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Understanding Stroke Cycles and Stroke Tempo

Understanding Stroke Cycles and Stroke Tempo

“You must understand this because this is what swimming’s all about.”

Bob Gillett makes no bones about it. A specific cycle with a certain tempo is going to count for the majority of overall time.

 


 

Stroke Cycle = one complete stroke; for Free/Back it’s one left arm + one right arm; for Breast/Fly it’s simply one stroke

Stroke Tempo aka Stroke Rate aka Cadence = how long it takes you to go through a cycle

Your Time = (Start + Underwaters + Turns) + (Stroke Cycle x Stroke Tempo)

 


 

If you want to swim faster, there are basically two ways to do this:
1. Increase your stroke tempo (take faster cycles); or,
2. Decrease your number of stroke cycles (take fewer strokes)

Maintaining tempo throughout a race is key to success. Here’s a simple 100 Fly example:

    Tempo Cycles Total Time
100 Fly 1st 25 1.3 10 13
  2nd 25 1.3 12 15.6
  3rd 25 1.4 12 16.8
  4th 25 1.4 12 16.8
        01:02.2
         
    Tempo Cycles Total Time
100 Fly 1st 25 1.3 10 13
  2nd 25 1.3 12 15.6
  3rd 25 1.3 12 15.6
  4th 25 1.3 12 15.6
        59.8

Quite a bit different when you simply maintain your stroke tempo, eh? 

This is the type of information Misty Hyman is now providing to her swimmer’s at Arizona State. To practice their tempo, they use tempo trainers aka swimming metronomes. Do you know your swimmer’s tempos? Do your swimmer’s know their tempos? Are you using tempo trainers or using your stop watch and keeping a watchful eye? 

“I like to use a math equation as one of the tools that help the women understand their races. It took a little bit of a leap of faith and to get to really understand and how it applied to the training were doing…” – Misty Hyman

In the below video, Bob Gillett, explains why kicking underwater is faster than swimming. It’s pretty simple: you can replace a stroke cycle with two kicks. For example: if your butterfly tempo is 1.10 but can replace a cycle with two kicks that only take .90, then you’ll save .2 seconds.


Prior to explaining why kicking underwater is faster than swimming, Coach explains
Cycles x Tempo = Time


This is a massively underutilized, under educated concept, specifically in age group training. Most young swimmers cannot maintain a continuous stroke rate — and it’s not because they can’t be taught. 

This video is worth watching several times over.

Here’s a bonus video I really like. It shows Mike Bottom transferring stroke rate into weight training. Mike Cavic knows, even on dry land, what his ideal stroke tempo is.