Constant Propulsion Swim Method

A while back I took a Total Immersion Course. I thought it was really good but it only gave me half the solution to swimming fast, which was to maintain a good body position while in the water to ensure minimal slowdown due to drag.
The other half had to do with stroking.
You’d think that by swinging your arms through the water, that all you’d have to do was cycle them faster and then you’d go faster….right?
Well, I found out that there are so many little details with the stroke that make a whole LOT of difference in your speed.
One of them was introduced to me by Marc Evans during a swim session in a endless pool. Basically, you never having one hand pushing against the water. You never stop stroking and just glide like Superman. As one hand almost finishes its stroke and has reduced pressure against the water, the other hand was already be beginning its stroke and continuing the pressure against the water. This is so that this hand has already begun its stroke before the other hand exits the water.
It took me a long time to master this even a little bit. Now, I can keep it up for short periods, but I am doing tempo sets at distance to practice maintaining this constant propulsion stroke for longer periods of time. When I get tired, I can’t keep the other hand from starting its stroke fast enough before the other hand loses its propulsion. I start getting back into small periods of time where I am doing a Superman glide and then my other hand begins its stroke. This is undesirable because as I glide, I slow down, whereas if I have at least one hand pressing against the water, I can keep my average speed higher.
I also found that when I do this, I can actually swim a 100m interval faster with less arm cycles and be less stressed aerobically. My arms definitely get tired more, but I am not gasping for breath like when I am just speeding up my arm cycles in an attempt to gain an extra few seconds in speed but with exponential energy expenditure.
I really could see the effect of constant propulsion swimming when the other week I was swimming with a pull buoy and paddles. As I set out on the interval, I noticed as I looked down on the black line on the bottom of the pool that my speed was pulsing as I stroked. I would speed up during a stroke, but as my other hand began to enter the water, my speed would slow until the other arm began its stroke. I realized that I was gliding too much and waiting too long between strokes, and not really creating constant propulsion. So I altered my stroke to begin a lot sooner and all of a sudden, my pulsing speed became less and I was moving with more consistent speed. Very interesting!
So now I practice constant propulsion speed while swimming with pull buoy and paddles to fine tune my timing on the stroke, and take that neuromuscular training to swimming without tools. When swimming with the pull buoy and paddles, I can really see the effect of constant propulsion swimming versus gliding too much due to the amount of water I can catch with the paddles. It’s a great way to get visual feedback on whether or not your arms are moving with the right timing to create constant propulsion.
I added this training to my tempo training with constant propulsion stroke, starting with reps of 100m and increasing that both in reps and in distance over time.

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  1. Greg Avatar

    Your blog popped up on a google search about IMWA. You have great info for beginner triathletes like myself. I hope to do IMWA this year and look forward to seeing your posts on race-specific training or other tips.