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