# Is there an optimum for swimming stroke rate?

I started swimming and trying to swim 1500m nonstop (as a first goal). I gradually increased my set distances. After 4 weeks I can swim 1000m nonstop. I guess I will reach 1500m in 2 weeks. One thing I observe is; my stroke count per 50m decreased from 59 to 48 in 3 weeks period. But it stopped there. (I can now swim 1:52 100m) My question is: Is 48 strokes per 50m a good rate or should I try to lower the stroke count by lengthening the stroke length?

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The world record holder on 1500m is Sun Yang, an analysis of his stroke per length and stroke rate can be found at Sun Yang. His stroke rate (or frequency) is 0.96 (almost a stroke per second) and his strokes per 50m length is 27.

Your stroke rate is 0.85 (48 strokes per 56 seconds) or 51 strokes per minute, i.e. slower than Sun Yang (58 strokes per minute), and you need 48 strokes (1.04 m/stroke) where he needs 27 (1.85 m/stroke).

In figure 1, I have plotted the two points and one of my own measurements: {{1.85, 0.96}, {1.04, 0.85}, {1.78, 0.68}} and also - assuming constant speed - the Stroke frequency as a function of Stroke length, that is Speed = Stroke frequency * Stroke length

Here, you can see that if Sun Yang had a shorter Stroke length (e.g. not have as long arm as he has), he has to increase the Stroke frequency to swim with a the same speed. For me to approach Sun's speed (not likely to happen :-)), my focus should be to increase the frequency.

Fig 1. Constant speed as a function of Stroke frequency and Stroke length

Whether you want to change speed or keep the speed constant and work with a frequency, length combination, depends on your overall goals for swimming. Two references that can help you are:

Assuming that you want to go faster, I would experiment with the stroke rate, e.g. through getting a tempo trainer, e.g. Finis tempo trainer. However, my own experience as almost beginner, is that if I increase the effort beyond my technique, I get really tired very fast.

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Just wanted to add that you can "artificially" lower your stroke rate by extending the glide phase, but that's not really accomplishing what you want. As you get more efficient with your stroke, your rate will naturally lower. If you would really like to improve, then you may need to take some lessons. Swimming is extremely technique driven, so once you get as fast as your fitness will allow, any further improvements will have to come from stroke refinement. – JohnP Sep 4 '12 at 14:43

Would like to add the "glide" phase is the most misunderstood portion for the stroke. No matter what type of swimming learning / teaching you follow there should be a constant movement on the front end of the stroke. What appears to be gliding is simply a swimmer that has gotten very good at full extension with a seamless transition to a catch and then either pull or push depending on what you believe. If done properly its really a push but a great majority will call it a pull. Never focus on pause or glide, focus on the feeling of full extension which will feel like a slight pause as the hand moves forward, shoulders and body rotates to achieve full extension then immediate catch propel. And please dont think about the rotation, it should be seamless, not thought about during the stroke and simply executed.

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Glide phase is important. So on each stroke, you want to hold it for a minimal amount of time to enjoy the benefit of the glide.

I was taught to bring your arm forward, stretch out, for maximum length, hold that hand forward for a pause, then bring the other arm back, holding that one forward.

Same on breast stroke, you need to hold the glide for a moment. (I cannot define the length of that moment).

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