The much misunderstood “distance per stroke”

Many of you have heard from your coaches, or individual reading, to work on your distance per stroke.  Distance per stroke is generally defined as how far (distance) can you travel on one pull (stroke) or stroke cycle (one pull with each arm).  I’m not disagreeing with my coaching peers, distance per stroke is an important aspect of your ability to create speed.

Here is the misunderstanding I see and hear all the time.  Many mistakenly think they need to slow down their turnover rate (pulls per minute) to increase their distance per stroke and that this will make them faster.

You do not want to slow down your turn over rate, you want to increase the amount of water you pull with each stroke. Generally, when we pull more water our turn over slows down as an outcome of pulling more water.  It is like pulling a feather versus pulling a very big lead brick. The weight of the brick means we can’t move as fast.  This however, does not mean I am not trying to pull fast.  Ideally, I want to pull as much as I can possibly grab and pull towards my feet as fast as possible.  This is hard work, welcome to the world of swimming.

What I want you to work on to improve your time is improve your distance per stroke without slowing down your turnover rate.  Or at least slowing it down as little as possible.

As you improve your stroke mechanics to allow you to pull more water you will have to build up your muscles and stamina to allow you to pull this increased work load (the more water) faster.  It will be easy to breakdown and make stroke errors when you are trying to build.

Let me recap, slowing your stroke rate down to increase your distance per stroke will not translate into faster swimming.  Pulling more water, will allow you to move further with each stroke, while keeping your stroke rate up as fast as you can handle will make you as fast as possible.  Doubt me?  Feel free to try it out yourself.  Do a set of 25s with a really looooong pull to maximize your distance per stroke.  I don’t need to guess, if you do this your times will be slow.  Only the combination of maximum pull at best possible turnover speed will get you your top possible speed.

Up Next: Muscle Memory, Turning your greatest enemy into your best asset.

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