what is SWOLF

When you first start swimming you will soon start to hear the word SWOLF and SWOLF score. So the reason you are visiting this article is to understand what is SWOLF, how do I use it to improve my swimming and what fitness watches have SWOLF measurement built in.

If you are training with a sports watch like a Garmin Fenix 5, Apple Watch or a Samsung gear sport then you will have seen SWOLF as a data matric on your stats. By having SWOLF built into your fitness watch you have the benefit of it being calculated for you, however, the sports watches are not always accurate and that is why in this article I will take you through how to calculate SWOLF manually and how to use SWOLF with your fitness watch for improving your swimming performance.

What is SWOLF?

what is SWOLF

SWOLF in swimming is the measurement of your swimming efficiency. It measures speed and distance per stroke, usually in a pool. You can also measure SWOLF in an open water swim, but you need to use intervals and that is outside the scope of this article.

Whilst SWOLF is an important metric for improving swimming performance, it’s just one data point you should look at. You should also look things like heart rate performance during swimming and others to get a holistic view of your overall swimming performance.

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How do you calculate SWOLF

How do you calculate SWOLF score

Your SWOLF score is calculated by calculating the time taken to complete a length and the number of strokes needed to do so. if it takes you 40 seconds and 20 strokes to complete one length, you would have a SWOLF score of 60.

It’s important to understand how to use it correctly. so here is the breakdown of how to calculate SWOLF score manually.

Please note that when calculating SWOLF score, you should try to use a 50-meter pool, but you should get a fairly accurate score with a 25-meter pool

  • Swim one length of the pool
  • Record your time in seconds
  • Count the number of strokes you take
  • Take the sum of (2) and (3). That is your SWOLF score.

The aim is to optimise your swimming efficiency by getting from one end of the pool to the other with the least amount of effort in the shortest time. You will also find that a SWOLF score can be affected by doing different swimming styles and you should take note of the score for each in order not to lose track of the SWOLF score for each stroke type.

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SWOLF tracking fitness wearables

SWOLF tracking on fitness wearables

Now that we are seeing SWOLF score built into fitness watches, this matrix is being talked about a lot more. As part of the reviews on Active JR, swimming is one of the areas that is tested and the following fitness watches below have all given a pretty accurate SWOLF score when comparing it to the manual SWOLF score calculating method above.

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All fitness watches are different in terms of how it displays the SWOLF score and you will need to play yours. So for instance, if you are wanting to see your SWOLF score during drills or rest periods whilst swimming then with the Fenix 5, for instance, you can have this as a data field on the screen

How do you train with SWOLF?

How do you train with SWOLF

Swimming is an activity that millions of people take part in daily each week and for most just getting into the pool and doing a few lengths is enough. However, for some understanding swimming data, in particular, SWOLF is important.

Measuring your SWOLF score is not just for Olympians, all Swimmers can benefit from monitoring SWOLF regardless of swim ability or experience. So to understand how to train with SWOLF is a good start to improving overall swimming efficiency.

The best way to improve your SWOLF is to do swimming drills and either use the method above to calculate your SWOLF score or use one of the fitness watches with SWOLF built in.

Swim Drills to improve SWOLF

Start by doing 50 meters and then calculating your SWOLF score. Continue to repeat over a number of lengths while trying different stroke methods. At the end of each interval take a note of the SWOLF score, stroke type and what you did differently. At the end of the drills, you can look back and see how you did.

Doing this over time will help you improve your swimming efficiency and by that, I mean your SWOLF efficiency. You should also keep gliding to a minimum as this will affect the data and will affect your SWOLF score.

When completing these drills, you should separate stroke types like front crawl and breaststroke to understand the SWOLF for each stroke type and don’t mix them up.

Don’t just focus on the SWOLF score

Swim training

It’s important to know that SWOLF is not the be all and end all of being a great swimmer.

While SWOLF is an indicator of efficiency, it’s not the only one. Factors like heart rate and VO2 Max can also be thrown into the mix. The more advanced fitness watches like the Garmin Fenix 5 or Suunto spartan trainer will give you heart rate and other important fitness data when paired with a swim compatible chest heart rate monitor.

You also need to stay clear of comparing your SWOLF score to other people as having a lower SWOLF due to being taller or longer-limbed is not necessarily indicative of better efficiency than a shorter person. So my SWOLF score is around 60, my partners SWOLF is around 50, this does not mean she is more efficient as we are different heights and limb lengths.

Hopefully, you have found this article useful to help you understand SWOLF and how to use it in your swim training. Remeber SWOLF is just one factor and you should ensure that its part of an holistic training programme. 

If you have questions or comments about SWOLF, then leave them in the comments section below.

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