Improving Your Cadence - Swimming for Increased Efficiency & Speed

Monday, August 22, 2016

The word cadence means the beat or rhythm of a movement and in swimming it means the number of arm strokes you need to cover a certain distance.  Good cadence allows you to swim at a chosen pace and maintain it without tiring, giving you the confidence to swim to your own plan in races. 

For simplicity, cadences are also called gears and here's how to train and develop this essential component for an efficient, winning technique.

Aerobic Long Distance Swimming

Baseline gear (G) equals the number of arm strokes you make per 25 m.  Your baseline G may vary slightly between weeks, but over time it'll reduce as you swim faster with the same amount of effort.
1st gear  - G + 1 stroke   per 25 m
2nd gear - G + 2 strokes per 25 m
3rd gear  - G + 3 strokes per 25 m

Keep below lactate threshold to focus your swimming and develop your technique.  This is generally about G +1, 2 or 3. Instead of swimming hard, do easy intervals in good form and then gradually increase stroke rates while retaining that control.

Set Your Baseline

  1. Warm-up with 25 minutes on drills and technique, especially core rotation to drive your stroke. Maintain technique as you gradually swim faster.  
  2. Swim 4 x 25 m of relaxed and smooth freestyle.  Count your single arm strokes and then average them out. This is your Baseline Gear (G).
  3. Swim another 4 x 25 m trying to match your Baseline Gear on each length to develop control over stroke count and an instinctive sense of cadence.
  4. This is your baseline gear for the practice on that day.

Set the Timing

Your next challenge is to swim faster simply by increasing your cadence.  So, add one stroke at a time per 25 m rather than swimming harder. Concentrate on your core to set the timing as you change from side to side.

4 x 25 m at Baseline Gear (G) - measured in strokes per 25 m

4 x 25 m at G + 1

4 x 25 m at G + 2

4 x 25 m at G + 3

Rest 10-15 seconds between each 25 m or however long you need for full rest.  Maintain the focus on reaching the desired gear/stroke count.  Rest fully between each gear set.

Improving your cadence will make a huge difference to your swimming speed/efficiency and it's the key to increasing your speed more year after year!

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