Swim faster by focusing on your stroke rate.
In our previous blog, we discussed lap time. The time to perform a lap consists of several components. You can calculate lap time using following formula: Lap time = Underwater time + Turn time + (stroke count / stroke rate)
Figure: the laptime breakdown.
Three major components make out the time you take to swim a lap. Underwater time is the time you spend underwater after a turn. The turn time is the time you take to perform a turn at the wall. The last component is the swimming time, which is made up of a certain amount of strokes (stroke count) and the stroke rate at which you perform them. Stroke rate is expressed in stokes per minute. Swimtraxx can measure all the parameters used in the formula above in real-time, giving you the opportunity to focus more on your swim workout. This blog will discuss stroke rate in more detail.
Distance per stroke
The speed of a swimmer can be calculated by multiplying stroke rate with distance per stroke.
Figure: How to calculate your swimming speed.
On the one hand, you have the number of strokes you do in a certain time. On the other hand, you have the distance you do for each of these strokes. Multiplying these two will give you the speed of your swim. Intuitively you would think that just by moving your arms faster you would be on the right track to swim faster, but that is not the case. Young swimmers should first focus on increasing their distance per stroke, not stroke rate. At a young age, having a long and efficient stroke is far more important than being able to perform high stroke rates. As a swimmer grows older, strength and stroke rate will become more important to increase the overall swimming speed. In the next blog posts, we will take a closer look on stroke length and stroke efficiency. Though it is true that you should first focus on stroke efficiency, you should also understand that when doing for instance a 1500m race you will have a lower stroke rate compared to your stroke rate when doing a 50m sprint. The faster you want to swim, the higher your stroke rate should be. This means speed, effort and stroke rate increase together, but it is important to always do so efficiently.
Target stroke rate
Determine for yourself what your target stroke rate is, depending on your physical characteristics. Like we discussed in our last blog about race pace it is important to set a certain stroke rate target to work up to. You should not only split your pace, but you should also split your stroke rate during a race. You have to decide whether you want to start very strong, making a lot of strokes, or finish strong. Because each race has a different stroke rate, choosing between slow, fast, long or short strokes can really set the rest of your course. Setting a target stroke rate per race is not easy and should always be considered in consultation with your coach.
National and World Class Ranges for Tempo and Cycles (1850 – 1995 approx). Please note that cycles are approximate and for 50 meter pools.
The chart above shows the world class ranges for stroke rate per race. As you can see, when going from a long distance race or endurance race to a sprint or anaerobic effort your tempo and stroke rate will evidently increase.
It is important to understand that the faster you want to swim, the higher your stroke rate needs to be. You can do several drills to drive up the turnaround of your stroke. We will focus on the spinning drill. When performing a spinning drill, you do not take stroke length or efficiency into consideration but you solely focus on getting your arm spins as fast as you can. You can do this exercise on any swim stroke. Your focus should be on the speed of your strokes rather than the amount of water you move with one stroke. Because of this, you neurologically train your body to make very quick movements, as you would during a high stroke rate race. Keep in mind this strategy only works when you are a more experienced swimmer with a good distance per stroke. Stroke efficiency still prevails over stroke rate, more on this topic in our next blogs.
Picture: Swimtraxx founder Jeroen Lecoutere working on his butterfly stroke rate.
Take home message
As well as when training for race pace (see previous blog) you should always have a race plan in mind when training your stroke rate. It is important to aim for a certain target stroke rate and work up to that point bit by bit during swim training. You should improve not only your race pace but combine it with training your stroke rate. Swimtraxx One can help you train both your race pace and stroke rate by giving you the exact information on both in real-time. You will have a clear idea of what is still required in order to achieve your target stroke rate. By improving your stroke rate your pace will gradually improve as well. In our next blogs, we will extend this blog by focusing on stroke length and efficiency. Even though stroke rate is an excellent factor to build on, you should always take stroke efficiency in consideration.