It is important for a swimmer to be able to swim with an optimum & effective stroke rate to propel the body to move fast but not feel tired even after swimming long distance.
To get an efficient stroke rate (sweet spot) for an individual, the Stroke Rate Ramp Test can be carried out. This test provides a detailed profile of your freestyle stroke as well as guides you in finding a naturally occurring sweet spot/spots in your stroke.
The test consists of swimming multiple 50m lengths with a short break in between. With a tempo trainer, the stroke rates are constantly changing every lap (increasing gradually and then decreasing gradually). After each lap, the swimmer needs to give the coach/friend a rating from a scale from 1 to 10 on how hard the effort during the swim is. The time taken as well as number of strokes taken to complete every lap should be noted.
We carried out the Stroke Rate Ramp Test on one of our swimmers, and the results are show in the graph below.
According to the results, it is shown that her sweet spot is at 56 strokes.
1) Effort exerted should be at a level that can be sustained, not too hard nor too easy From the first graph (Perceived Effort graph), the red zone is the zone where the effort exerted during the swim was too hard. The blue zone on the other hand is the one where the effort was too easy. Hence, any points in those regions are not considered. With that, there are only 4 points left at the effort of 6.5 - 8.0 which are the 56 and 59 strokes.
2) The time taken for the number of strokes taken should be short When comparing the first graph (Perceived Effort graph) to the second graph (50m time) graph, it can be seen that the 56 and 59 strokes both give the same time to complete the 50m. When this is the case, 56 strokes is selected as the sweet spot because if the time taken is constant, less strokes are more favourable to conserve the energy of the swimmer.
Hope this helps you find your optimum stroke rate!