Here's something interesting on our current theme of individuality in swimming:
Climbers call the difference between your arm length and your height your 'Ape Index'. The difference is normally expressed in inches. So if your arm span is three inches wider than your height, then that gives you an ape index of +3. If your arm span is 2 inches smaller than your height, that gives an ape index of -2.
It's very easy to quickly find your ape index, just stretch up against a wall or post and find your arm span, then keeping your top finger in place, stand up and compare it to your height. You don't have to be too precise with this, you can look at the difference and estimate it in inches:
We can see there that Paul has an Ape Index of +3.
But what's this got to do with swimming? Well if you have short arms for your height (an ape index of zero or less) it's very unlikely you will be able to make a long stroke work for you. Swimmers with short arms will become slower and less efficient by trying to match the strokes per length of long-armed swimmers.
If you have shorter arms don't despair, you are capable of swimming at a higher stroke rate than other swimmers without fighting the water. A shorter stroke with a faster turn-over is your route to swimming speed and efficiency. Copying the style of elite swimmers (who nearly all have long arms) really won't help much.
You might like the analogy with bike crank length. Cyclists with shorter femurs tend to favour a shorter crank length that allows them to turn their legs over faster.
Ape Index is just one of the many physical and psychological attributes that construct your swimming individuality. If you've found that following a particular piece of swimming advice hasn't improved your speed (or even made you slower) then question if this was good advice for your stroke. In swimming always remember: one size doesn't fit all!
PS. If you have an ape index greater than +7 or less than -4 inches then we'd love to hear about your experiences of swimming and the stroke style that works for you. Send us a quick email to: firstname.lastname@example.org