Sorry that this post came in late…
We do sets called “stroke elimination sets” periodically in practice. These are sets where we start off with a base stroke count and ask you to take strokes off the count when you swim. We do these sets as a way of getting you to concentrate on your technique and form. By cutting out strokes, you are having to figure out ways to control your form to get more out of each stroke. For those will very high stroke counts, it’s also a way for us to communicate to you that you don’t need all those strokes to be successful.
Here are some examples of stroke elimination sets:
4 x 25 @ :10R — #1 @ Base, #2 and #3 @ Base-1, #4 @ Base-2
4 x 75 @ :15R — 25 @ Base-2, 25 @ Base-1, 25 @ Base
4 x 200 FR @ :15R — 1st 175 @ Base, Last 25 @ Base-1
In each of these sets, you’re asked to adjust your stroke to be able to achieve your stroke count target.
Here are some strategies to doing these sets well:
1) Start with a Good Base Count — Make sure you start with a base count where you are moving with a pretty decent speed (probably about an 80% effort). If you start swimming with perfect technique, you’ll probably already be swimming slowly and with a lower stroke count. To take strokes off that count will lead you to start drilling rather than swimming.
2) Slow down and rely on good body position and timing — Slow down both your speed and tempo and focus your attention on swimming with better balance and side streamlining, leaning forward and making sure you get to full extension on each stroke; these changes will help you cut through the water with less drag. Also work on your timing. Time the catch on your lead arm to start when the other arm recovers past your ear. We call this swimming “taller” because you spend more time in a long, tall position and transition quickly to another tall position when the hand passes the head.
3) Set your catch and drive past your hand — Another way you can take strokes off is by getting a little bit more power out of each one. Work on getting your forearm positioned with a good catch and then drive your top side past your catch point. As you put more pressure on your catch and more power into your drive forward, you’ll feel more glide in the stroke.
4) Slow down your Tempo Trainer — Another variation of this set, if you use a Tempo Trainer, is to methodically slow down your stroke rate and maintain the flow in your stroke. If your normal rate is a stroke per second, drop the tempo to a stroke every 1.1 or 1.15 seconds. Stretch out more into the stroke and work our catch as in #2 and #3. If you don’t add any pause into your strokes, you should start to see your count go down.
5) Work your walls — Another way that you can take strokes off your count is by doing a better job streamlining off the walls. Stack your hands, tighten your core, point your toes, and squeeze as you come off the wall. Maintain that position as you come into your first stroke. Keep your head down for the first stroke or two so you get some momentum going with your stroke before breathing. If your body is passing the flags on the push, you are doing it well. Having said this, if you body hits the surface and you kick for another 5 yards, that’s what we call cheating.
Hopefully these tips will help you and you will know what to do when your coach tells you to cut two strokes off the next 25.