Your Individual Stroke Rate

When you swim your stroke rate is how many strokes you take per minute. Think of this like your cadence in cycling, are you turning your arms over quickly (like spinning an easy gear on the bike) or slowly (pushing a big gear)?

We measure stroke rate in strokes taken per minute (counting both your arms individually) and you can control yours accurately with a gadget like the Finis Tempo Trainer Pro. Adjust it to any stroke rate you like and simply time your stroke so that your hand enters the water at the front of the stroke as the beep goes. In this way you can make very precise adjustments.

Here's Swim Smooth Coach Anna-Karin swimming at around 65 strokes per minute (SPM) in open water:


If this animation isn't playing at full speed, see the full clip here
www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LDbps7O5Ps

Stroke rates vary considerably from individual to individual as we will discuss below. This also holds true in the elite swimming world with the total range being from as low as 65 SPM right up to 110 SPM. It all depends on the swimmer's natural stroke style, the event they are racing and the environment in which they are swimming.

With all this variation how do you decide what stroke rate you should be targeting? A good angle to examine this problem is by using our Swim Type system. If you can identify your swim type (do so here: www.swimtypes.com) then we can give you some very specific advice on where you should be heading with your stroke rate.

Let's get started:

Type 1. The Arnie

Arnies are the classic swimmers who fight the water and this is reflected in their stroke rate which is too high for their swimming ability, typically in the range 70-85 SPM. Unfortunately they can't sustain this cadence for long and it will drop off after 200m or so. This leaves the naturally athletic Arnie feeling out of breath and unfit.

If this sounds like you, work on lengthening out your stroke and removing a likely crossover of the centre line in front of your head. Consciously lowering your stroke rate will help with this, but don't go too low or you will start to Overglide! Use your Tempo Trainer to target something closer to 60SPM and you'll soon be swimming much more effectively.

Typical stroke rate: 70-85 SPM (but drops quickly after a few lengths)
Good target range: 55-65 SPM


Type 2. The Bambino

Bambinos tend to be new to swimming and as any beginner knows when starting something new, there is a lot to think about! They are quite tentative when they swim and this results in a slow stroke rate in the range 45-55 SPM. If you are a Bambino then experiment lifting your stroke rate to around 55-65 SPM. It helps to provide rhythm and purpose to you stroke and despite turning your arms over faster it should actually feel easier as you develop a better sense of rhythm!

Typical stroke rate: 45-55 SPM
Good target range: 55-65 SPM


Type 3. The Kicktastic

Do you swim slower with a pull buoy? Hate swimming in a wetsuit? You are likely to fall into our Kicktastic swim type. Kicktastics often feel weak in their arms and feel they need to build muscle to help with their swimming. This is in fact a common misconception - what you should be focusing on is improving your catch technique rather than strengthening your arm muscles.

Improving your catch technique not only helps you to move more efficiently in the water but it will also naturally increase your stroke rate without any extra effort. You are likely to be in the 53-65 SPM range right now but by developing your catch you should shift up to around 65-75 SPM, reducing your reliance on your leg kick as you do so.

Remember to develop your catch technique first as trying to lift your stroke rate without improving your catch will be extremely challenging! To do that check out the Catch Masterclass on our Swim Smooth Guru which takes you through our step-by-step guide.

Typical stroke rate: 53-65 SPM
Good target range: 65-75 SPM


Type 4. The Overglider

A major focus on lengthening out and reducing strokes taken per length is the hallmark of the Overglider Swim Type, resulting in the elbow dropping and palm facing forwards at the front of the stroke. This creates a dead spot at the front of the stroke, negatively impacting your speed and efficiency.

When this is taken to the extreme, stroke rates can be as slow as 45 SPM but more typically Overgliders sit in the low 50s SPM. As with the Kicktastic, work on removing the deadspot and improving your catch technique to lift your stroke rate naturally. Don't fall into the trap of turning your arms over faster whilst keeping the deadspot in place - that's extremely hard work. Instead move your arms at the same speed but lift your cadence by removing the pause - instant efficiency gain!

Again, the Catch Masterclass on our Swim Smooth Guru is the perfect program for you.

Typical stroke rate: 45-53 SPM
Good target range: 60-65 SPM


Type 5. The Swinger 

Swingers are incredible to watch, they are fast swimmers who have natural punch and rhythm to their strokes. This is effective in the pool but in undulating open water conditions it's a superior stroke style which allows them to dominate.

Their stroke rates are the highest of all swimmers, normally in the 80-100 SPM range. This is great and is something to be maintained but with a big focus on rhythm they can sometimes hurry their catch a little at the front of the stroke. With that in mind they may need to slightly lower their stroke rate to develop their catch before lifting things up again. A drop of 5 SPM or so should be enough to achieve this.

Typical stroke rate: 80-100 SPM
Development range: experiment with dropping around 5 SPM


Type 6. The Smooth

Smooths have long elegant strokes and make their swimming look easy and effortless! Fundamentally they are swimming in the right way for them but sometimes focus slightly too much on lengthening the stroke at the expense of their stroke rhythm.

If you are Smooth but perhaps not swimming as well as you used to, perform a little catch development work which should help lift your stroke rate by around 5 SPM and "click" you back into good stroke timing. And when venturing into the open water, lifting your stroke rate will help you to better drive through disturbed waves and chop.
 
Typical stroke rate: 60-70 SPM
Development range: experiment with lifting around 5 SPM




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