Stroke Count & Stroking Rate

Distance per stroke (DPS), or the length of your stroke (stroke length) interacts with the rate (speed) at which you move your arms. This combination determines the velocity with which you swim. If you think about different ways of walking, you can easily apply this concept to your swimming. One can walk with very tiny steps (DPS) or very long steps (DPS), or somewhere in the middle. One can also move their legs very slowly, or very quickly. Or, again, somewhere in the middle. The idea in swimming (or speed walking) is to go as fast as you can over the distance of the event. Very slow, tiny steps are guaranteed to tire you out, without covering much distance. The same is true for swimming. Short strokes, taken very quickly lead to fatigue, and a whole lot of work for very little result.

Conversely, very long steps taken very slowly will tend to yield a better result, but perhaps not an ideal one. Again, the same concept is applied to swimming. You could  swim one length taking three strokes, but it will take you some time to do that! As you may already be determining, the ideal stroke length/ stroke rate combination lies somewhere in between this continuum. So, what does this mean for you? Experimentation! Before you experiment, there are a few rules of thumb to consider.

  1. Everyone is different! Find your ideal combination for swimming fast. Take your time. This will be a process of trial and error.
  2. Length is always more important than rate! Work on being long in the water (see Spring newsletter) first. Once you have mastered that, begin to think about how fast you take each stroke.
  3. Girls will tend to have shorter stroke length than guys. Smaller swimmers will tend to take more strokes, while taller swimmers will tend to take less. Great kickers will tend to have slower rates as well. This is all ok! Remember, everyone’s ideal combination is slightly different.
  4. Stroking length tends to decrease as rate increases. Stay efficient when experimenting!

One great option for all developing swimmers (isn’t everyone?) is to go on you tube and take a look at the stroking combinations for your favorite Olympian! Record how many strokes they take per length. Then take a look at how quickly they take them. You can measure this by counting strokes for 10 seconds, or by taking their total time for that length. You will now have two numbers. One, the total number of strokes taken per length. 2. How fast each stroke is over a ten second period, or how fast the athlete went for the entire length. These two numbers can be added up for a total score. Now, in practice, you can do the same thing. Count your strokes for a 25. Get your total time for the 25. Add the two together! That is your SWOLF score. What is SWOLF? It is the combination of swimming and golf. The idea is to have as low a score as possible while swimming the fastest time! The next time you’re in practice, play some SWOLF. Stay long and relaxed at first, then work some tempo into your stroke and see what happens!