Stroke Length

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Stroke Length

Post by Mike A on Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:32 pm

The insistence on stroke length and stroke counting by Total Immersion has always been one of SwimSmooth's bugbears. TI seems to think everyone needs to lengthen their stroke to get faster; SS does not agree (unsurprising, since Paul himself is a "short and choppy" stroker). Anyway, the other day I was reading an article by TI's Terry Laughlin (here: Stroke Counting) and happened to see the chart showing what he reckons are acceptable ranges depending on height.



I'm just interested in where everyone falls on this chart. Are you all in the green? I can safely say I'm well out of range! I'm 71.5 inches tall (182cm) and typically take about 28 strokes per 25m in normal swimming. According to the chart, I should take fewer than 20!

This morning at the end of my session I decided to see how few strokes I could take. I managed 22 strokes per length with 2-beat-kick and 20 with 6-beat-kick. This was very glidey swimming, nowhere near CSS pace. The odd thing is, not only am I fairly tall, I also have long arms (ape index +2 inches) - so on paper I ought to be a long stroker. However, when I consciously try to lengthen my stroke, it only makes me slower.
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by cottmiler on Fri Dec 09, 2016 1:23 pm

I used to think that this was a measure of the strength of pull and kicking ability but in recent times I,m more inclined to think that it is a measure of how well you float horizontally in the water.

If you float well, then a small thrust will glide you foward easily.

A better measure of ability is to minimise Swolf. That is spl plus secs per lap.

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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Mike A on Fri Dec 09, 2016 1:52 pm

That's the odd thing, I do float fairly flat. I just don't get much distance per pull. I think having small hands and a not particularly powerful upper body doesn't help (I get way more DPS with paddles, but then who doesn't?).

My swim watch gives me a Swolf of around 42-43, depending on the distances I'm swimming (40-50 is "above average"). I only get down into the 30s (= "very good") on very short distances.
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by s.sciame on Fri Dec 09, 2016 4:28 pm

Mike A wrote:TI seems to think everyone needs to lengthen their stroke to get faster; SS does not agree (unsurprising, since Paul himself is a "short and choppy" stroker).

Hi Mike, I think this is another myth to debunk: I read somewhere that Paul is about 1.75m tall (69 inches), so his green zone according to the above chart would be in the 17-20SPL range. Look him here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a756xLGY2UE&t=224s

He holds steady 18SPL (with open turns) in a 25m pool. And here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiKlDNE4lTQ

17SPL (with flip turns) in a 25m pool. Perhaps when he swims at challenging paces he may go up to 20SPL, and when he swims very relaxed (as in his first 2 lengths in the first video) he goes down to 16SPL. Is his stroke short? It fits TI greenzone. Yes, swinger usually have shorter stroks than smooths, but in the end V=SLxSR, so SL matters and the stroke can't be too short in order to be a fast stroke. Personally I hardly ever have seen fast swimmers exceeding 23-25SPL in a 25m pool. TI doesn't say everyone has to necessary lenghten out his stroke, people in the low side of the chart should actually shorten their stroke. TI just recommends to get in the green zone and, once there, increase stroke rate while keeping in the green zone (ie NOT spinning the wheels).

Since you asked: I'm 183cm (72 inches) with +1APE index and typically swim at 18-20SPL (SCM) either at aerobic, threshold and above threshold pace (stroke rate changes a lot depending on the pace, stroke length keeps a bit more steady). When I'm tired (ie toward the end of a CSS set) SPL can go up to 22SPL, and when I swim relaxed at warmup I'm at 17SPL (sometimes 16 right after a drill).

At your height 28SPL is definitely too much, you have much room for improvement on that side. I also suspect Swim Smooth stroke rate chart would place you in the red zone and suggest you to work on increasing stroke length to get faster, right?

https://www.google.com/search?q=swim+smooth+stroke+rate+chart&client=firefox-b&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjq_diQqOfQAhUJbRQKHWZ3DRYQ_AUICigD&biw=1920&bih=922#imgrc=r8c7d9puOZN2TM%3A


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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Mike A on Fri Dec 09, 2016 5:36 pm

Hi Salv, well I wasn't comparing myself to Paul, I'm not that daft Wink - still, I think he takes relatively more strokes by elite standards. On the SwimSmooth chart, I am into the red zone, but only just. On the TI chart I'm practically off the scale!

The trouble with working on stroke length is that I'm basically an overglider, and overgliders are generally advised to work on stroke rate, not length, as that can make them worse overgliders. I guess it just means everything needs improvement! Laughing
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Tom65 on Sat Dec 10, 2016 12:17 am

Mike A wrote: I also have long arms (ape index +2 inches) - so on paper I ought to be a long stroker. However, when I consciously try to lengthen my stroke, it only makes me slower.

Long arms naturally mean a long stroke, you must try to lengthen it too much ?

High spl means lots of hand/forearm slip doesn't it ?

I guess I'd be at the upper half of the green area, haven't counted for ages, I'm a third of the way down the lane before I take my first stroke, will have to remember to start without a pushoff.
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Tom65 on Sat Dec 10, 2016 12:20 am

cottmiler wrote:
If you float well, then a small thrust will glide you foward easily.


I think I glide well from pushoff, nothing to do with floating for me though, all underwater. Occasionally I go to recover my arm from the first stroke and it's still underwater I'm so deep. Embarassed

Doing more dolphin kicks now to prevent that early stroke urge.
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Mike A on Sat Dec 10, 2016 12:49 am

I'm pretty sure these tables are based on a standard sort of 5m push-off. Laughlin says stroke length should be 55-65% of height - based on that, my minimum stroke length should be 1m; according to the table my maximum stroke count should be 20. That suggests the TI stats are based on a 5m push off before first stroke.
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Tom65 on Sat Dec 10, 2016 2:24 am

I'll count from finger tips hitting half way in the 50m pool. That'll yield a true 25 metre count.

Regardless of pushoff you can only swim 23m in a 25m pool anyways.
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Mike A on Sat Dec 10, 2016 8:50 am

I usually start the first pull just about as my head's level with the 5m marker. I count the first stroke as when that hand re-enters the water after recovery. According to TI I should then take about 20 strokes to cover 20m, with the last stroke counted as when my hand touches the wall for an open turn.

My watch counts strokes the same way (though only one arm of course), but then doesn't take account of the 5m push-off when calculating distance per stroke - so it gives a 25% higher DPS than my true DPS.

I was looking back at my data and wondering why I wasn't seeing a higher DPS for wetsuit swimming - now I realise it's because I do that in a 45m pool and also take less of a push-off (probably only 3m). The watch's DPS figure in that scenario will only be 7% above true DPS.
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by SA on Sat Dec 10, 2016 10:36 am

about 1.78-1.80m. Ape index +3. Havent counted them for months, but usually14-20 per 25 m.
!4 when really trying to swim long, 20 swimming short. About 18 on automatic pilot.
Best automatic strokelenght from 1.50 to 1.25/100m pace.
Slower and stroke starts to stall, faster and its harder to hold technique together.
When you float well it should be possible to get very low strokecounts at low speed.
I hate the slipping feeling when swimming very slow and it shows problems with lateral/rotational balance.

When I remember from your footage you where very much rushing your pulls from early in the stroke.
Typical overglider heritage.

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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Adivio on Sat Dec 10, 2016 10:43 am

I'm 1.83 (72 inch) and I get 21-22 after push off. The remaining 25m takes usually 25. Number goes up if I'm tired.
It is very difficult for me to get SPL down even when I specifically focus on it.

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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Sprinter on Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:02 pm

For me the stroke-counting business is only of importance from a relative point of view: for such exercises/measurements, I always use the beeper, and then it is natural to try to go faster for a given beep-rate (stroke-frequency).
Counting the total number of beeps per length seems better to me than counting strokes, since it's all about the speed.

So I try to improve "stroke-length" only for a given frequency (starting with 60 strokes/min, up to 120 strokes/min), and that also only so long as it appears to be "natural" (so well, my feeling of what good technique is), and in fact the stroke-count appears only indirectly: I obey the beep, but I try to go as fast as possible (whatever that means for the push-off -- currently my take is that a long glide is to be avoided).

Of course the kick contributes, and the acceleration of the pull.
As a (wanna-be-)sprinter, I try to maximise both.

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Way above the green area.

Post by Tom65 on Sun Dec 11, 2016 1:17 am

Counting both hands.

50 metre pool, supposed mid pool line to end 33 strokes.

25 metre pool mid speed 25 strokes, going faster 23 to 24.

178 cm tall, bigger hands and feet than the average populace for my height but not enormous.

Probably have to do it a few more times to ensure accuracy, especially in the 50.

I've never tried to reduce spl, my swimming feels good.

So I'm almost off TI's spl graph and right in the middle of where SS thinks I should be for my speed on their stroke rate graph.
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Tom65 on Sun Dec 11, 2016 3:44 am

So....it seems to be purported that swimming faster takes more strokes per distance, yet I feel and record the opposite within my comfortable speed range.

Swim smooths graph seems to correspond with what I feel....

From the graph in the link below...

2 minute 100m say 50 strokes per minute, equals 25 strokes per 25 metres

1 minute 20 sec 100m say 68 strokes per minute, equals 22.5 strokes per 25 metres.

http://swimsmoothperth.blogspot.com.au/2008/05/define-your-optimal-stroke-rate.html
_________________________________________________________________________________

From a later graph ....

2 minutes gets 29 per 25m
1 min 20 gets 23.3 per 25m

http://swimsmoothperth.blogspot.com.au/2008/05/define-your-optimal-stroke-rate.html


.
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Sprinter on Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:25 am

Hi Tim65,

in order to swim faster, and that at a higher level(!), so for example going from an average speed of 2:00/100m to 1:20/100m, you have to become a much better swimmer, and this means, amongst other things, over a large range of speed on average the stroke-length increases.

But this has nothing to do with a single swimmer at a concrete time. That swimmer swims at the same competency-level for the different frequencies (while above we have very different competence-levels). For such a being, if he swims, say, the same "style", then higher frequency means faster, but over shorter and shorter distances, with diminishing returns, and at some point even over 25m you get slower (even if you can manage to just do the frequency).
So I for example in my "sprinter mode" have a minimum stroke rate of 60 str/min, the maximum is 150 str/min (around that), and the speed-curve over that stroke-rate range is strictly increasing, but at 150 str/min it comes to a halt.

However, in order to do so, you have to invest more and more strength, you have to pull like crazy, more and more, and kick like crazy, more and more. In order to do so, you have to train specifically for that. Most adult swimmers don't do such a training.

I guess, most likely many adult swimmers from a certain stroke-rate on switch into a much lighter mode, much weaker pull. And also very important, relatively the kick becomes weaker and weaker. A 6-beat kick with 150 str/min is very very hard to do at all, and without much additional trainining it will become lighter and lighter, not a kick but just a movement. If I don't put a strong effort into the kick, then from say 80 str/min I switch to a kind of 4-beat kick, and with over 120 str/min it is just trailing.

So the data you cite refers on the absolute scale to different competency levels, and on the (relative) personal scale to different ways of swimming. You only swim "strong" (kind of "smooth") with slow stroke rate, and with higher stroke rates you become more of a "swinger".

Try it out: Try to fix the feeling of a strong stroke for a starting slow stroke-rate, and crank that up. You will see that you are getting faster, but with diminishing returns, so diminishing stroke-length -- and it becomes very hard to do.
And on the other hand, try to fix the "weak" (or likely better, "easy", "fluid", watever) feeling of the stroke which for you comes automatically with a higher stroke rate, try to keep that, and reduce the stroke rate. You will become slower, but it likely will feel unnatural.

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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Tom65 on Sun Dec 11, 2016 9:47 am

Swimming faster than 80 seconds per 100 shows a steeper climb on the graph, i.e more slipping for increased stroke rate, not relevant to me yet, can go faster than that for 25 but not a 100.

Will have to count strokes for 18 second 25 metre, got a feeling I'll struggle to keep count. Laughing
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Mike A on Sun Dec 11, 2016 9:05 pm

Interesting discussion. I like Sprinter's idea of swimming to a stroke-rate beep and trying to lengthen the stroke within that (though I hate swimming on stroke-rate mode - the beep drives me nuts!).

I agree that with fatigue comes a shorter/weaker pull - I can feel that. It's not entirely a matter of lack of effort; it's more that my upper body simply loses strength after the first 100m or so. In the first 50m I can pull at sub-1:30/100m pace with great ease; after 400m no amount of effort will get me pulling that hard. I guess that's a simple case of lack of aerobic fitness and muscle stamina.

Another factor we haven't mentioned is that if you lengthen the stroke for the same speed, the stroke rate drops, which can mean not enough oxygen if you're breathing bilaterally every third stroke.
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Adivio on Tue Dec 13, 2016 1:00 pm

I am wondering if an analogy with running makes sense. In running we also have cadence and stride length and the agreement now is that cadence and stride length are automatically chosen by the runner to be the most efficient for a certain speed.

At some point it was thought that there is an optimal cadence around 180 steps/min after observing elites competing in world championships. And mortals were given advice to aim to 180 too. Since then this has been debunked many times, basically cadence and stride length are dependent on the speed and body and mind have the ability to choose the most efficient one. So basically you should run on autopilot and naturally cadence and/or length will increase as speed increases.

Shouldn't it be same for swimming? We are watching the elites or very good swimmers when swimming fast and of course their SPL is high. But as our speed is slower, so is the SPL and DPS. As we try to swim faster, naturally SPL and/or DPS will go higher. What is so different in swimming that would make the analogy with running invalid?


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Re: Stroke Length

Post by s.sciame on Tue Dec 13, 2016 1:34 pm

Adivio wrote:
What is so different in swimming that would make the analogy with running invalid?

One for all: when running you can't spin the wheels (unless running on ice of course). Once the foot is planted on the ground, it stays there during the whole traction. When swimming, being anchored with the hand/arm to the water during the whole underwater action requires skill (feel for the water... feel for the ground?) and, in order to develop that skill, we often need to drill and to artificially change stroke rate and stroke length.

In general, running is natural for humans, swimming isn't (especially for adult beginners). What feels natural in swimming doesn't always translate into efficient action. That said, I believe the autopilot mode is something we all should aim to.

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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Adivio on Tue Dec 13, 2016 1:48 pm

One for all: when running you can't spin the wheels (unless running on ice of course). Once the foot is planted on the ground, it stays there during the whole traction. When swimming, being anchored with the hand/arm to the water during the whole underwater action requires skill (feel for the water... feel for the ground?) and, in order to develop that skill, we often need to drill and to artificially change stroke rate and stroke length.

Isn't this equivalent with stride length? Better feel for the water would mean longer DPS. Less would give space for bigger SPL. So when trying to go faster, both of this will change, just like in running.

When elites go slow, I bet their SPL and DPS are much much lower than when they go fast. And I bet that's also true for you Smile. And for a beginner as well.



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Re: Stroke Length

Post by s.sciame on Tue Dec 13, 2016 5:25 pm

I mean, yes, the formula V=SLxSR applies for both running and swimming (and cycling as well). Moreover, as you say, our mind and body are also supposed to have the ability to choose the most efficient gear (ie SL-SR combo) for a given speed. So an analogy between swimming and running exists.
What I wanted to say is that swimming imho presents some additional problems (eg losing grip on the fly, it doesn't happen in running) that make it harder for our mind and body to really select the most efficient gear for a given speed. Sometimes you feel like you're keeping the pace or you're going faster when in fact you're slowing down because you're losing grip without knowing it (it often happens in open water where you cannot measure DPS). In these cases you think you're naturally selecting your best gear on autopilot but you're not. I experienced more than once that, during the final reps of a Red Mist, when I trusted my autopilot I slowed down (because of losing grip). When instead I didn't trust it and diligently but NOT naturally resisted the urge of increasing stroke rate and repeated myself "don't pull don't pull don't pull", in these cases I was able to keep the pace.

As for the elites, I'm not sure their DPS decreases when they swim slower. In warmup they often show a longer stroke instead. That's another difference with running...

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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Tom65 on Tue Dec 13, 2016 11:43 pm



When elites go slow, I bet their SPL and DPS are much much lower than when they go fast. And I bet that's also true for you Smile. And for a beginner as well.



Can't be true for anybody. Razz

i.e...it's not possible to lower spl and dps at the same time.



.


Last edited by Tom65 on Wed Dec 14, 2016 7:06 am; edited 4 times in total
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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Sprinter on Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:01 am

[quote="Adivio"]

When elites go slow, I bet their SPL and DPS are much much lower than when they go fast. And I bet that's also true for you Smile. And for a beginner as well.

Depends what you mean with "slow". If you mean "sloppy", then yes. But otherwise, as for everybody, the slower you swim (except of extremes, I guess), the longer the stroke, that is the higher the distance per stroke. Or the higher the stroke rate, the lower the gain in speed.

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Re: Stroke Length

Post by Adivio on Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:41 pm

I think I found some good example of what I'm trying to say. Check jono van hazel video below. In the right down corner it has
SPL and DPS and speed per 100m. The SPL goes from 56 for the slowest speed in the video (1:15 per 100) all the way to 95 SPL for 0:43/100m. Interestingly, DPS stays the same, 32-33 strokes per 50m for every speed.

If I take this and apply it to my speeds, does it make any sense for me to go over 75 for a mere 1:35 per 100? Or for the 1:50-2:00 in IM races? Am I not more than Ok with 60 (my natural SPL) for these kinds of speeds?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3HhNlysFDs

And then searching on internet this topic, one of the first article is this (by Gerry Rodrigues):
http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2016/04/11/improve-your-swim-cadence.

Gerry R. wrote:What we see with most Olympic distance elite athletes is a high turnover rate. The problem is that turnover rate at this sharp end often appears low because many athletes are extremely polished in their strokes. This is similar to watching fast marathon runners, who look smooth and appear to be gliding along, yet will still be running at 180 strides per minute. It just doesn’t look like it because it’s poetry in motion and this is the same for many elite triathletes in the water.

At the sharp end, cadence rates don’t appear as high but most are over 80 strokes per minute, and some, like the Brownlee brothers for example, are closer to 100. I helped coach Eva Fabian for a while, who’s a 5K open water world champion, and she swam at over 100 strokes per minute when she raced 5K and 10K open water events.

Again elites swimming at their top speed. And the debunked ideal 180 cadence for runners is also here Smile.
How can this apply to us?

Gerry R. wrote:Most age group triathletes are in the 60 strokes per minute range, which is much lower.
Yes, it is much lower because speed is so much lower.

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