Stroke Length – How Long Is Too Long #SwimTechTues

Stroke Length – How Long Is Too Long #SwimTechTues

For many years people have strived for a longer stroke length through the water. In many endurance sports a key focus is longer distance for each stroke or stride. But at what point does stroke length become TOO long?

The answer really is “IT DEPENDS“.

This comes down to reach/arm span, shoulder control/flexibility, strength, and your kinaesthetic or body awareness.

[bctt tweet=”We’re all on a continuum of how long your stroke should be, or how fast your cadence is. You don’t have to be at one extreme or the other” username=”@Tri_coaching”]

What Is Stroke Length

Stroke length is the distance that you travel for each arm “pull” on the water. Because of water’s density, your upper limit of stroke length is your arm span.

Stroke Length

                     The Vitruvian Swimmer

In reality though, most people don’t have the control of the water, or the strength to get near this.

What most end up doing is reaching as far forward as they can – to maximise the length that the arm can pull through. This can have more of a negative effect than a positive, as it results in less efficient or less useful body positions.

Stroke length over reach

This swimmer is overreaching and as a result his elbow is below both wrist and shoulder

As you can see in the image above, at the point where the swimmer is at his longest – ie with the arm stretched forward – his elbow is below his hand. This is going to make it very difficult to do anything more with his pull than drag his elbow backward, not making the use of his forearms as a paddle, or being able to use so much of the larger muscles in his back. It will also likely cause him to stall at the front and make life harder to keep that constant motion of his stroke – so slowing him down.

What To Do

When you overreach, you have less control over your arm, and that point will come at different stages depending on how flexible you are through your shoulders.

Try this: stand up straight and lift your arm above your head. It should feel reasonably comfortable (hopefully!). Now if you reach up as high as you can, see where the rest of your body ends up. For most people shoulders end up around ears and the body starts to arch to one side. From this, when you are swimming focus on reaching forward (without stretching) from your hips rather than your shoulder – it should help maintain that core control, keep your stroke straighter and prevent your elbow from dropping down. It may help also to aim for a point 3-4 inches below the surface to make sure that your hand is always slightly below your elbow.

If you’re swimming drills, try catch up. With both arms out in front you can make sure that they are level and below the surface. You could do 6 kicks to 1 pull (6-1-6) to practise maintaining a straight line from hip to hand. Or you could do an entry point scull – again with a focus on relaxed shoulders. Whatever drill you do, make sure that it feels comfortable; it’s about finding the position that works for you.


If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in  the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

Improving Your Running Cadence Range #RunFormFriday

Frequently when working with athletes to improve running efficiency, one of the main considerations is to reduce impact and braking forces on foot strike, by reducing the tendency to over stride (land the foot ahead of the centre of mass).

One of the most simple and highly effective ways to achieve this is to increase running cadence at a given pace.

Running Cadence Range

We often refer to an athlete’s cadence range. This refers to the natural differences shown in running cadence of an individual’s gait at an easy pace compared to a hard pace.

As discussed in a previous blog post, the “magic number” approach of striving to hit 90-92 strides per minute, regardless of running pace is fundamentally flawed when applied to endurance running: A runner will naturally run with a slightly slower rate of cadence when running “easy” compared to when running at a “hard” pace.

This is shown on the graphically represented example below.

Running Cadence

The key to improving efficiency through manipulating cadence is to shift the cadence range to the right by initially increasing it by 5%.

The “Easy Pace” cadence, previously 82spm will become 86spm, while the “Hard Pace” changes from 88spm to 92spm.

All of which will result in less over striding at a given pace, compared to the lower cadence version of the same pace.

Rather than trying to make major changes to you your cadence, 5% is a manageable change that won’t cause major muscle trauma, and should be more maintainable.

** Proper running technique is not “one size fits all” **

As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about cadence and technique in the comments section. See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!

Heel Pick Up #RunFormFriday

One of the technique cues that runners sometimes struggle to master at first when changing their technique is the “Heel Pull”.

Heel pull running

Jeff Grant of Hillseeker Fitness has shared a great drill for mastering the “Heel Pull” in the short video below.


Successfully learning to pick the foot up under the hip engages the Hamstrings during early-to-mid swing phase, and offloads the work of the Hip Flexors to pull the swing leg through under the body, on to the next stride.

A common flaw in many runners is to run with a Hip Flexor dominant (knee drive orientated) swing phase. In particular resulting in overactivity in the Hip Flexors (specifically Rectus Femoris), tightness in the ITB (sometimes) and altered pelvic posture (almost always).

Learning to use the Hamstrings to contribute more in the swing phase, by picking (or “Pulling”) the heel up under the body, rather than overly relying on the Hip Flexors, creates a more balanced and efficient distribution of the effort around the hip and knee, especially given the strong and powerful nature of the Hamstrings as a muscle group – they are positioned and aligned to be powerful, prime movers.

A signature feature of POSE Technique is the specific focus on getting the Hamstrings working in this way. However we find that many athletes over-do this cue, with counterproductive results, as they start flicking their legs back in an effort to force the movement.

This drill will help to keep the heel pull movement under the body as desired, rather than becoming more of a flick.



When we speak about proper running form, we look to encourage muscle balance around the hips and pelvis in particular, combined with good posture, staying “long” rather than “sitting back”. Getting the Hamstrings engaging during the swing phase helps to achieve these two goals specifically by sharing the effort with the Hip Flexors, and keeping the whole leg motion neatly under the body (rather than over striding.

We are not POSE Technique coaches.

** Proper running technique is not “one size fits all” **

As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about cadence and technique in the comments section. See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!