Apart from recreation, every professional swimmer strives to improve distance per stroke (DPS) to keep them ahead of their rivals. If you are a beginner in swimming, your primary goal should be to become faster at swimming.
As a professional swimmer, swimming for you goes beyond splashing water about and forcing yourself to the finish line. If you want to become efficient, you need to work on covering more distance under a short (suitable) time.
The fastest swimmers in the world have maintained their celebrity status but ensuring a high distance per stroke. If you are interested in improving your DPS, then you are at the right article. Let’s dive in.
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7 Ways to Improve Distance per Stroke for Any Swimmer
In competitive swimming, it is reasonable to swim more distance with less stroke than the opposite. This allows you to conserve more energy and cover more meters than your rivals.
There are several ways to improve your distance per stroke. However, I will be discussing the seven important things to do.
1. Understand the Technique Properly
To improve your distance per stroke, you need to understand the swimming technique you intend to use adequately. By doing so, you can learn the basics of such technique, and identify your flaws and correct them.
Except if you have an experienced friend, a professional coach will be in the best position to help you learn the techniques. Also, a coach can help you identify all you need to correct while providing some guaranteed level of safety.
When you understand the technique, you conserve energy better while positioning to get better over time. Any subsequent improvement you make becomes significant. Let’s take a look at the major strokes in competitive swimming.
Freestyle Stroke (Front Crawl)
If you are going to swim freestyle faster, you need to divert your attention to your legs and arms. The freestyle stroke is popular probably because it is fast and “easy” to execute.
To perform the freestyle stroke, you lie on your stomach and face down the pool while maintaining an excellent horizontal balance. You move by alternating your arms – catching water ahead of you and recovering above the water.
Simultaneously, you beat your legs (flutter kicks) using different rhythms (kick timing) and depending on convenience and swimming distance. The flutter kicks require you to alternate (kick) your legs without bending your knee.
While executing this stroke, you also twist your body and turn your head side-to-side to flow with the arm strokes. Interestingly, we have some articles – improving freestyle stroke and improving freestyle kicks – that can help you understand better.
The butterfly stroke is another competitive stroke. Commonly used by the famous Olympian, Michael Phelps, it is quite fast but demanding and difficult to learn. I guess the Olympian found it easy due to the rumored “Micheal Phelps diet.”
In this stroke, maintain a horizontal position similar to the freestyle stroke – lay on your stomach. Instead of alternating your arms, you simultaneously bring both arms over your head, using them to push through the water for locomotion.
While you execute the stroke, your head (and shoulders) rise above the water surface. Concurrently, you perform the dolphin kicks with your legs – move both legs together to imitate a dolphin’s tail kick.
Unlike the freestyle stroke, you must not turn your neck; hence, breathing starts when your arms near breaking the water.
Often regarded as the slowest competitive stroke, it also requires you to lay on your stomach. Your arms move in a half-circle movement ahead of you at the same time. Also, both legs perform the whip kick simultaneously.
The whip kick resembles a frog’s movement. You bring both legs horizontally behind you by bending your knees and then extend outwards for propulsion.
For effectiveness, your arms should be straight when your legs extend outwards. Also, your legs should come close to your body when your arms are pushing forward.
The backstroke is similar to the freestyle stroke, but you have to lay on your back. It is best if you learn how to float in water before attempting this style. Once you’ve learned that, you’re good to go.
Your arms are expected to move in a circular motion – pushing under the water and recovering above it. Also, your legs should engage in a flutter kick. It is crucial to maintain a good horizontal position with your face looking up straight.
2. Minimize Drag
For you to achieve a high DPS, you need to minimize drag to the barest minimum. A swimmer’s hydrodynamics play a crucial role. In a competitive stroke, there is much emphasis on hydrodynamics.
Drag is often noticeable in the mid-stroke, and managing it starts with understanding the techniques. Reducing drag is synonymous with increasing your speed. Raising or sagging your head during freestyle stroke and backstroke can affect your hydrodynamics.
Similarly, bending your knee in freestyle stroke can constitute drag, and you must also perform the side-to-side transition smoothly. It is important to maintain a good horizontal balance.
3. Improve Your Catch
The catch (and pull) phase is often the power phase of most strokes. Hence, if you are going to improve your distance per stroke, you need to consider it. Having a good catch gives you an excellent grip (feel) in the water.
Some drills such as sculling and closed fist swimming can help you improve your catch. The closed fist swimming aims at generating propulsion from the rest of your arm apart from your fist. The sculling drill helps to enhance your feel of the water.
4. Count Your Strokes and Synchronize Your Breathing
When performing a particular stroke, it is advisable to count each completed cycle of the stroke. Most times, a cycle is completed when your hand leaves the water. Once you can determine that, you will be able to identify your current ability.
Since you know your current ability, it can now set targets and project your level of development. For convenience, you can get a coach or an experienced friend to help with the counting.
5. Set Your Target Stroke Count
After counting your stroke, you can determine your distance per stroke by dividing the total number of strokes by the total distance you covered. It is easier to know the distance covered if you swim in a pool.
Now that you know your current distance per stroke, the next thing is improving this rate. You can set a comfortable target stroke count for your next swimming training. All you need to do is stay focused and be ready to input more strength.
To also know how much you’ve improved, you need to count your stroke but be careful not to disrupt your swimming with that. If you are going to improve significantly, you must focus on executing quality strokes till your DPS increases.
6. Maintain a Steady Number of Strokes
Achieving a higher number of strokes might be challenging at first, but if you can, it means you are improving. It also indicates an increased efficiency in the stroke you are executing. However, the most challenging aspect is to maintain such a high level.
It requires a lot of endurance and commitment to pull that off. Swim cords can help increase your endurance while serving as good workout equipment. You may also use a swim stopwatch to monitor your development.
7. Exercise, Rest and Eat Healthy
Before and after every effort to improve your swimming, exercising and eating healthy is essential. With regular exercises, you can keep your muscles toned and improve your endurance. You want to be able to swim without getting tired quickly.
Similarly, it would be best to prioritize healthy diets to help you replenish lost energy and repair your body. Having adequate rest will also do you much good.
Do you find any aspect confusing or have questions improving your distance per stroke? I have collated some frequently asked questions and answered them. Let’s see them.
Why Is Freestyle the Fastest Stroke?
The freestyle stroke (or front crawl) is fastest since there is a near steady pull phase resulting from the alternating arms. The consistency is also helped by the side-to-side transitioning and the kicks.
Why Am I So Tired After Swimming?
It is normal to become tired after swimming. However, the level of your fatigue can be influenced by your proficiency in the swimming technique you execute. The temperature of the water can also cause fatigue.
How Can I Improve My Stroke?
To improve your stroke, you must first understand the swimming technique correctly. That will serve as a launchpad, and if you engage in more practice, your improvement should exceed the charts.
To improve distance per stroke, you need to first work on your stroke. Ensuring that you execute the strokes correctly is really important if you want to make any meaningful development.
The first thing is to determine your current distance per stroke. Then you can set a new target. Ideally, it would be appropriate if you made a comfortable, reasonable target.
A new distance per stroke that you can achieve effortlessly. Remember, slow and steady. It will make much sense if you exercise and maintain a balanced diet. This can help you keep a healthy body, giving you a morale boost.
I hope by now you have an idea of how you can improve distance per stroke. Do you have some questions related to swimming strokes? In addition to questions, I entertain comments and suggestions; all you have to do is leave them for me in the comment section.
I will appreciate it if you can share this article with other swimmers to help them improve their distance per stroke effortlessly. You can simply use any of the social media links on my page.