there should be no additional motion of the legs whatsoever until the torso rotates and the streamline side leg presses to assist it. When the upper body locks into its streamline position, the legs lock into their counter-balanced position and stay there. When the legs switch they go directly into the opposite counter-balanced position.

If you insist upon bringing the feet back together between switches, you’ll notice the legs sway from side to side on each stroke. The legs in CBP absorb the rotational force of the torso and keep the legs sliding straight behind. The parallel legs magnify it and sway in reaction.


Step 3: The Press and Switch

If the legs are in the counter-balanced position, the upper one is poised for the press motion. The streamline side leg is poised up, and awaits the entry of the arm on the other side of the body. The other leg is underneath and pointed, ready to counter the press. As the torso begins to rotate, the entry arm starts to slide into the water in response to that rotation, and the leg begins to press downward. The whole body rotates around the axis of the spine. The leg pressing down against the resistance of water creates leverage which supports and enhances the power of the torso rotation, making it stronger. That rotational force is transferred into the entering and extending arm and propels the body into the streamline position and slides forward in the water. When the rotation, entry and press of the leg are all synchronized this creates a tangibly (pleasing) smooth flow of force through the body and it adds to the sense of acceleration in that moment.

In the basic sense, the streamline side leg is pressing downward and the recovery side leg will drift upward to it’s next CBP. The idea of ‘drift’ is important because this is not a two-legged action, and there is definitely no ‘scissor-like’ action of both legs moving away from each other by muscle activation. Instead, one leg is actively pressing down and the other leg is passively sliding up in response. (If you reach out with both straight arms in front of you right now, then reach farther ahead with the right arm, you’ll notice the left arm pulls back passively, without you having to pull back on it consciously – the reaching of the right arm causes the left arm to retract through the rotation of the torso).

In the more refined sense, the streamline leg is arcing with some pressure downward and the recovery side is arcing passively upward. Because the hips are rotating as part of the torso unit, the hip socket is rotating and the leg is rotating with it and the foot is rotating with it. Notice in the photo below how the feet are turned inward slightly. And notice the arcs drawn over it – that is the approximate pathway the feet trace when switching from one side to the other.

The movement is 3-dimensional – while the leg is pressing down it is also rotating and when the legs are held close to each other, this creates an arcing pathway, which we affectionately call ‘crescent moons’. This pathway can be accentuated by conscious thinking of turning inward into a ‘pigeon toe’ on the upward drifting pressing foot, or flicking the big toe outward of the downward pressing foot.

At this step the main objective is to just get the basic motion and the basic timing. The press of the leg is generally downward and it happens just after the torso starts to rotate in order to assist and enhance it. Up to this point we may advise that you keep the leg straight and fairly stiff. Just get used to pressing the straight leg in order to lever the rotating torso. Notice the general effect of moving the leg mass in how that helps shift the torso mass.

Lastly, try to avoid pulling any air down into the water on each press. This means the leg has been reaching too high and trying too hard to push downward. Those bubbles create voids in the water and actually decrease water pressure and make the action less effective.


Step 4: Make More Pressure

Now we want to work on getting more refinement and pressure under that press. You do this by allowing a slight flex in the knee (but definitely not a bend) and an outward flick of the toes. You manipulate these two features to create a bit more pressure (water resistance) against the lower leg and top of the foot. The more pressure you feel the more leverage there is.

At this point the temptation is to kick or snap the leg to get more pressure by faster motion. This is a misleading shortcut that gives the false impression of being effective when it is not. Instead, use the minor flex of the lower leg and the curve of its path to create more pressure without increasing the rate of movement too much. The flex and curve is a little like sculling with the hands to feel a grip on the water.

You may also start to notice that the flow of force from the leg press into the torso is not instantaneous like a bolt of lightning. It is slower, like a wave flowing toward the shore. When you press with the leg there is a lag, and it takes a few microseconds for that wave to flow up the leg and into the torso and across to the other side and into that extending lead arm. You have to be patient for that flow to finish its journey – so the longer you can extend that press of the foot (making it more steady and less ‘snappy’) the more it will add to your forward propulsion.


Step 5: Refine The Timing

There may still be a lot of details we can improve and refine in the previous steps. But at some point you’ll be swimming at different tempos (different stroke rates), at when the tempo changes enough you’ll notice that the timing of the leg press seems like it needs to change a little too. Yes, it likely does!

The general idea is to have the 2-beat leg press happen with the torso rotation, but at extremely slow tempos (when rotation is happening more slowly) you’ll notice that you have a big window there where the timing could be a little earlier or a little later – which is best? You may find that at slower tempos, you’ll time that press a little later, to assist with the finish of your extension of the lead arm into streamline.

At extremely fast tempos (what is ‘fast’ for you) you’ll notice that you’ll have a hard time getting your torso to rotate that fast. You’ll be looking for a way to get it moving sooner, faster. The leg press can help with this. On this extreme you may find that at faster tempos you’ll time that press a little sooner, almost as if the press of the leg is helping the torso start to turn.

This takes a lot of awareness and a lot of experimentation to find the best timing for your stroke tempo and your level of skill. As you become more skillful, and your abilities to handle extremely slow and extremely fast tempos expands, you’ll be refining the timing of the leg press further.


Cues For Counter-Balanced Leg Position

  • Keep knees straight
  • Lift streamline side hamstring
  • Point recovery side leg
  • Comfortably point the toes
  • Stack the feet
  • Pigeon Toe (on streamline side foot)
  • Upper thighs touching
  • Legs twisted around each other


Cues For 2-Beat Press

  • Crescent Moons
  • Press – Don’t snap
  • Flex – don’t bend knee
  • Steady press, feel pressure
  • One smooth switch, no extra motion between


Drills For 2-Beat Press

  • Standing rehearsal – leg swing
  • Torpedo (or Hug) Position – alternating leg press
  • Balance Position – one leg press and release
  • Balance Position – one leg press with opposite arm reach
  • Balance Position – alternating leg press
  • Balance Position – alternating leg press and arm reach
  • Balance to Streamline with CBP
  • Streamline Right with CBP, then 1 switch to Streamline Left with CBP
  • …Then with Two Switches
  • …Then with Three Switches
  • Stroke > Streamline and Glide > Stroke > Streamline and Glide
  • 3 Whole Strokes then glide in Streamline with CBP
  • Whole stroke, emphasize CBP on one side
  • Whole stroke, emphasize CBP on each side
  • Whole stroke, emphasize press on one side
  • Whole stroke, emphasize press on each side

Lesson for Build The Frame

In the first freestyle fundamental lesson we work on Building The Frame. This lesson will help you establish the first of our Four Essential Features of the freestyle stroke which encompass lengthening, balance and streamline skills.

And, here is the outline of the drills and attention cues, with links to video demonstrations of the drills. The following lists of activities and the lists of cues may contain more items than you experienced in your lesson. The instructor will watch the time and your pace of learning and choose a certain sequence of activities and the few most relevant cues for you to work with.



You may also consider using short swimmer fins to allow you to practice Scapula Slide Position with your legs more supported and the flow of water along your body. This flow of water may provide you with more feedback about how well you are maintaining form and a low-turbulence streamline position.



To help you pay attention, interpret and send commands to particular parts of your body your instructor gave you a selection of cues in each drill. There are more cues on the lists below than you were given in your lesson, as the instructor chose a few to get you going, without overwhelming with too many details. You may be able to figure out the meaning of the others you were not originally exposed to.

Cues for Torpedo

  • ‘Mountain Pose’ (yoga) or ‘Stand At Attention’ (like military stance)
  • Both hands tucked deep into pockets
  • Elbow snug against your rib cage
  • Long spine (as if pulled up by a string)
  • Keep thighs straight behind torso

Cues for Balance Position

  • Cues from Torpedo and…
  • Neutral (aka Weightless) Head
  • Tippy Toes (thighs straight behind torso, toes pointed gently)
  • Arms On Wide Tracks
  • Arm Straight (no bend at elbows)
  • Hands at Target (below the depth of the face)
  • Let arms hang heavy
  • Shoulder blades (scapula) slide outward and forward (but not strained)
  • Keep forearms soft (like a tree branch)
  • Keep fingers soft

Lesson for Make First Connections


The main skill is to have the body rotation empower the entry and extension of the arm on one side and empower the catch and hold on the other side at the same time. The well-timed body rotation will smoothly transfer power from the catch side to the streamline side and result in more satisfying sense of acceleration on each stroke.

The entry/extension arm will slide into the water and forward to its target as an expression of the body’s rotation. The catch arm will get a grip on the water and hold it, while the body rotates around that hold point and forward. All together, the catch will hold the water while the body rotation transfers the force it generates into the streamlining body on the other side.

You develop these connections by practicing the connection of one arm to the rotation. Then you some practice the connection of the rotation to the catch and hold. Then you practice connecting all three at once.

Note: we don’t teach the details of the Catch and Hold until Freestyle Advanced. The underwater catch (pulling) action you have currently is likely adequate for your purposes right now. We don’t want you to get distracted by that part of the stroke yet, because there are more important skills to establish first. 


  • Balance Position to Streamline (with weighted object in lead hand)
  • Streamline to Streamline – 1 switch
  • Streamline to Streamline – 2 switches
  • One-Arm Drill
  • One-Arm Swimming
  • 6 whole strokes (no breathing)
  • 6 whole strokes with 1 breath
  • Whole strokes with breathing



Cues for Entry

  • Weight shift
  • Hold the scapula’s forward position
  • Keep the armpit open to the deep
  • Entry arm responds to the rotation


Cues for Catch

  • Gather then rotate
  • Hold and rotate
  • Hold and slide past that point
  • Slide the scapula back

Lesson for Interrupted Breathing

This is an outline of the main drills, cues we may use while introducing you to the Interrupted Breathing skill.



Here are some demonstrations of how to practice…



Here are the main cues to help you with critical parts of body position and movement…

  • Turn towards open side (‘through the window’)
  • Rotate head first – the turn of the head encourages the torso to turn
  • Rotate with the Hip
  • Keep head underwater as you turn
  • Turn on the ‘shishkabob’ spine – keep head perfectly aligned with spine
  • Bubble out from the nose until nose and mouth breach the surface
  • Keep lead arm anchored deep as is comfortable (in Backstroke Streamline position)
  • Keep the smallest face out of the water while breathing
  • Relax head and neck once in neutral
  • Water should brush the top of your goggles
  • Exhale from nose as face rotates under
  • Relax head and neck once in neutral