Your Stroke Rate is how many strokes you take in a minute, counting both arms. For example, 40 Strokes Per Minute (SPM) is a slow stroke rate, 80 SPM is a high stroke rate.
A High Stroke Rate
You should have arrived here from our Rhythm, Timing and Stroke Rate page. Perhaps you used the stroke rate chart on that page to identify that you have a high stroke rate for your swimming speed.
Since you have a high stroke rate for your speed it's very likely that your stroke technique is a little scrappy and you are not rolling enough in the water to develop a long stroke.
Here we're going to give you some tips to improve your swimming technique from the perspective of stroke rate. Slowing your stroke rate down in a controlled manner will give you more time to lengthen things out - it can really work wonders.
The Stroke Rate Angle
Many swimmers with short strokes know they should be lengthening out and becoming longer but struggle to co-ordinate doing it. This is where stroke rate swimming can help so much. By using a Wetronome to slow the stroke rate down the swimmer has a reference to work to. This allows them to find a new slightly slower rhythm that gives them time to lengthen out their stroke technique.
We recommend you first determine your current stroke rate, either by having a friend watch you and measure it (see calculator on the stroke rate page) or by swimming with the Wetronome set to different rates until you find your current stroke rate. The first thing to do with the Wetronome is to spend a little time with it set to your current stroke rate. This is often very useful by itself, it will immediately show you if your technique is at all lopsided (you'll be out of time on one side) and it will also show you what your pacing is like over several lengths. - Nearly all swimmers start any swim too fast and then slow down.
Slowing Things Down
Once you understand how you are swimming at the moment, try decreasing your stroke rate by about 3-5 beats. Whenever you make a change with the Wetronome, take a little time to get used to it. As you decrease your stroke rate here are some things to focus on as you swim:
Tips For Lowering Your Stroke Rate
- Relax and go with the flow of your new stroke rate, don't rush things.
- Think about rolling from your hips and lengthening forward at the front of your stroke. See our technique article on body rotation.
- Trust the water to take your weight, particularly through your chest. Experiment with pushing down through your chest - there's more support there than you might realise.
- As well as extending at the front of your stroke also concentrate on finishing the stroke at the rear. Think about your thumb brushing your thigh as it finishes the stroke off.
- Also use the techniques in the Swim Smooth DVD Boxset - the ultimate way to make your stroke longer and more efficient.
Here's the stroke rate chart again which we introduced on the stroke rate page. When you lengthen out your stroke you are looking to move to the centre of the white zone. Line 1 shows a typical path:
Notice that the typical path (1) is mostly down, not to the right. So it doesn't actually make you quicker! That's normal, at first when you work on lengthening your stroke, you normally achieve about the same speed or sometimes even slow down a little. That's OK. Spend some time over about 6 sessions working on lengthening your stroke technique at this slower stroke rate until it starts to feel normal. Then think about speeding up the stroke rate again whilst maintaining the stroke length. That's when you'll gain the real speed - as shown by arrow (2).
Watch Ian Slow His Stroke Rate Using a wetronome
Wetronome Example - Ian Reduces His Stroke Rate with a Wetronome. Warning: Contains Sound
Swim Smooth's Simple Stroke Calculator
If you enjoy playing with the numbers, you may like to experiment with out stroke rate calculator below. Enter your stroke length and stroke rate and see how it effects your swim times:
See how trade offs between stroke length and stroke rate work for your stroke technique.
Swim Smooth have designed a special test to help you understand your individual stroke efficiency and find the optimal stroke rate for you - the point where your whole stroke technique clicks into place. Find this stroke rate 'sweet spot' and you will swim faster for the same effort.
Everyone should run their stroke through the Stroke Rate Ramp Test. Full details here.