Why Your Stroke Rate Needs To Be Higher Than 40

In this episode, we look at a swimmer who wants to increase the distance she can comfortably swim and increase her speed. We look at why she will need to: – Exhale from her nose and blow out more assertively – Feel very wide with her arm extension to keep it straight – Enter earlier to improve the catch and starting catch position.


This stroke right here is about 40 strokes per minute, which is a little bit to low to really get much momentum and keep the back end up, so you can see how the feet are-

Hi, Brenton here. Welcome to Feedback Friday. In today’s episode, we’re looking at someone who is doing triathlons. Now we’ve got some above water footage here, but there’s still a lot we can see in the strokes. So if you haven’t seen these videos before, this is where I analyze someone’s stroke, break it down, talk about the two or three things that are worth focusing on for the next couple of weeks or months, and give you some suggestions on drills and things to focus on in order to swim faster and become more efficient. Now, if you’re not subscribed to the channel, make sure you hit that notification bell. Get notified every time we record a new video and upload it. We do two to three videos a week that are going to help you improve your swimming. So make sure you subscribe below. Now looking from the side here, the first thing that stands out is the breathing.

So if we look at this here, in terms of how she’s getting the breath, it looks as though she’s somewhat gasping for air, just like I’m gasping for words there. Now if you look at how she’s exhaling, we haven’t gotten down to water shop, but it looks as though she’s probably exhaling mostly through the mouth. Now there might be a bit of nose exhalation, but most of it’s through the mouth. Now you will probably see in one of our videos, this was a couple of months ago. It was talking about how you should be exhaling and it should primarily be through the nose. So with the swimmers, you’ll see this light trickle of air through the nose, while their face is in the water. Then as they turn their head to breathe, they have this big puff of air out through their nose to empty the lungs.

Now if you do it all through the mouth, it tends to be a little bit more of this panicked type of breath where the heart rate comes up. It’s hard to stay relaxed as you do it, and you tend to run out of breath pretty quickly. And sometimes with that, you get this CO2 build-up that causes you to fatigue pretty quickly. And I’ve had so many swimmers write to me after watching that video, which I’ll put a link to below. So many swimmers write to me saying that their swimming has just changed from changing their breathing. So that’s probably the first thing I’d be looking to do. So what we want to have there is when the faces in the water like it are now, a light trickle of air through the nose, then just as she goes to turn her head to breathe right here, we want a big puff of air out through the nose.

So by the time the mouth exits the water right here, comfortably get the breath and bring the head back down. So that’d be the first thing. Now what I normally recommend to people when they come to our clinics and when they send me videos through our online video membership is if that’s something you’ve got to work on, there’s no harm in putting a pool boy between your legs doing 8x50s of just normal freestyle focused solely on changing the way that you’re breathing there. Because it’s very hard to focus on much more than just the breathing, and it’s a bit of a strange one too. If you’re trying to swim and think of your breathing consciously, it’s a really weird feeling. So it takes a bit of practice, but eventually, it will become a habit and you won’t need to think about it. But just putting that time and do something like 8x50s with a pool boy between your legs just to take your legs out of it, and allow you to focus more on that breathing.

So that’d be the first thing. The other thing with that too, with the breathing, is we’d ideally want to be getting that breath a little bit lower. You can see how she’s looking off to the side there. If she can look a little bit more to the … Sorry, a little bit more to the side instead of back behind her, that will allow her to probably keep this lead arm in line with their shoulder, which we’ll see in a moment. So just looking to get a bit more maybe split vision there, or just looking more to the side than anything. That will also help. Now the next thing that I’d look to do is adjust the entry and the alignment. So the entry is basically when the hand goes to enter the water there. You can see how the elbow and the hand go in together.

So we’ve got elbow landing at the same time that the fingers are landing. What we usually recommend is get the fingertips in first, and we want this triangle shape on entry like that. This triangle shape there. Then the last bit of extension, so when the hand and the arm reach forwards, that happens underneath the water. If most of that extension happens above the water like you can see here, so the arm is almost straight there. If that happens above the water, then it’s pretty common to see the hand stay a bit too high as it’s reaching forward. So you can see the hands up near the surface, but the shoulders in the water. That’s what brakes on the position that you may have seen before. It creates a lot of extra resistance underneath the hand and forearm there. So we just want to try and get that hand in a little bit earlier.

Keeping the hand and forearm together as one paddle, and get that triangle sort of shape. So that’s the same on both sides. You can see how the right hand comes over here. And the similar thing, just yeah. The elbow just hits first there. Now combine that with adjusting the alignment. So one of the things that we look at with alignment is where do the hands enter and extend forwards to. Now we like to picture these train tracks that run in line with your ears. And every time you enter and extend, you want to follow those train tracks straight in front of the shoulders. Now that’s just for the reach phase. It doesn’t mean you pull straight through. It’s just for this reach phase. And so typically you’ll see that with the late swimmers, hand enter in line with the shoulder and extending straight forward.

You can see how there’s this bit of crossover. So the hand enters, and it’s tracking across in that direction. So I’ll just bring it in a bit closer. So with that little bit of crossover, it’s just trying to balance in the alignment of the body out. So you can see this curve through the body that’s come in because of that. So what I’d recommend is get those fingers in first, make sure that elbows up a little bit more there on the entry. And along with that, just angle the hands a little bit straighter in line with the shoulders instead of across in that direction. Now the other thing that happens with that is usually drift out. See how that hand is really drifting out quite wide? We want to try and keep that roughly in line with the shoulder as she’s in that reach phase.

So keep that hand directly in line with the shoulder. From a drag perspective, it makes such a difference to keep that hand in line because of even a little bit of drag, like your palm, that creates a lot of drag if that’s sort of lifting up and putting the brakes on. But even more if that whole arm is out too wide. So it’s going to help a lot with that part of it too. [inaudible 00:06:27] may be a bit wide here on the left hand side but not as much as the other one there. So how did they make that change? Well, two things are probably going to have to happen to change it. The first thing is probably going to have to feel like she is swimming super wide. Now, we run a lot of clinics and we work with thousands of different people every year.

And one of the things that is across the board, no matter who it is. If they’ve got a decent crossover, arms cross quite a bit, usually need to make it feel like you’re actually out here with the width in order to get it in line with the shoulders. So no one ever believes me when I tell them. But pretty much every time that someone’s crossing over, they need to exaggerate how wide they feel their hands and their arms are as they are going forward. And it can obviously help to have that instant feedback of a camera recording. You can actually sort of seeing that position. But if you don’t have the luxury of that, the easiest way. Just look forward, check if you are crossing over, and that can give you a really good sense of whether or not you’re still doing it.

So what we normally recommend and what we do at clinics, we do this front kick drill where both hands are out in front of the shoulders. Keep the focus on having the hands directly in line with the shoulders here. So you’re doing that front kick drill. Hands in line with the shoulders, and just look forwards every now and then to make sure that you’re not crossing in there because it’s such a common thing to see. And then we’ll do 25 of that, and then 25 swims focus purely on that alignment. And again, when you’re swimming, look forwards and see if you are crossing over. And most of the time those that were crossing over are still crossing over the first time they do it. And they look forward and go, “Okay. I need to go wider.” And then eventually we get to that position where they’re going wide enough.

But for whatever reasons it’s one of those things that has to be really overdone to change it. The stroke rate here is about 40 strokes per minute, which is a little bit too low to really get much momentum and keep the back end up. So you can see how the feet are dropping a little bit in the water. It’s not a massive drag, but the feet are dropping down enough to go, “All right. We probably want to bring that up.” If the stroke rate is usually sort of low 50s or less, pretty common to see the legs dropping because there’s just not enough forward momentum to really make it easy to keep everything up.

So the actually first thing we’d probably want to do is just get the stroke rate coming up a little bit more than that. So bringing up to at least sort of 50-55 strokes per minute. Just to make everything a little bit easier there. So you can basically just come over the top of the water, do the recovery a little bit faster. And let me just check from the side here. Yeah. And even just sort of shorten the back part of the stroke. So while you want to press back towards the upper thigh, you usually don’t want the arm to be completely straight there. It means you’ve probably gone a bit too far. And there as well. So there’s probably just pressing back a little bit too fast. So you can just come out a little bit earlier, get the arm over a bit quicker. That will shorten the stroke cycle and allow it to get that stroke right up.


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Brenton and Mitch were great to work with at the clinic, Good to get video analysis to work on straight away, practice some new drills and go home knowing what you need to work on.

Alex McFadyen