Controlled Stroke Count Drill

Controlled Stroke Count Drill


In “Stroke Count Games” and “A Better SWOLF Formula” I suggested a test set of 8×100, as fast as possible, holding a specific number of strokes per length (SPL), to hone in on your most efficient combination of stroke length and tempo.

I frequently do a modified version of this set as a quick tune-up before a competition or a challenging distance workout: 12×100 short-course, aiming for the following SPL on each rep: 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. Moderate, controlled pace on all – no more than 75%.

Obviously, the specific SPL goals will differ for each individual. For me, 15 SPL is my 400m/500yd race pace. 14 SPL is my 1-2 mile race pace. 13 SPL is my marathon pace.

The reason I like this set as a warm-up / tune-up is that the act of “depriving myself” of one stroke-per-length on each of the first 6 reps really focuses my attention on efficiency – maximizing the amount of water I’m pulling, and minimizing drag. Then, adding one SPL on the way up (11, 12, 13, 14, 15) feels increasingly luxurious and powerful.

The over-arching goal: the 13, 14, and 15 SPL reps on the way up should feel better, faster, and more efficient than the 15, 14, and 13 SPL reps on the way down.

I took some GoPro video of myself doing this set, so you can see the subtle differences in my stroke from one rep to the next. The video shows a bottom-of-the-pool view of me descending from 15 to 10 SPL; then a side-underwater view of 14 SPL; then an above-water view of 14 SPL.

(Direct link to video)

4 Responses to “Controlled Stroke Count Drill”

  1. Sully

    2013-04-08T07:52:45+00:00

    After watching the video, I really noticed the kicking. Could SWOLF be off because it doesn’t account for kicking? I wonder how the results would change if people did the 8 x 100 test with a buoy.

    Reply
    • Evan

      2013-04-08T09:52:45+00:00

      what about the kicking? that is just my usual kick. seems to me the main thing is to hold it consistent across the whole set.

      Reply
      • Sully

        2013-04-08T19:01:59+00:00

        Well, when I think of strokes per length I guess I forget about the effect the kick has on speed. To my amateur eye (and without rewatching, counting, and keeping a stopwatch) you’re kicking harder at 15 SPL than any other stroke count. Now, I get that that kicking pattern is your natural kick for that turnover, but it does have an effect on speed and efficiency. I just wonder if someone could train at a lower SPL with a higher beat kick, of a higher SPL with a lower beat kick if it would be worth while. Instead of just analyzing the SPL mated to an in grained kick beat. I’m not a swimmer – what I think or am trying to type may make no sense.

        Reply
        • Evan

          2013-04-09T12:27:46+00:00

          OK, I gotcha now. Interesting observation.

          I probably am getting a bit more propulsion from my kick at 15 SPL than 10 SPL, but it’s probably not as big a difference as you think. I am kicking more rapidly (i.e., cadence), in order to “keep up” the 3 beats per stroke at the higher stroke tempo – but each kick is also pushing less water at 15 SPL than 10 SPL.

          More generally, my kick contributes very little to my overall propulsion anyway (I am not a strong kicker), and I use it primarily for balance. So I’m guessing my SWOLF results would be fairly similar with a buoy.

          I just wonder if someone could train at a lower SPL with a higher beat kick, of a higher SPL with a lower beat kick if it would be worth while. Instead of just analyzing the SPL mated to an in grained kick beat.

          One can always experiment! I think there’s pretty much only three realistic options, though: 6-beat, 4-beat with a 3/1 pattern and combined with single-side breathing, or 2-beat. I find that it’s almost impossible for me to achieve proper balance with only a 2-beat… maybe at 80+ SPM. At marathon distance, my kick looks like a 3/1 4-beat, but it’s really more of a 6-beat with 4 strong beats and 2 weak beats. If that makes any sense…

          Reply

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