As a swim instructor and swimmer, I spend a fair amount of time at the pool. The most common mistake that I see swimmers make is not stretching out their strokes. There are just so many people swimming with short, choppy strokes on freestyle. Let me show you what I mean.
Many swimmers fail to fully extend their arm much less exhibit a good shoulder roll. We want to reach… and roll. What difference does it make? Well, for me, if I’m not stretching it out, I’m sacrificing over 7 inches every stroke.
While some swimmers may feel like they’re stretching out their stroke, they often reach down instead of forward, and they don’t finish past their hips. While my stroke may not be perfect here, I am reaching out much farther and finishing my stroke better. Once again, we don’t want to short change ourselves by not stretching forward for each stroke, or by not finishing past our hips.
To work on this, I’ll often use a sequence of drills. I’ll swim a 25 fist closed, followed by 25 catch up, followed by 25 nice, easy, long, freestyle.
The“fist closed drill” is pretty self-explanatory. You’re simply swimming your normal freestyle with your fist closed. While the purpose of this drill is not necessarily to address stroke length, transitioning from fist closed to an open hand can help you get a better feel for the water.
With the “catch up drill”, I’m delaying my pull at the top of my stroke until the other arm catches up. In this drill, I’m really focusing on the reach and roll that I talked about earlier. Reach and roll. Reach, roll, catch-up. Here, I’m doing the drill at normal speed. Reach, roll, catch-up. Reach, roll, catch-up.
Now, I’ll follow this with some easy freestyle where I’m really focusing on that reach, roll, and a long finish. I often count my strokes on a 25 in order to see if I’m keeping my stroke long. When I’m stretching it out, I take about 16 strokes per 25. If my stroke is getting tired and sloppy, I’ll be up around 18 strokes per 25.
My point here isn’t too imply that you should only be taking 16 strokes per 25, but you can work on lengthening your stroke. How many strokes do you take per 25? 24? 30? Perhaps, you can work to improve on that. Ultimately, you want to get where you’re expending less energy to get down the pool. Then, you can put that energy towards swimming faster.