View Full Version : What's your optimal stroke count?

September 28th, 2006, 09:28 AM
I have long recommended that swimmers monitor their stroke counts and use that information to guide decisions about repeat distance, set distance, rest interval, workout duration, speed, etc.

Briefly put, I believe it's beneficial to give some consideration to what is an acceptable level of efficiency. When your stroke count strays much above that you're probably "practicing struggle" and the negative effects on your motor programming probably outweigh any potential benefit to conditioning.

If you agree with this in principle, then it would behoove you to adjust one of the variables mentioned above until your stroke count is again within what you have decided is an acceptable range.

However to use that principle effectively, you'd need to be able to predict a stroke count that's appropriate for your personal dimensions and swimming pattern. This week someone posted a formula on the TI Discussion Forum, based on arm length and the distance of your typical pushoff that allows you to predict your own personal “highly efficient” stoke count for Freestyle. I ran my own numbers through it and found it reflects reality.

For a 25-yard pool: SPL = (L x 12) - (P x 12)/A
For a 25-meter pool: SPL = (L-P)/A

SPL = strokes per length
L = Length of pool (in feet or meters)
P = distance traveled in pushoff before stroking (in feet or meters)
A = Armspan from wrist to wrist (in inches or meters)

I’m 6’-0” tall with a 57-inch wingspan and a 15-foot pushoff. The pool I train in is 75-feet long, so my high efficiency SPL should be 12.6. I.E. When I swim with optimal efficiency I should be able to hold between 12 and 13 strokes in a 25-yard pool. And this is precisely the stroke count I find myself hitting when practicing low speed, high mindfulness swimming.
I allow myself a range of 2-3 SPL above that. Indeed most of my training is based on doing sets with a precise relationship to "N" which is the notation I give to my high efficiency count. N=12, N+1 = 13 and so on.
I've been doing this for about six years and it's brought welcome structure and organization to my training.

My Backstroke SPL is usually about one stroke higher. My Breaststroke SPL is about half my Backstroke count and my Butterfly SPL is half my Freestyle count plus one.

I'd be interested to know what others may learn when they run their personal numbers through the formula.

September 28th, 2006, 09:51 AM
Wingspan finger tip to finger tip measure this morning 79" height 6'3" 12 strokes for 25m when in shape 16 seconds for 25m not in shape 19 sec very little push new knees. slower speed when counting more than 1 length as few as 10 strokes per 25m.

Wing span wrist to wrist which really is not a wing span 65" - boy the birds would drop out of the sky if you take that part away Terry.

September 28th, 2006, 11:29 AM
After thinking about it Terry I think I will just not worry about it too much. I will go to the pool and try my 25s at 12, 13 and ocasionally 10 strokes, I can no longer push off the wall more than about 20 feet. I will continue to golf my 50s and try to keep the score as close to 60 as I can for the 50m.

September 28th, 2006, 11:52 AM
I don't know my wingspan but I am about 6'-1". In a 25 yard pool I usually take about 12 strokes when making an effort to swim long. If I am not swimming mindfully I probably get up around 15-16 SPL I suspect. A lot of this has to do with the pace at which I am swimming too. I will have to pay attention next time I swim and report back with some more detailed information.

Allen Stark
September 28th, 2006, 11:56 AM
Very interesting. I love applying math to swimming,and I am a big believer in counting strokes to monitor efficiency. One trivial point, the way the SCY formula is written is confusing. It should be((LX12)-(PX12))/A or simplified

September 28th, 2006, 01:25 PM
I think I will just not worry about it too much.

I've counted every stroke for 10 or 12 years. For 5 or 6 years I've done most sets according to a pre-planned set of counts.

This year I'm experimenting with a little more training where I let the SPL float and see where it goes. I don't expect them to change much, but I'm also working on getting comfortable with a range of higher rates.

September 28th, 2006, 01:35 PM
A lot of this has to do with the pace at which I am swimming.

In recent years I've used SPL as my "throttle."
When I want to swim faster, rather than "go harder" one of the choices I employ is to increase my SPL. It's cool because the perception of effort that results is lower.
Here's a sample set:
5 rounds of 4 x 100. Descend each round, and increase average speed in each round.
1-4 @ 12SPL
5-8@ 13SPL
9-12 @ 14 SPL
13-16 @ 15 SPL
17-20 one 100 at each SPL.
This gives me a task to execute that involves stroke timing and forces my brain to process new info every round -- and every 100 on the final round.

One reason I train this way because I'm a believer in the principle that the best training is that which creates the greatest adaptation. If I swim 20 x 100 all at the same SL, then my brain processes the same info repeatedly. But when I train in such a way that it's constantly having to analyze and execute new tasks, I think more neuromuscular adaptation is created.

And descending rounds 1-4 while maintaining the same SPL within each round gives my brain another task to process.

September 28th, 2006, 01:36 PM
It should be((LX12)-(PX12))/A or simplified

The latter has an elegance that Einstein would appreciate.

September 28th, 2006, 01:37 PM
I have counted strokes since the 60s, strokes per length in a pool and strokes per minute in OW I used to be able to swim 54 or 60 or 75 per min and on checking I was always within 1 or 2 strokes per minute what I intended to swim. In a pool the same it becomes automatic.

You will never become faster counting strokes I swam to speed I had to go to win (did not always win). But as said before I was accused of not trying because of my slow turnover.

September 28th, 2006, 01:39 PM
You will never become faster counting strokes.

True. That's why it's only one element of a multi-faceted training approach that I credit with helping me swim faster. But the point of the formula is to allow for a more individualized way to count strokes as part of a comprehensive training model.

September 28th, 2006, 01:52 PM
I do understand but I will never train the way I used to and will still do the 10, 12, or 13 strokes per length and I really have no goals to attain. My main goal now is to get ready to travel to Mexico swim Clinics and get ready for the opening of My LTDSpace Swim Machine Pool in Richmond BC April 1st. I may never enter a masters meet again, I know I will never race in a marathon race for prize money again.

Allen Stark
September 28th, 2006, 05:43 PM
Counting strokes alone won't make you faster but it helps,especially when used with a clock. If you SPL goes down and your time stays the same you are doing something right that will translate to faster times at meets. Conversely if your SPL goes up and your time doesn't go down something is wrong. When my coach had me REALLY work on shrugging my shoulders on the breaststroke streamline my 100 pace SPL went from 8 to 7(SCY.) That means I take 4 fewer stroke in a 100 which translates to more energy at the end of the race and faster time (in my case over 1/2 sec.)

September 29th, 2006, 12:21 AM
With all that elbow surgery, you sure have done some great times in your breaststroke.

Have you done anything to lessen the strain? Swimming breaststroke the old way using the "popeyes" muscles in the forearm used to cause elbow strain.

Using the hunch system and employing the back muscles like a butterflyer would lessen the strain.

I have had both elbows broken over the last 16 years. The left arm won't bend more than 90 degrees, and the right one won't fully extend, leaving about a 10-15 degree angle.

I try to maintain 6 strokes per lenght, but this is with a 14 yard pushoff.

I am just not very flexible, so getting my head underwater to kick and glide is harder for me. But using the body dolphin drills sure helps me get the stroke down.

I watched several USC swimmers back just before the 2000 Olympics, they did all the TI drills before EVERY workout and or swim meet. Way cool to see them do the same drills as what I was doing and teaching.

September 29th, 2006, 01:33 PM
Would it be too much of a generalization to use the following formula (for freestyle swimming)....

If you are six feet tall, take your height and multiply it by 2.
Subtract that number by 1 to arrive at the optimal stroke count for a 25yard pool.

6 foot swimmer (x 2) =12 (minus 1) = 11
Optimal stoke count per lap in a 25 yard pool would be 11.

A five foot tall swimmer would multiply by three.

5 foot swimmer (x 3) = 15 (minus 1) = 14
Optimal stroke count per lap in a 25 yard pool would be 14.

If you are six feet six....subtract 1.5 instead of 1
If you are five feet six...subtract 1.5 instead of 1
If you have a magnificent streamline...subtract 2.

If your push-off needs much work ...do not subtract anything.
No subtraction for those using a 25 meter pool.

May 30th, 2007, 11:22 AM
I'd be interested to know what others may learn when they run their personal numbers through the formula.

The relation between (Poolsize-Pushoff)/Armspan wrist-to-wrist in my case would be, metric: (25-5)/1.41=14.2 Strokes Per 25 m

That's reasonably true, because my current stroke count is 15, which means that I will have to work on efficiency to get to 14.2, from where I can elaborate further.

Edited 2007-05-31 13:14+02:

I reckon my optimal pushoff distance to be 5 meters, that is, when I break out after streamlining, my head is at the backstroke flag pole.

This formula would make an interesting poll topic, imho. Unfortunately, I would be the only one to answer the poll...

May 30th, 2007, 03:04 PM
SR is not important in a race it is a training drill to help enlongate your stroke.

The stroke count in a race is controlled by your start and turns. I believe you
should do some dives and turns and do the length of the pool just using the
dolphin kick. When doing a dive and the length of dolpin kick your time for the 25m should be very close to your time for a dive kick and swim.

You will notice that Phelps comes out of the dive and turns gaining on everyone.

When training sprint 25s against others swimming,- race them doing just the dolpin kick a few times. Don't over do it it is exhausting.