Should You Use Longer Strokes?

Once you come into the TI training world, you realize that stroke count (stroke length) is an important indicator your improvement in efficiency (but not the only).

You may wonder what stroke count you should be using.

You may wonder how to make your stroke count lower.

You may wonder why this is so important!

I’ve added this article to the library to give you an argument for working on A Longer Stronger Stroke.

If this raises any questions for you, I would be glad to answer those for you or point you to the articles or posts we already have on that topic.

How To Plan Your First Self-Guided Practice

Here is an article in our library that breaks down the basic steps to planning your own practice, when working on the fundamental stroke skills.

Plan Your First Self-Guided Practice

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One of the main objectives of the Mediterra Swim Dojo is to pass on to you the principles and understanding of how to practice on your own in a TI way. Following one of the training plans exposes you to this.

And, if you really want to study how to do it directly, you may consider taking the Self Coaching 101 course offered here in the Dojo.

You’ve likely noticed in our Dojo courses that you’ve got to study a bit to get acquainted with this way of practicing. Any intelligent practice plan has to be customized to fit you and your needs. It also needs to adapt organically to the changes you experience and the fluctuations you experience from day to day, week to week. To make it customized to fit you, you need to understand the principles and then make certain decisions for yourself in each practice. The library has been set up, with certain links to articles in each course, to train you how to do that.  That means you have to put in a bit more time and thought into your practice planning, at least on your first time through.

We realize this is not a quick-simple-easy approach to training. This is why this is not a popular way to practice, nor a popular way sell swim training books. Intelligent training requires too much attention from the swimmer, just as martial arts training requires full attention and commitment (hence, we call this the “Dojo”!). But this is a far more effective way to train, and will greatly benefit those who are willing to put in that time and thought to learn how to do it.

However, we keep striving to explain things in more simple ways, more bite-size pieces. And, the Dojo library is filled with articles demonstrating our attempt to do that for you.

Enjoy!

Fine Tune Your Synchronization

By the end of a series of live lessons in Level 1 I hope to have a chance to introduce you to the synchronization of the propulsive pieces of your stroke. Up to that point you have worked on shaping the individual sections of body position and movement patterns, and this is where you connect a few of them together to feel their combined effect. It is usually a surprising and thrilling experience because you can feel how force flows through your body more smoothly and with much better effect on how fast and far you travel on each stroke.

Here are the four main points of the body we look at for synchronization:

A is at that moment right when the finger tips pierce the water to begin the entry.

B is at that moment that your hand and forearm curve to ‘touch the ball’, and set the catch, just before you actually start to put pressure on the catch.

C is at that moment the torso starts to turn.

D is at that moment the upper (Skate side) foot begins to press down.

Synchronization practice involves a combination of any two of these points, to examine how they work together and then to fine tune their synchronized timing. You can work at combining AB, AC, AD, BC, BD, and CD.

All four points are doing something at about the same moment, but it is nearly impossible to concentrate on all four of them at once. So it is better to work on just two of them at a time, and circulate through the combinations.

AB is usually the first combination I teach you because these two are what you’ve already been focused upon in the lesson series.

Combining C with A or B is the next step because you’ve been working on hip rotation the whole time without necessarily focusing upon it in terms of propulsion – yet that rotating torso is what will make your swimming feel the most effortless – it is the key to everything! Thinking about the hip is the same thing as thinking about the torso – the hips and shoulders should be one solid torso unit, but it is easier to think of one specific point on the torso when examining the connection to the arms or legs, so we just use the hip as that point.

Using D will not really make sense until you have had some instruction on how to form a 2 Beat Kick. And trying to time the press of your foot does not work until you have first have the timing of AB worked out. So until you’ve got the timing of the arm-switch worked out and you’ve had some instruction on 2BK don’t worry about D.

Synchronization is what makes the ‘magic’ happen – the torso rotation produces the best force, and your appendages need to work in careful timing with that rotation in order to tap into and enhance that force.

 

Tempo Affects Fine Timing

There is not one precise timing that works best at all tempos. At different tempos, there will be slightly different timing between each part. In one tempo range two of these points might create the best effect when they happen simultaneously, while in a different tempo range one should happen a micro-second before the other in order to get the best effect. 

For example, let’s look at AB.

When moving at slow and moderate tempos the fingers and wrist of your entry arm (A) may pierce the water before you set the catch (B). B happens just a micro-second after A. When moving at fast and sprint tempos, the fingertips of your entry arm may just cut into the surface as you set the catch. A and B will feel like they happen simultaneously. 

Why did I put ‘slow’ in quotes? Because you currently have a range of comfortable tempo and what feels slow and fast to you may not be the same for someone else. If you have been using a Tempo Trainer and have some idea where your current comfortable range is, you may look at this scale to get an idea where your tempo range fits within the way tempo is used by a consensus of swimmers.

 

You Should Experiment

I could give you some idea of what the fine timing should be between two points at various tempos, but I would need to ask a dozen questions to get the context of your stroke. You will do well to experiment and discover for yourself what timing works better.

Using the AB combination, start with exaggerated mis-timing on a series of 2x 25. For the first 2x 25 have A clearly happen before B. Then on the next 2x 25 reverse that, have B clearly happen before A. Then do 2x 25 where you try to make A and B happen at the exact same moment – right between those two extremes you just experienced. 

Take measurements inside and outside your body to evaluate the effect of each timing arrangement. Ask yourself:

  • How did it feel? Did I feel like force was stronger? Smoother?
  • What did it produce? Did it make my stroke count go up or down or no change? Did it push me to use a faster tempo or slower tempo, or no change?

From your current comfortable tempo range you may pick three tempos – one on the fast end of comfortable, one on the slow end, and one right in the middle. And run this experiment at each of those tempos, in order to see how you might fine tune the timing of those two points differently at different tempos.

Swim 3 Rounds of:

  • 2x 25 with A before B
  • 2x 25 with B before A
  • 2x 25 with AB at same moment

For each round:

  • Round #1: Slow Tempo
  • Round #2: Comfortable (center) Tempo
  • Round #3: Fast Tempo

Run this experiment with different combinations:

  • AB
  • AC
  • BC

 

Want More Practice?

I like to train for part of the year on each extreme – a few months working on 100y sprint distance and the other months on longer distance 5km+. These two extremes involve the use of a totally different range of tempos: 0.75 to 0.85 for sprints and 0.90 to 1.00 for distance. And I modify the tempo range a bit more if the water will be cooler or warmer. Each tempo range requires me to calibrate the synchronization of the stroke to what feels the best and produces the best results. Probably 90% of more of my training involves synchronization focal points, and I find it to be the most thrilling because better synchronization produces better ‘magic’.

If you would like more practice at this you may check out this practice in the library for some ideas.

Practice Set: Staggered Tempo 1

Practice Set: Staggered Tempo 1

Practice Set

  • 3 rounds of 2x (2x 150) freestyle
  • 30 seconds passive rest between repeats – or 8 deep nasal breaths
  • Staggered tempo, descending (getting faster)
  • Round 1: 2x 150 at tempo 0.96, 2x 150 at 0.87
  • Round 2: 2x 150 at 0.93, 2x 150 at 0.84
  • Round 3: 2x 150 at 0.90, 2x 150 at 0.81

Distance

1800

 

Quantity Objective

To swim entire distance.

To maintain the assigned tempo.

 

Quality Objective

To hold best full-body synchronization (rhythm) as tempo gets more challenging, as muscles get more fatigued.

In each round, use the relative ease of the slower tempo repeats to ‘rest in motion’.

 

Possible Failure Points

  • Cannot hold tempo (muscular)
  • Cannot maintain precision (motor)
  • Cannot maintain rhythm, full-body synchronization (motor)
Practice Set: Tempo Gears 1

Practice Set: Tempo Gears 1

Practice Set

  • 3 rounds of (3x 150) freestyle
  • NO rest between repeats – use Gear 2 as active rest
  • 30 seconds passive rest between rounds
  • Alternate between Gear 2 and ‘Gear 4 at Assigned Tempo’ (out of a scale of 1 to 5 gears)
  • On each round G4 tempo descends (gets faster)
  • Set Tempo Trainer to assigned tempo.
  • Ignore TT beep on G2 segments – swim G2 by feel
  • Each round swim (alternate 100 G2/50 G4, 50 G2/100 G4, 150 at G4)
  • Round 1: G2 by feel, G4 at Tempo 0.90
  • Round 2: G2 by feel, G4 at Tempo 0.87
  • Round 3: G2 by feel, G4 at Tempo 0.84

Distance

1350

 

Quantity Objective

To swim entire distance.

To maintain the assigned tempo.

 

Quality Objective

To hold best full-body synchronization (rhythm) as tempo gets more challenging, as muscles get more fatigued.

In each round, use the relative ease of the Gear 2 tempo segments as ‘rest in motion’.

 

Possible Failure Points

  • Cannot hold tempo (muscular)
  • Cannot maintain precision (motor)
  • Cannot maintain rhythm, full-body synchronization (motor)
Practice Set: Mat’s Warm Up 1

Practice Set: Mat’s Warm Up 1

Warm Up

  • 1500 continuous, no rest
  • Divide distance into mental intervals
  • 300 Silent Swimming – as gentle as possible
  • 300 Silent Swimming – pick up tempo slightly
  • 6 rounds of (50 fist / 50 DPS* / 50 brisk tempo)
  • New synchronization focal points on each round
  • Round 1: focal point is Perfect Arm Switch timing (AB)
  • Round 2: focal point is hip driving the extending arm (CA)
  • Round 3: focal point is sync foot to extension (DA)
  • Repeat those three for Rounds 4,5 and 6

Distance

1500

 

* DPS = distance per stroke, or extend stroke length

 

Quantity Objective

To swim entire distance.

 

Quality Objective

First 2x 300 – to let body tissues gently wake up, warm up and lengthen, to be ready for more work.

Carefully scan the entire body looking for any areas needing extra attention or warm up time. Or possibly encounter signals that urge you to rest more this day, rather than work harder.

Last 6x 150 – to tune up the power-transfer connections through the whole body, preparing for work of the main set.

 

Possible Failure Points

  • Unusually tight or stiff spots in the joints or muscles
  • Difficulty in reaching your best synchronization standards
  • Low energy
  • Low motivation