Improving your Distance per Stroke part 1

Learn how to improve your stroke efficiency by reducing drag and increasing propulsion!

Increasing your Distance Per Stroke (DPS) is about how you use and apply the power you have in the stroke underwater as effectively as possible. This can be by improving your timing and rhythm, developing an early vertical forearm position, rotating better, kicking more from the hips with straight legs, to maintaining the pressure of your palm on the water from the catch to push phases.

It’s much better to keep your goals and focus short term over the next few months, ie 4 week blocks, with an eye on your main goal next year. Just don’t fixate on the big A event goal too much at the moment, as it’s too far away. It should be a line in the sand that you can see but can’t reach right now. This is what is known as focusing on the process and not the goal which is proven to be much better in sports psychology terms for reaching your target event in peak condition.

What are your primary swimming objectives for the autumn and winter?

1. Reducing drag and resistance 2. Reducing your stroke count per length and swolf scores 3. Improving technique 4. Improving streamlining 5. Improving propulsion

These areas will help you to improve your distance per stroke and overall swim efficiency

• Learn how to take up to 10 seconds or more off your average 100 metres pace • Reduce your stroke count by up to 10% • Improve your distance per stroke • Find your optimum stroke rate • Learn and understand your swim pacing zones • Instantaneous video playback and feedback on your front crawl stroke • Pacing sets using the endless pool pace clock to focus on

There is a definite correlation for front crawl between a lower stroke count per length and greater swim efficiency.

By refining and improving your swim technique and efficiency through the water you can learn how to reduce this number. This may not be the same for everyone, as we all have slightly different styles and front crawl faults which increase your drag, for example, kicking, crossing over the midline, missing the catch phase.

However, by focusing on improving your technique you can reduce your stroke count, and your overall energy expenditure by the 2 methods below:

1) Reducing Drag - with a higher body position and better balance in the water. Over the next few weeks you ideally need to be focusing on improving your streamlining effect with a higher body position, and reducing your drag and resistance in the water. By displacing the smallest amount of water as you swim, effectively swimming through a narrow tube of water just outside the width of your elbows you will be achieving this.

2) Producing More Propulsion. (moving water backwards and holding onto it so you move forwards more effectively). Try swimming with a tennis ball in each hand, and once its underwater, aim to keep your palm pointing backwards to the rear of the pool, just cupping the ball in the palm of your hand without holding on. If your palm doesn't hold the water sufficiently and point backwards all the way through in the underwater phases, then the ball will come away from your hand. Then just before your hand exits the water, grab hold of the ball with your fingers, holding on until your arm is straight again underwater, ready to pull backwards. It's hard, but it highlights what is happening well, this is what I call "Positive Palm Pitch".

Improving Distance per Stroke and reducing your stroke count

As water is 1000 times denser than air, this is why it takes much more effort to move through. We also breathe half as much as in other land based aerobic activities like running and cycling, which is generally why we find swimmers have larger lung capacities. Also, if you were to try to swim twice as fast in water, you would need to expend four times the amount of energy! Which isn't sustainable.

This is why technique and form wins over brute strength in water. You simply can't fight it. The harder you hit the water, the harder it hits you back! (see Newtons third law of motion below for more info).

Improving your distance per stroke (DPS) is really important as this allows you to expend the least amount of energy to go the furthest distance. The further you travel on each stroke the more efficient you are. With a caveat of not excessively gliding every stroke or pushing off the wall at the end of the lane. It's driven from your technique and core strength.

In next week's blog on Part 2 of Improving your DPS you'll find out how to track and monitor your swim efficiency, and stroke count over distance, plus how physics and fluid dynamics help you swim faster!

Learn how to correct your stroke and swim faster than ever with less energy!

In the meantime, if you'd love to learn more and have your front crawl technique analysed with 4 camera angles simulataneously recording..

Get in touch to book a 5 week front crawl accelerator course with and a swim monthly coaching plan online using training peaks.

We can help you improve your technique using video camera analysis, stroke correction and swim drills in the endless pool. Based in Chertsey Surrey.

Get in touch by giving us a call on 07958635142 or email us at

We offer

1. Front crawl video analysis in an endless pool at Tribal in Chertsey:

2. Swim squads for intermediates, held at Aldershot 50m indoor pool:

3. Online training plans for swimming and triathlons:

4. Swim Monthly Online Coaching Plans

5. Swim video Analysis Clinic January 2019

Copyright © Speedy Swimming

Nick is a level 3 British Triathlon Coach, STA level 2 Swim Teacher, Level 1 Training Peaks coach, and Training Bible coaching Master endurance coach with 25 years’ experience in triathlon, founder and Head Coach for Speedy Swimming.

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