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How to improve your distance per stroke and reasons why you should want to!

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.

The main reasons why you should want to improve your distance per stroke (DPS) are:

  1. Improved performance

  2. Streamlining

  3. Better efficiency in the water

  4. Enhanced timing

The first question we should ask is: What is your distance per stroke?

This is basically what it says, i.e., how far you currently swim on each stroke. The more efficient your front crawl is, the less strokes you'll need to take for the same distance.

You can work this out simply by counting your strokes over a 25 metre pool. Then divide your strokes by the length of the pool. So for example, 25 strokes would obviously equal 1 metre per stroke.

The next question is: How do you know if your stroke is efficient?

For example, if a client swam above 28 strokes per 25 metres then we would say technically this could do with improving. At Speedy Swimming we have successfully dropped client strokes per length from in the 30's to mid 20's in a single session, and shown them how to hold it.

How to improve your distance per stroke and reasons why you should want to!

How can you improve your distance per stroke:

The best way to improve your DPS is to have a coach analyse your technique who is experienced in video analysis. At Speedy Swimming we break down our clients front crawl into its component parts to make it easier to understand. Using our expertise we then put it back together for you to become a more efficient swimmer.

When your front crawl is more efficient from better stroke mechanics and technique you'll save energy to swim faster still. Gaining an extra 10 cm in your stroke length can equal a 60 second improvement over 1500 metres!

If you feel like you're slipping through the water, or wasting energy, or using too much and not really getting anywhere, then it sounds like you need some help from Speedy Swimming coaching with an Endless Pool Swim Video Analysis Session!

Gaining more distance per stroke is the difference between one or more of the following examples:

  • Catching the water too early by pulling your hand and arm too fast through the water

  • Not rotating evenly or fast enough

  • Crossing over the mid line of your body with your hand or arms

  • Applying too much power too soon, or in the wrong way

  • Your hand(s) not keeping a positive pitch with the water throughout the stroke i.e. your palms not staying facing the back of the pool whilst underwater

Increasing your DPS is about how you use and apply the power you have in the stroke underwater as effectively as possible. This can be by improve 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.

Improving your distance per stroke happens when you focus on one or more of the following 8 phases:

  1. Breathing

  2. Entry phase

  3. Catch phase

  4. Pull phase

  5. Push phase

  6. Recovery phase

  7. Streamlining

  8. Rotation

Elites athletes will have pretty much mastered all the above phases, hence why they can swim at about 4 mph! Age groupers and fitness swimmers can master up to three of the above phases if they really focus on improving their technique, with the overall aim of improving DPS.

Did you know that by pushing your hand all the way to your thigh, with your wrist finishing at 90 degrees to your hip, can add 10 cm to your distance per stroke! That can mean you swim 1500 metres 1 minute faster. Or 2.5 minutes over an Ironman triathlon swim.

(See video below for an excellent push phase with acceleration at the end)

Newtons third law of motion applies to water, and in this case to swimming more specifically.

"For every action (movement) there is an equal and opposite reaction" (movement). So if your arms or hands cross over the mid-line of your body, then you will either find your legs scissor kick to counter this motion, or your lower body snakes / fishtails in the the water, or you move laterally or corkscrew from side to side.

How to improve your distance per stroke and reasons why you should want to!

This is really noticeable and apparent when swimming in the endless pool. The current and flume really highlights any stroke in-inefficiencies and flaws that need to be corrected. This should be taken in a positive light of learning and improving your technique.

One of my favourite motivational sports films is "Any Given Sunday", featuring Al Pacino. In the final team talk before the last play (in American Football), Al Pacino's character says (which i'm going to relate to your future front crawl stroke and techniques)"Life is a game of inches"

"The margin for error is so small, one half a step (hand) too late or too early, and you don't quite make it, one half second too slow or too fast, you don't quite catch it, the inches we need are everywhere around us!!"

We have helped clients from all levels, from sprint, to Ironman triathlon distance and results have included dropping up to 20-30 seconds per average 100 metre sustainable race pace.

We call this "T pace" or threshold pace, which is your average 1500 metre race pace, with higher or lower variations on this depending on how far your goal or A race swim is.

Watch the following video of Haydn Woolley of Futuredreams to see more. (1500 m in 15:45, and previous Ironman swim 3.8km record holder at 43:30!).

"The inches we need are all around us. They're in every break of the game, every minute, every second.." (Any Given Sunday - Al Pacino)

At Speedy Swimming we'll show you"how to fight for that inch, and how to claw with your fingernails for that inch! Because when we add up all those inches that's going to make the difference between winning and losing!!! It's the 6 inches in front of your face! " (Any Given Sunday - Al Pacino)

Or in other terms, it's the difference between swimming efficiently and wasting energy!

Front crawl technique Analysis

In the following video the swimmer is demonstrating quite a lot of stroke flaws which need correction.

There is over rotation of the hips and for breathing, the head is rolling and turning to breath, causing the hips to drop and body to feel unbalanced. There's also a straight arm catch and pull phase underwater, causing a missing of the catch and pull phases, and a slight scissor kicking of the legs.

Stroke Correction

Roll from the hips 45-60 degrees each side, keep the head still so the body rolls on a long axis from head to feet. Achieve an early vertical forearm to gain a better purchase on the water. Keep feet closer together.

Swim Drills to practice:

  1. Bodyroll 45 degrees

  2. Single goggle eye breathing

  3. Swim on shoulder

  4. Reach over a barrel

  5. Single arm passive arm by side

Are you ready to swim further on each stroke for the same amount of effort? We're ready to help you using the technology and our knowledge of swim coaching in the Endless Pool

How to improve your distance per stroke and reasons why you should want to!

We have a vast array of 70 plus swim drills and techniques which have been developed over many years ofswimming coaching. Swim equipment like our selection of swim paddles, will not only help you catch the water better, but also to push more water behind you whilst showing you how to develop an early vertical forearm technique.

To learn more click the link below or sign up to our Endless Pool Video Analysis Sessions based in Chertsey, Surrey:

We have over 10 years experience in helping triathletes and masters swimmers improve their front crawl technique from using Endless Pool Video Swim Analysis.

Or get in touch below to book your lessons and make your swimming dreams a reality!:


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