Ross Davenport: What You Should (And Shouldn't) Try And Emulate About His Stroke

On our recent Coach Education Course in Loughborough, UK, we met up with Ross Davenport, double Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist, to have a good look at his stroke and understand what makes him so quick in the water. Ross has a classic elite swimmer's build, he's very tall and broad with long arms:

As you might expect, when racing Ross has a long stroke taking about 36 strokes per length in a 50m pool or 14 strokes per length in a 25m pool. To investigate his stroke make-up, we asked Ross to kick 100m for us with a kick board:

His time? 1 minute 16 seconds - a very powerful and propulsive leg kick indeed! In his freestyle Ross uses this kick to push him along and lengthen out each stroke to create a long style that is very efficient for him. This is like yourself donning a long pair of fins/flippers and finding you can easily swim with a longer stroke, taking many fewer strokes per length.

Ross races 200m in around 1 minute 48 seconds and takes 36 strokes per 50m. Given his skill level and physical attributes he could easily swim this distance taking fewer strokes if he wanted but he would be less efficient and slower because that would mean overly-lengthening his stroke.

If you don't have Ross' skill level, flexibility, height and arm span - and you can't kick 100m in 1:16 - then trying to emulate his low stroke count might be a mistake. If you'd like to be a faster more efficient swimmer then target the others key things in Ross' stroke instead:

- great breathing technique
- a high body position
- good alignment in the water
- great catch and feel for the water
- a strong rhythm and timing

Get those basics right and you will start moving very quickly through the water - and your strokes per length figure will take care of itself. Don't let the tail wag the dog!

Swim Smooth!

A special thanks to Blue Seventy and to Ross for joining us in November.


Kent Morris said...

Is there a video posted of his stroke?

Adam Young said...

Hi Kent,

We up-close video of his stroke but we don't have permission to make it public yet. Hopefully very soon!

There's lots of clips of his races on YouTube if you search for him.



Nathan said...

I can kick 100m in 1:10. But my full stroke for a 200m is 2:12. WTF is going on.

And get this video out>

Adam Young said...

Hi Nathan,

It's a very strong suggestion that you are very kick dominant in your stroke. To move forwards you are very likely to need to work on your catch and feel for the water.

A great kick is a fantastic asset to have, especially over short distances, but to really reach your potential you need great arm propulsion too.

Cheers, Adam

zackme said...

Hello, my kick is so slow that I will not mention any time...
What is the best way to improve the kicking speed? I don t mind doing lengths.
What will improve with time: more kicks per seconds or also more powerful kicks?

Adam Young said...

Hi zackme,

Can you tell me what your objectives are as a swimmer? If you're racing and what distances etc? Many swimmers don't need a powerful kick in terms of propulsion and it may well not be worth pursuing it in your case.

Cheers, Adam

zackme said...

Thanks, I am aiming at improving average speed from 50s to about 40s over 50m when I swim 400m+
I am only trying to get to a normal kick, I believe it currently is very weak. I understood that more propulsion in the front, lower drag and better tech are better areas of improvement but I believe the next easiest room for improvement is on my kick, meaning getting legs more muscles, only to an average level.

Adam Young said...

Hi zackme,

OK, it's very unlikely that you need much more propulsion from your kick, you're really looking to use your kick to lift your legs up high and so reduce drag whilst doing so an minimum effort. That will improve your speed through reduced drag much more than the propulsion you will gain from a more powerful kick itself.

Have you read the tips here on that?

zackme said...

Thanks. On the other hand, a national team training next to me:
- does many lengths kicking with a board
- kicks at 50s per 50m, which is my cruising speed for freestyle and quite fast relative to theirs too (~30s)
Such power and the importance they place on kicking leads me to think it is an asset that is worth cultivating. I understand that with better tech and lower drag I could achieve my result, but kicking just seems to be another/addtional and easier way to reach that goal.

I have another issue: bubbles around hands and forearms...Is it a bad sign, if so how to correct it?

Adam Young said...

Hi zackme,

A few small bubbles isn't a problem but if you have a lot then you're probably not entering in the water cleanly at a downwards angle. Practise with fins on rotating nicely to each side and coming over the top of the water nice and high. As you enter into the water imagine you have a small fish swimming just in front of you and you need to try and spear through the water's surface and spear it nice and positively with your hand. Hope that helps!

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