What does DPS mean in swimming?

DPS stands for Distance per Stroke or simply the distance you swim with one stroke. DPS swimming training is all about stroke rate efficiency improvements.

DPS comes in two parts: Distance and Stroke. Most beginners make a mistake by thinking that DPS training should be all about "how little strokes can you do?", yet it is more about - how efficient your strokes can get?

What is DPS swim training?

Most DPS swimming drills make you glide for as long as you can. Such drills focus on stroke precision rather than speed... Wait for it... To increase your swimming speed! Let's unwrap this:

Swimming Speed = Distance / Time

This means, that if your single individual swim stroke becomes more efficient, you swim faster when going full power. Swimming DPS drills and training work on a simple notion, that if you concentrate on each and every part of your swim stroke you can increase the amount of pull you generate with it.

More efficient pull, more efficient stroke finish, longer glide and maximized stroke efficacy - these are just some of most important distance per stroke goals. Being able to do fewer strokes improves other areas of your swimming performance thus making you a faster swimmer.

DPS = Lower Stroke Count

Lowered stroke count when swimming full power, means better swimming technique. The lower swimming stroke count a swimmer has, the more technically efficient the swimmer is. We all know that in swimming, brute power and tense actions bring you nowhere, yet proper and efficient technique is what separates swimming pro from a beginner.

DPS = More Efficient Stroke Rate

Stroke rate should not be confused with stroke count. Stroke rate is measured by how many strokes per minute, while stroke count is how many stroke per distance. This all adds together in the equation during competition and means that if you have improved your stroke count, then you will be faster when swimming at your maximum stroke rate.

DPS = Increased Stroke Force

Trying to count and minimize your stroke count per distance (lap?) helps you realize what are the "soft" and "soggy" parts of your swim stroke are. In other terms: where in your stroke are you applying less stroke force? Where you are not pulling yourself enough? Spotting that and improving so that the stroke force persists all throughout the full stroke motion is important.

DPS = Full Stroke Length

Making sure that stroke is as long as technically possible is another great goal for DPS training. There are always place to improve and when it comes to stroke length, DPS drills is what makes you think more about what your hands are doing. This usually leads with more efficient and lengthy proper swim stroke.

DPS = Strong Stroke Finish

The biggest problem most DPS drills are trying to solve is the end motion of your swim stroke. The faster you try to swim, the more likely the second half of your stroke will make you exit your arm from water faster. This means second half of your stroke can lack pressure and force. Distance per Stroke training helps you to get a better feeling of the full stroke and train yourself not to "loose that second part of stroke" when you are swimming full power later on.

How to improve your swimming DPS?

On the most fundamental technical swimming basis - trying to do as little strokes throughout the course of a distance (lap or length) is at the hearth of DPS training. But that's not all, furthermore there are many ways you can improve your swimming distance per stroke. Here are most common DPS drills that swimmers and coaches swear by.

Count Strokes DPS Drill

Swimming and counting your strokes, while trying to make less of them is what DPS is all about. Before you try any other DPS drills, learn how to count your strokes. Repeat this process throughout many practices, until you find your baseline stroke count. Us swimmers come in all sizes, shapes, ages and levels - find your baseline DPS so you can improve of it later on. Simply count your strokes.

Lowest Stroke Count Possible DPS Drill

Try to swim a lap, or a length with as little strokes as possible. Don't cheat with things like 25 meter dive, the goal here is not to cheat the system, the goal is to really feel every centimeter or inch of that stroke. Glide after stroke, realize how far you can go if you don't start another stroke. After that, play a little with stroke efficacy - try adding a couple of extra strokes, but maintaining the full length.

This will increase your water feeling. Improving the feel of the water is what DPS training is all about.

Fist Swimming DPS Drill

Swim with your palm closed. Swim with two fingers open. Swim with three fingers open. These are all variations on the same DPS improvement method - fist swimming. Not using your open palm when swimming encourages you to also accommodate towards things like forearm movement, motion and positioning. This leads you to learn how to do a full arm stroke, that leads to more proper and total immersion when it comes to your swim arm movement.

3 and Pause DPS Drill

This drill might feel weird at first, but it teaches a valuable distance per stroke lesson. It's all about taking three powerful strokes and stopping before taking three more. The key is to keep the stop roughly 0.5-1sec, so that you loose momentum before you try to take more strokes.

This will make your next stroke after pause dig down from the deep, work on proper water catching and work hard to accelerate for more strokes. The best part is that you will try to regain proper body position and trust immediately after pause. This DPS drill have a more extreme variation which is doing a single stroke instead of three and then pausing.

Stroke Count Time DPS Drill

Doing a 4x25, 3x50, or any other similar DPS stroke count drill is another great way to realize your stroke potential. The logic behind this is simple - do less strokes with each set, yet keeping your swim time exactly the same. So you have to swim at the same pace, count your strokes and then swim the next lap in the same time, just do less strokes.

Don't cheat when doing DPS training!

Doing longer dives, drastically increasing kick count or power and other techniques can be used to cheat when working on distance per stroke. Don't do it. Try to keep flip turn dives and kicks as consistent as you can. Think about your arms, nothing else. The goal of DPS training isn't to get a lower count than others or you got before.

The core DPS goal is to use stroke counting as a tool to drastically improve your swim speed and technique!

Good swimming and fun stroke counting!

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