The fastest swimmers at all distances, from the sprint kings to the distance titans, all share a good feel for the water and have a low stroke count per lap. They’ve stricken a balance between power and efficiency that has rocketed them to the top echelons of their respective disciplines.
While we aren’t all cut out to be Cesar Cielo or a Sun Yang, we can use the lessons of these top swimmers to make our own swimming more efficient, and thereby faster.
Being an efficient swimmer might seem kind of counter-intuitive; how can taking less strokes to cover the same distance result in improved performance? The most notable effect of improving your DPS is the conservation of energy, which can be astoundingly useful towards the end of sets and races.
The most effective way to improve your DPS lies in counting your strokes (so that you know how many strokes you are and want to be taking), reducing drag, and improving your feel for the water.
1. Counting your strokes is essential.
Making a habit of counting your strokes is the first and most essential step. Knowing where you are at, and then setting targets for where you want to be, are imperative.
Get into the routine of keeping track of how many strokes you are taking when you at a cruise pace, as well as when you sprinting, where your DPS will go up anywhere between 20%-40%.
2. Ride the horizontal plane.
The effects of drag are hard to see when we are mid-stroke, but their effects are undeniable. Water is nearly 800 times more dense than air, meaning that improving drag reduction is absolutely critical to improving speed.
Imagine yourself trying to swim through a tight hole in the water, with your body in a straight line and at the surface of the water. When our head picks up, or our legs begin to sag, we are subjecting our body to a ton of drag, forcing us to pull and kick harder, expending even more energy to blast through the water.
3. Improve your feel of the water.
Another key in improving your DPS is to improve your feel for the water. Having a better catch in the water, and attaining a better feel” for the water where you are catching more of it during your pull will help you to take less strokes. There are a couple different drills that can help you achieve this—
Closed fist swimming. Your forearms are a neglected surface area that helps you generate propulsion. We tend to get caught up with our hands at the expense of forgetting the rest of our arm. Closed fist swimming forces us to use those neglected parts of your arm.
Sculling. Another fantastic method to improve your feel of the water. You can do sculling in all areas of your stroke, from the catch, to the pull, to the exit. You can also do sculling on your front, back, and side, giving you tons of options no matter what your stroke or specialty is.
Take Your Swimming to the Next Level
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