Swimming is considered one of the most technical sports to master. When it improving your times in the pool, it’s helpful to take a step back and understand the variables in action. Don’t worry, this isn’t complicated algebra, but it will help you understand.

In this inaugural Whiteboard Wednesday, Fares explains the swimming equation and a few principles that will help you to swim faster!

Video Transcription

Howdy swim fans here with our inaugural episode of whiteboard Wednesday. In today’s session we’re talking about the swimming equation. Swimming can be a really technical sport, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult. If you can break it down into its fundamental components, you can gain a new appreciation for the sport and swim faster and smarter than ever before.

ST represents total Swimming Time. This equation represents two components, the under water over time and over water time. Underwater time is made up of Underwater Time plus Turn Time. The Overwater time is a function of Cycle Count multiplied by Stroke Rate. The units for Stroke Rate is in seconds/stroke.

ST = (UT + TT) + (CC*SR)

  • ST = Swimming Time
  • UT = Underwater Time
  • TT = Turn Time
  • CC = Cycle Count
  • SR = Stroke Rate

Using the 100m Breaststroke Long Course race as an example, we can come up with a full race time using this formula. Underwater Time is a function of how long your pullouts are. For simplicity, let’s say you spend four seconds underwater off the dive on the first pullout, and three seconds underwater off the dive for the second pullout off the turn. Your total underwater time would be seven seconds.

Turn Time is time spent on the wall where you’re not making any forward progress. It’s the time from when you touch the wall to when your feet leave the wall. Let’s say this takes 0.5 seconds. Therefore your total underwater time would be 7.5 seconds.

CC represents Cycle Count. For this example, the swimmer took 40 total strokes – 18 on the first 50m, then 22 on the second 50m. At a Stroke Rate of 1.25 seconds/stroke, the total overwater swimming time is 50 seconds (40*1.25). Therefore total swimming time is underwater time + overwater time (7.5 + 50) = 57.5 seconds.

The big question is: How do you swim faster?

Three options: The first choice is to decrease Cycle Count. In other words, take fewer strokes and maximize distance per stroke. The key is maintain stroke rate while doing this. The second method is focusing on increasing your Stroke Rate. This means swim at a faster tempo. Again, you must maintain distance per stroke. The third method is to do both: decrease Cycle Count and increase Stroke Rate.

In order of difficulty, decreasing Cycle Count is by far the easiest and will deliver the highest return on time invested in the water. By focusing on improving your efficiency you’re decreasing resistance in the water and therefore maximizing distance per stroke. It’s much harder to increase tempo while maintaining Cycle Count because this requires increasing propulsion. Increasing propulsion is much harder as it will only come through seasonal training.

See Also: The Swimming Algorithm

To apply this to training, focus on maximizing distance per stroke. The easiest component to improve is DPS. We also advise working on tempo separate from distance per stroke. By dividing these two variables it gives you a chance to focus on one particular component of the swimming equation without compromise to the other parts. Focus on maintaining tempo while increasing distance per stroke.

Finally, do sets that focus in SWOLF. SWOLF is “swimming golf”. Similar to Golf, you focus in reducing your total number. SWOLF is basically a measure of how efficiently you are in your swimming. A really simple set that works on this is doing a series of 50s where you count how many strokes you take in a 50m distance and add this number to your total swimming time.

For example if you take 40 strokes and swim the 50m freestyle in 40 seconds, your swimming golf number is 80. Similar to Golf, your goal is to decrease this number so you can become as efficiently as possible.

In summary, swimming can be very complicated, but if you break it up in to these fundamental components, like underwater time and overwater time, it can be much similar to understand. You’ll find ways to improve your swimming that you never thought were possible!

Stay focused on improving the details and you’ll be swimming faster than ever before.

Happy Swimming!


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