STROKE RATE IS POSSIBLY MORE IMPORTANT THAN STROKE LENGTH
Huot-Marchand, F., Nesi, X., Sidney, M., Alberty, M., & Pelayo, P. (2005). Variations of stroking parameters associated with 200 m competitive performance improvement in top-standard front crawl swimmers. Sports Biomechanics, 4, 89-99.
This study analyzed the variations of stroking parameters (speed, stroke length, stroke rate, and stroke index) associated with 200 m front crawl competitive performance improvements. Two races completed by 17 top swimmers were analyzed in the 200 m freestyle final at French or European championships, each final being separated by two years.
All Ss' performances were bettered in the second race and were associated with a significant increase in stroke rate without variation of average stroke length or stroke index values. Ss emphasized the first part of the race, with higher speed in the first three lengths, higher stroke rate in the first two lengths, and a shorter stroke length in the first length. Stroke length and stroke rate variations were highly correlated (r = 0.98). In 11 of the 17 Ss, the improvement was concomitant with a decrease in stroke length and an increase in stroke rate. Only one swimmer's improvement was associated with a substantial increase in stroke length.
Implication. This analysis shows that stroke length and stroke index cannot be considered as the only parameters linked to improvement in a 200 m crawl in high standard swimmers. An increase in stroke rate associated with a slight decrease in stroke length should not be considered as ineffective, especially at high standards. It is also suggestive that the benefits of stroke length become maximal and that increases in stroke rate provide the avenue for higher levels of attainment.
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