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Freestyle – Discovering Efficiency, Step 1

When swimmers begin the quest to discover the most efficient freestyle, they often think that Step 1 is to achieve a super-low stroke count.  But a lower stroke count doesn’t automatically produce a more efficient stroke.  

When it comes to stroke count, every swimmer will reach a point of diminishing returns.  When the goal is the lowest number of strokes, what generally falls by the wayside are flow and rhythm.  It’s our goal over the next few weeks to free you from the confines of becoming a robot with pauses in your stroke, and allow you to swim with true efficiency in the pursuit of the ultimate goal in the sport: efficiency with speed.

Why Do It:
Learning to focus on a complete picture to judge efficiency will allow you to really learn a great freestyle, not just part of the picture.

How to Do It:
1.  
Start swimming freestyle at a relaxed speed and count the number of strokes you take.  Count each time your hand enters the water out front as a "hit" or a "count."  On this particular length the swimmer has a stroke count of 13 in a 25-meter pool.  
2.  Once you have a "count" or number you feel comfortable with, try to take one or two fewer strokes.  To do this, slow down your stroke rate just a bit, and focus more on your extension and balance so you can glide a bit better between each stroke.  Remember, this is a drill, not swimming.  This length is a stroke count of 11.
3.  To experiment with your balance and extension, stop swimming, and hold each extension for a couple seconds.  While this is a good drill, please don’t mistake this for swimming.  Too much time spent focusing on this drill can leave you with pauses in your stroke that are difficult to undo.  This length is a stroke count of 9.
4.  Now take your count back up to a comfortable, flowing level, and begin to experiment with using just a bit of your legs.  Don’t over-kick, but allow your legs to be involved in the process.  Don’t let them be a reaction to your stroke; allow them to be a rhythmic part of the process.  This length is a stroke count of 12 with a comfortable kick.
5.  Finally, NO efficiency test is accurate with only a 25.  If you’re unable to hold your stroke count for more than a 25, or even a 50, you’re not at your correct stroke count.  A 50 is the minimum, and the REAL goal is to achieve a comfortable count that you can hold for 500, 1000, or 5000 meters.

How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
Incorporate sets that require you to use a stroke count that feels too high when doing 25s, and a bit more challenging when reaching 100s or farther.  Make all your push-offs consistent so you know your stroke variations are based on STROKE VARIATION rather than a better push-off.

Next week we incorporate speed and time into the equation.