Is your swimming stroke rate holding you back?
Our Melbourne based athletes recently took part in a 400m swim time trial (TT). This was the first of a series of TT tests in order to track winter training progress. During this TT I measured the athletes stroke rates (SR) at 100m and 300m. Stroke rate can be recorded with a swim specific stopwatch which your swim coach should have. Upon analysing the results there was a common theme that stood out, which I am going to share with you below:
From the above graph you can see there is a large variety of times for the 400m swim. What stands out however, is the clear difference in SR’s from the quickest to the slowest time. Apart from ‘athlete 7’ whom has a kayak style stroke = higher stroke rate and less purchase/hold on the water, this trend is quite noticeable and interesting.
Lets take a closer look
What is stroke rate?
Swim stroke rate is the number of strokes you take per 60 seconds. Unlike running and cycling cadence, the way I calculate swim SR is both arms are used (Garmin watches will only calculate 1 arm so you need to double this number).
Is stroke rate really that important?
Swim speed is a combination of stroke length or distance per stroke (DPS) and stroke rate. If you can maintain a reasonable DPS and increase your SR then you will generally increase your swim speed. So yes, SR is important.
In saying this, having a high SR and small DPS (athlete 7), increasing SR may not improve your speed. In this case you need to improve your catch and feel of the water and/or reduce drag (improve body position and alignment etc).
Finding the right balance between SR and DPS can be tricky and will take some testing.
What should my stroke rate be?
Unfortunately there is no one size fits all when it comes to stroke rate. Larger swimmers will generally be slower than smaller swimmers. Likewise, triathletes will be different to pool swimmers due to the elements of the open water. Some good examples of this:
My final thoughts?
2012 London Olympics Triathlon Podium
1st – Alistair Brownlee: SR-89
2nd – Silver: Javier Gomez – SR-82
3rd – Bronze: Johnny Brownlee: SR-92
1500m world record holder
Sun Yang: 62-SR <1.98m tall (6’6″) long-limbed frame!>
- As a general rule of thumb you do not want a SR <60 when swimming open water endurance events such as 1500m. Remember, as the race distance increases – SR will also decrease.
- Advanced age group swimmers are generally around SR of 70 or above for 1500m. This can be quite hard to hold for the entirety of 1500m, trust me!
- Ask your coach to take your SR in training next time when completing a threshold set to gain and understanding
- Using a Tempo Trainer is an effective way to complete SR training
- Increasing SR does not happen overnight and requires conditioning and strong shoulders
Have a question? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-Director and Tri Coach | i4 Coaching