I recently tweeted out an article about advice to listen to and forget according to the pros. One of the responses was that we should forget about distance per stroke (DPS); according to her, focusing on DPS is overrated and will actually hinder our stroke. For the most part I agree with her.
The pro’s logic was that if we focus too much on our reach that our stroke rate will slow down and leave a huge dead spot in our stroke where we “glide.” While this concept sounds nice and efficient, this gliding is a waste of time. The time spent overreaching is time when we could and should be propelling ourselves forward.
Moreover, since we all have different arm lengths and body measurements saying distance per stroke will lead to faster times is like saying those with longer legs will be better cyclists or those with long strides will make be faster runners, both of which is simply not true. It the last example, as in swimming, it actually can hurt your times.
HOWEVER, when DPS does become important is when you are not rotating enough. If you are a flat swimmer who does not rotate your hips enough and instead reach with your elbows, then DPS becomes critical in changing your stroke and making you more efficient. You are cheating yourself if you swim and extend just with your arms. Instead you must rotate your hips so that your arm naturally goes farther forward. By rotating properly, you are driving your extension (and power) from the hips, leading to a more powerful and farther stroke.
DPS is a drill, not to be used as part of your stroke. The idea of the drill is to all you to focus on your reach, rotation, and getting “long” in your stroke. As the pro mentioned above said, it is not a good idea to emphasize the “glide”, which is a dead spot in the stroke. However, it is a good idea to keep doing DPS drills (as the ones in our Tri Swim Pro program) to focus on particular parts of your stroke.
Most of the swimmers we are giving DPS to are not at the point yet where they need to focus as much on speed in an open water swim, so have no worry, this is helping your freestyle!
I hope that clears up any confusion on DPS