How to swim further with fewer strokes?
The time to perform a lap consists of several components. You can calculate lap time using following formula:
Figure: the laptime breakdown.
In the previous blog we discussed stroke rate and how to swim faster when focusing on this parameter. In this blog we take a closer look at how to swim with a low stroke count. There is no such thing as ‘the right’ stroke count. If you wish to swim a long distance while doing as few arm strokes as possible, you should work on improving your stroke length. By increasing your distance per stroke, your stroke count will gradually decrease per lap. When looking at swimming speed following formula is in order:
Figure: calculating your swimming speed.
Distance per stroke, or stroke length, is an important aspect of speed. This parameter gives you the distance your body travels forward on each arm stroke. Having a good stroke length will result in covering more distance by doing less strokes. The main focus of this blog will therefore be distance per stroke or stroke length. We will discuss 3 stages of a stroke, followed by some additional advice.
Stages of a stroke.
An arm stroke can be divided in 3 stages that all need separate attention.
First up are your entry and catch. The first phase of an arm stroke is the moment your hand enters the water. With every stroke, whether it’s freestyle, backstroke, butterfly or breaststroke, the catch phase is the moment your hand starts the propulsive motion through the water. You want to enter this phase as early as possible during your stroke. This will create a propulsion from a very early stage in your arm stroke and this will set the course for the rest of your stroke. After this, it is time to work on your pull. This is the biggest and longest part of your swimming stroke and requires the largest muscle activation. During this stage your aim is to pull your arm through all the way backwards, towards the last phase of your stroke. Do so by creating a 90° angle between the upper and lower part of your arm. It is important to have a feel for the water, because this will result in a very efficient stroke. You can work on your pull using tools such as a pull buoy or paddle. These will also increase your strength.
Another technique that is also very effective on training your pull is sculling. While sculling, you create small and quick forearm movements that create propulsion. Sculling is a very good way to improve your feel for the water in any phase of your arm stroke. Using this technique to improve your pull will also improve your strength.
Lastly, you should finish your stroke. During this stage, especially for butterfly, freestyle and backstroke, you should aim to finish your stroke at the hips and rotate them all the way back until your arms are completely stretched out. By doing this, you will use your maximal arm length to create propulsion within your stroke. Don’t pull out your arm too early but push it out right until the end.
Importance of leg kick.
When talking about distance per stroke a lot of people naturally start focusing on their arms. But, having a good kick is equally important for having a good stroke length. Because kick helps you propel throughout your stroke, it effects your total stroke. Besides this, it also supports your arms in actually getting a good stroke length.
Take home message.
Remember that stroke length is something individual. It takes time and practice to achieve a good stroke length. Work on all phases of your stroke in order to achieve a maximum distance per stroke. While doing so, don’t forget that your legs are a second important source of propulsion in your swimming stroke. Lastly, remember that sculling is a good drill method to improve your feeling for the water in any phase of your arm stroke. In the future we will discuss more drilling techniques to improve different phases.
Swimtraxx One can help you train your stroke length because it measures the exact information in real-time. You will have a clear idea of what is still required in order to achieve a good stroke length. In our next blog, we will extend this series by focusing on stroke efficiency. Even though stroke length is an excellent factor to build on, you should always take stroke efficiency in consideration.