Get a Better Swim Stroke

A long-standing argument in the triathlon community goes like this:

  • Is it more beneficial to use long strokes in freestyle?
  • If yes, how can this be made possible?

What are Long Strokes?

Long strokes require arm extension and gliding after each arm stroke. This allows you to save energy while gaining more distance from each stroke, which is perfect for tri-athletes.

What’s Wrong with Short Strokes?

There’s nothing wrong with short strokes in themselves.  The truth is that they can even make you go faster. Unfortunately, a majority of the athletes especially the amateurs feel that this kind of stroke is not efficient enough to let them finish a ½ to 1 mile swim without draining their energy reserves for the 20-40mile bike race and the 5 to 10 mile sprint.




Comparing pool swimmers who take on 50, 100, 200 or 400 meter swims using an all out blast of energy or at least a controlled blast, to triathletes who swim longer distances and who have to finish a race that can be anything from 60 minutes to 10 hours is the common mistake.

Here’s How to Get a more Efficient Freestyle Stroke:

1. Train to kick sideways.

This technique will hone your balance in the water while improving your skill in extending and gliding at the same time. Utilizing fins can also be very helpful. Zoomers produced by Finis can be very helpful and come highly recommended.

2. Track the number of strokes made.

Every time you swim a lap, take note of the number of strokes that you need to to finish. Try to reduce the number of strokes…..while maintaining the same speed/time.

3. Incorporate golf.

No, I don’t mean the actual game, but instead a set of 6 x 50s. For every set, tally your strokes.  Then try to reduce that number for the next set.  Remember to record your times while you do this. Maintain your time while using a lesser number of strokes for every 50 – that’s the goal.  Swim golf is one of the three most important drills I incorporate into my triathlon training plans.



4. Clench your fists and swim.

Try swimming laps alternating having your hands clenched and with 1 to 2 lengths with your hands open. This will help you make use of your hips in order to swim and avoid using all your muscle strength going through the water.  It’s amazing how you’ll start to adapt your hand position when you’re fully conscious of how much power they can generate when used correctly.

5. Utilize the paddle.

Paddles enable you to perfect hand entry, glide, and pull all at the same time. Be careful and start slow with paddle use as you need to avoid shoulder problems.  You will be surprised at the fluidity of your movements after a few paddle workouts.

Happy swimming!


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