Freestyle – Discovering Efficiency Step 2

In Step 1 of our series on discovering efficiency, we counted strokes.  In Step 2, we’ll add a simple focus point… speed.  

When you’ve had a chance to experiment with your stroke count, and you’ve discovered a count that lets you swim comfortably for 50s, or 100s, or 1000s, then it’s time to add time to your equation.  You want to see how fast can you swim at that given stroke rate.

Why Do It:
Learning to swim faster without adding strokes will teach you how to get more out of each stroke.  It will also clean up your walls, extend your breathing, activate your kick, and teach you a lot about your stroke count as well.

How to Do It:
  This drill is generally accomplished in a "set".  The set we’ll use is 4 rounds of 4 x 50 meters.  You must use the exact same stroke count through the entire set, but each 50 in each series of 4 MUST get faster.  We used a stroke count of 13 strokes on the way down, and 14 strokes on the way back.
2.  One the first 50, take it easy and make your stroke count.  Get your time and take the prescribed amount of rest.  This 50 was 35 seconds.
3.  One the second 50, push off with a bit more integrity, and try to grab just a bit more water with each pull.  You can also start to use the kick just a bit more, but remember… use the same number of strokes.  This 50 was :34.
4.  One the third 50, everything gets more intense.  Pull with more force, kick with more intensity, but make sure you’re doing your best to keep your stroke count exactly the same and to reach full extension on each stroke.  This 50 was :31.
5.  One the forth 50, swim as fast as you can without adding any strokes.  Because you’re working for ultimate speed on this, you may want to add a dolphin kick to maintain speed off the wall, but don’t cheat by adding too many.  You’ll find it’s tough enough to go very fast without adding strokes, and if you’re not great at dolphin kicks, staying under too long will make it even more difficult to descend your time.

How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points)
At the end of the 4th 50, allow your time to go back up to the original time, and start the set of 4 x 50s all over again.  By the time you get through all 4 sets, if done correctly, you’ll not only know more about your freestyle, but also be a bit tired.

You may even notice that when you’re adding a stronger pushoff, a stronger pull, and a stronger kick, that your stroke rate may try to go DOWN as your velocity increases.  Again, try to maintain the exact stroke count.  You may also find that if you try to go too fast, your body will want to add a stroke.  Try to avoid this at all costs.

Next week, we add heart rate to the equation.