While swimming, biking, and running are very different sports, requiring different skill sets, muscle groups and neurological processes, becoming efficient and fast in all of them can be traced to a few key components, one of them being cadence. In any of these sports, having either too slow or quick cadence can wreck your efficiency and speed. In this three part series on cadence, I am going to go sport by sport on why it is important to.
Many swimmers overlook swim cadence to focus more on form, but overly focusing on form can create a dead spot in your stroke which adds on precious time to your splits. A dead spot in your stroke is the brief moment in your stroke in which your lead arm pauses between between your catch and pull. You are essentially coasting in the water when you should be propelling yourself forward. have good cadence, what the best cadence is, and how you can develop it.
However, if you think that the higher the cadence (or arm turn over the better) than you are grossly mistaken. If your cadence is too high without the foundation of a proper form then your arm will exit the water too quickly, your body will not rotate fully, and you will thrash about in the water, looking like an aqua jazzerciser rather than a swimmer.
What is the best cadence? The best cadence is that where you minimize the dead stroke while not sacrificing your whole stroke. The actual number is hard to pinpoint since it varies from swimmer to swimmer, but many feel that 87-93 strokes per minute is the sweet zone.
To improve your swim cadence, you first need to figure out what your current stroke is. You can do this by getting visual analysis, have a friend count, or use a wetranome, a nifty little device that slip underneath your swim cap and beeps when you should take a stroke. It can be programmed to increase pace or decrease pace. If you get your swim analyzed you can even pinpoint your dead zone and figure out how long it lasts. Once you have your cadence, you can then focus on varying it or as mentioned above use a wetranome to set the pace. Using fins can actually help with arm turnover as well.
If you find your cadence is too high then you need to slow down your stroke rate to emphasize proper swim mechanics rather than speed. Switch drill, catch up, and ¾ catch up are great drills to correct that over enthusiastic arm turn over.
In the next instalment, I will talk about bike cadence and pedal stroke, which many bikers also need to correct.