The Importance of Stroke Length


How fast you swim can be calculated by a simple equation:

Swim Speed= Stroke Length x Stroke Rate

This is why good swimmers tend to be tall with a long arm span (as they already have a competitive advantage).

When trying to swim faster most peoples instinct is to increase their stroke rate (i.e move their arms faster). In reality this is not the best way to swim faster as increasing the rate your arms turn over will:

  • Push your heart rate up so you start working anaerobically and you will begin to fatigue quicker.
  • Exaggerate any flaws in your stroke so that each stroke becomes incrementally less efficient.
  • Unless you already have a strong smooth stroke, when pulling  you will chop at the water and have less grip on each catch which will feel like your spinning your arms with out progressing forward.

The right way to swim faster is to focus on increasing your stroke length, to do this you need to incorporate drills and practices that will help you maximise critical eliments of your stroke:

  • The distance you travel on each stroke pull.
  • The quality of your ‘Catch’ (the point your hand begins to pull backwards).
  • The length of your reach forward after your hand entry point.
  • The drive forward from your leg kick.
  • Your body rotation at the hip.

Focusing on your stroke length and not the rate your arms turnover, will gradually enable you to become a smoother more efficient swimmer, traveling further on each pull and using less energy to do so.

Next time you see a great swimmer note how effortless they look, it is normally because of their smooth, long and efficient stroke.