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by Matthew Edde

February 18, 2014

Water polo drills can provide fun and challenging cross-training

Playing water polo can help swimmers increase their speed and endurance. Many of the sets and exercises water polo coaches give their players can also help swimmers with their technique. And who knows, you may even find your swimmers and yourself having fun trying a water polo workout!


To start off, have your swimmers stretch out with a 400 warm-up. Then do a eggbeater kicks for 5 minutes. There are no goggles in water polo, so have your swimmers take them off.

Next up, 8 x 25 freestyle with 20 seconds rest. Stipulate that swimmers not pick their heads up to look for the wall for 10 strokes. This will help them get more comfortable swimming with their heads down without wearing goggles. These 25s will also help your swimmers learn to swim straight.

No Islands

Now that the warm-up is complete and your swimmers have gotten the hang of swimming sans goggles, it’s time to raise their heart rates. Start with the, “No man gets an island set” where swimmers swim for 30 minutes without touching any walls. Sounds tricky in a pool, but it can be done!

To accomplish this, instruct your swimmers to sprint from one set of flags to the other. Once there, have them switch to eggbeater kicks for 20 seconds, only to turn around to sprint back to the first set of flags. Remember, this set can go on for 30 minutes, depending on how much practice time you have.

Free, Sprint, and Eggbeater Kicks

Another good set, which will give you both sprints and the eggbeater kicks, is a series of 50s, 12.5s, and eggbeaters with differentiating lengths of time. Try this cycle:

  • 50 freestyle, 12.5 sprint, 20 seconds of eggbeater kicks
  • 50 freestyle, 12.5 sprint, 15 seconds of eggbeater kicks
  • 50 freestyle, 12.5 sprint, 10 seconds of eggbeater kicks
  • 50 freestyle, 12.5 sprint, 5 seconds of eggbeater kicks

Repeat as desired. You can also shorten the freestyle to 25s. You can also add head-up freestyle to make the drill more challenging, or make the sprints head-up.


At this point, if you haven’t already done so, remove the lane lines. Sort your swimmers into teams of 3 to 8 people, depending on the size of the group. Make sure to match up swimmers with similar skill levels. Grab a handful of water polo balls for the next few sets. If water polo balls are not available, volleyballs, soccer balls, or basketballs can work just as well.

NOTE: Unless you have protective head gear and experienced water polo players, communicate to your swimmers that these are just drills, not the actual game of water polo, and that they should avoid contact: elbows, swimming over one another, etc., to prevent inury.


Time for a swim off! Throw one ball in the middle of the pool for each group. Have the swimmers race to the ball. First one to get the ball wins. Repeat this three or four more times.


Next up, relays. Have the swimmers dribble the ball between their freestyle strokes and have them pass the ball off to the next team member as though it were a baton. If you have large groups, have swimmers trade the ball every 12.5 yards.

Feel free to get in some dribbling practice as needed before starting the relays. Dribbling water polo balls can help a swimmer who has issues with over-reaching; to keep a ball between their arms, swimmers must learn to make a wider strokes to allow room for the ball.

A second relay could have the swimmers palming the ball out in front of a freestyle stroke while keeping their heads down in the water. Essentially, this drill is a catch-up drill. It will help the balance and alignment of a swimmer’s stroke.

Passing and Shooting

Provided time allows for more, feel free to practice passing and shooting. This can strengthen up your swimmers’ arms and give them a little more mobility in the water.

End the water polo workout with a nice long 300 swim, with their goggles back on, to warm down.



  • Technique and Training


  • Workouts
  • Cross Training
  • Drills