Thursday, March 26, 2015

Should You Be Trying To Increase Your Stroke Rate?

Upcoming Swim Smooth Clinics / Camps:

Prague International Kids Camp
Full information here

Prague Junior Swim Club
Full information here

Richmond SS Squad
Full information here and here

Acton Video Analysis
Full information here

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante
All year round
Full information: here

Richmond/Wimbledon Workshops
Full information here

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis
Full information here

Ringwood SS Squad
Full information here

Twickenham Video Analysis
Full information here

Lancaster SS Squad
Full information here

Lancaster Video
Analysis Consultations

Full information here

West Lothian
Video Analysis

Full information here
One of the most common questions we get asked by swimmers is whether you should be trying to lift your stroke rate when you swim. The answer to this depends a little on your individual swimming.

Your stroke rate is how many strokes you take per minute (not how many you take per length) which is a similar idea to your cadence on the bike. At Swim Smooth we normally count both arms, so if you swim at a stroke rate of 60 strokes per minute (SPM) you will have taken 30 strokes with your left arm and 30 with your right every minute.

Generally speaking swimming with a higher stroke is good for open water swimming as the extra rhythm in the stroke helps you punch through waves, chop and disturbed water. For that reason, although you might take more strokes to swim a given distance, you will be more efficient doing so. This is a bit like spinning a smaller gear on the bike - each stroke takes less effort but you take more of them.

Of course like anything it's possible to over do your stroke rate and end up fighting the water (see The Arnie below) but most elite open water swimmers and triathletes swim very effectively in the range of 75-90 strokes per minute and are very smooth and economical whilst doing so. For examples see Rhys Mainstone, Richard Varga and Tim Don in the Swim Smooth Coaching System.

So should you be trying to turn your arms over faster? Let's look at three classic types of swimmer and discuss:

The Arnie is the classic swimmer who has a tendency to fight with the water. Naturally athletic people, they try to use their strength and power to muscle their way through the water:

(See more Arnies here:

Most Arnies naturally sit at around 65-75 strokes per minutes which is a little too fast for them at this point in their development. Using a beeper* to slow your stroke rate down to 55-60SPM gives you the chance to straighten out and lengthen the stroke. Things will instantly feel more relaxed and controlled when you do so.

One word of warning - don't over-do this and add a big pause into the stroke timing at the front as you'll turn into an Overglider (see below). Hit that half-way house: smooth but still rhythmical.

The Bambino is also relatively new to swimming (like the Arnie) and can look deceptively like them at first glance. However, Bambinos nearly always lack a sense of rhythm and purpose in the stroke, with their stroke rates sitting around 50SPM or sometimes even slower:

(See more Bambinos here:

If you feel your are a Bambino then experiment with lifting your stroke rate up using a beeper* - you'll love the sense of rhythm it gives you. Aiming for around 5 SPM higher than normal is a good start, although in the long run you'll probably be able to take it up more than that.

You might also be surprised to find that speeding things up doesn't necessarily make things harder as you might expect because it gives you a greater attachment with the water during the catch and pull, and lifts your body up higher up.

The Overglider is the classic swimmer who has tried to lengthen out their stroke and added a deadspot or pause in their timing. Unfortunately this nearly always causes them to drop the elbow and wrist and push against the water at the front of the stroke:

(See more Overgliders here:

Overgliders do have low stroke rates (typically in the range 45-53 SPM) and if you fit this type then you should be looking to lift it upwards but (and it is a big but) first you need to correct the dropped wrist position. Lifting stroke rate whilst pushing forwards against the water like this won't be sustainable!

Instead, correct that position at the front of your stroke and you will find your stroke rate naturally elevates without any conscious focus on it. A good target for you is around 57-65SPM, depending on your height and arm reach.

Controlling Your Stroke Rate

* You might be wondering how to control your stroke rate. It turns out this is pretty easy to do these days with a gadget such as the Finis Tempo Trainer Pro. Set it to any given stroke rate and it beeps at that speed to you. Slip it under your swim cap and simply time your strokes to the beep (normally as your hand enters the water) - instant control!

If you want to have some fun programme in these stroke rates of famous swimmers and try them out for size:

Ian Thorpe: 75 SPM

Alistair Brownlee: 90 SPM

Laure Manadou: 110 SPM

Swim Smooth!

No comments: