Training Tip of the Week: Distance Per Stroke

Welcome to the “Training Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore every week with drills and concepts for you to implement with your team on a regular basis. While certain weeks may be more appropriate for specific levels of swimming (club, high school, college, or masters), Training Tips of the Month are meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This month’s training tip is centered around Distance Per Stroke (DPS). This is a term that is thrown around a lot in swimming, and for good reason. The greater your distance per stroke, the more efficient you are moving through the water, which ultimately makes for faster swimming.

This week, we are going to focus on one of the key elements of distance per stroke: the extension at the front end of your stroke. This is a logical place to start, as the quality of a stroke is often determined by the hold that you establish at the front end of your stroke.

There are a lot of drills out there that can help your swimmers work on staying on the surface of the water, but I would encourage you to keep it as simple as possible, particularly at the beginning of any season when you are trying to set good habits.

Body Position Drills

Hand lead kicking with both arms extended in front is a great drill for body position, but it also reminds your swimmers of what it feels like to be at their tallest on the surface of the water. Try mixing in 25’s of hand lead kicking with a snorkel in warm up, encouraging them to be as tall in the water as possible when completing the drill.

Balance Drills

Other great drills for reminding your swimmers of the extension they should have in their stroke include any sort of balance kicking with one arm in front or kick/swim drills such as 6 kick switch or 3-6-3 DPS, drills that have them working on length through their stroke while switching from side to side.

More Advanced Drills…

For more advanced swimmers, try using drills such as catch-up eleven, straight arm free, or long axis combo — all drills that have your swimmers playing with the length and tempo of their strokes while moving forward and trying to stay tall in the water.  

Revisiting these drills throughout the year is a great way to continually remind your swimmers to keep their strokes long and extended far in front. Check back in next week for another tip on how to improve your swimmers’ distance per stroke. Happy swimming!

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Author: James Sica

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James Sica is the Men and Women's Assistant Coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an assistant coach at CMU in Pittsburgh, PA (2015-2017), a volunteer assistant coach with the Harvard women’s program (2014-2015) and an assistant with the Ithaca College men's program (2012-2014).

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