Stroke counts, stroke length, stroke efficiency: common sense definitions

Stroke counts, stroke length, stroke efficiency: common sense definitions

Post by Totalswi » Tue, 03 Feb 1998 04:00:00

I just wanted to contribute to the interesting earlier discussion on stroke
counts. In teaching technique to mainly unskilled and inexperienced ***
swimmers at Total Immersion weekend workshops and coaching far more
accomplished men and women sprinters during the week at USMA-West Point, I make
stroke length and efficiency the major object of virtually every minute of pool
time. I often see the terms stroke count, stroke length and stroke technique
bandied about by many contributors to r.s.s. Here are the definitions I use in
coaching and teaching:
Stroke Count. Count every hand hit. This records each armstroke upon its
completion. A stroke cycle would be two hand hits (right and left) in free and
back. In brst and fly, a cycle and a stroke are the same thing. I choose to
record strokes, rather than cycles, because it provides a higher level of
accuracy unless you choose to think of half-cycles.
Stroke Length. It seems to me that the conventional definition the way most
people think of it is how far your hand reaches forward and pushes back in
each armstroke. I think of it as "the distance your body travels on each stroke
you take" a product of many factors, but mainly how effectively you maximize
propulsive power and how well you minimize drag. I've observed while teaching
thousands of unskilled swimmers over the past 10 years that when I'm successful
in teaching people to pull and kick better they make modest improvement in
stroke length. When I'm successful in teaching them to be more "slippery" they
make dramatic improvement in their stroke length. So naturally I've focused
70-90% of my attention to the drag elimination side and only 10-30% on the
propulsion side. Last year, my first season coaching the West Point sprinters,
I emphasized "slippery"  90% of the time. This year, with those lessons having
been ingrained, I have shifted the emphasis to propably 70% slippery :30%
Stroke Technique: The conventional definition is "how you take the stroke"
hand pitch, hand path, s-strokes, hand acceleration, etc., etc., etc. The
definition I prefer is all those factors that contribute to improvements in
stroke length while minimizing energy cost, heart rate, loss of speed. If you
drop your stroke count from 15 to 12, but end up feeling breathless, out of
rhythm, significantly slower, etc. you haven't improved your stroke efficiency
or technique. You're probably overgliding, overkicking, overstroking, etc. to
accomplish the reduced stroke count and this is of dubious value.

Just for a reference point the swimmers at Total Immersion workshops improve
their stroke efficiency by an average of 20% in the course of a weekend. The
average stroke count for all 900 swimmers who attended in 1997 was 21 on
Saturday morning (recorded while videotaping pre- instruction) and 17 on Sunday
afternoon post-instruction. The age group swimmers at T.I summer youth camps in
1997 improved 24% (71 strokes while being videotaped in a 100 IM before camp,
55 strokes at the end of 5 days) in their stroke efficiency.
And the stroke counts in training for the sprint group at West Point range from
7 to 10 strokes (NOT cycles) per length in freestyle for the men and 9-12
strokes per length for the women. This is done with no exaggeration on the
pushoff, no glide or hesitation in the stroke and no overt kicking. They do at
least 70% of their total practice yardage at those stroke counts and use their
racing stroke counts (12-15 s/l in the 100 free for men and 15-18 s/l for the
women) only while racing. Never in practice.
For more detailed advice on HOW to increase stroke length visit the Total
Immersion website at

Terry Laughlin
Total Immersion Swimming
Army Men's & Women's Swimming


Stroke counts, stroke length, stroke efficiency: common sense definitions

Post by Donal Fag » Wed, 04 Feb 1998 04:00:00


>The average stroke count for all 900 swimmers who attended in 1997 was
>21 on Saturday morning (recorded while videotaping pre- instruction) and  
>17 on Sunday afternoon post-instruction.

These are 25 meter lengths, right?  So you might expect one less stroke
in a 25 yard pool?

Donal Fagan

Remove the psychobabble to reply via e-mail, if that's what you really want.