Why You Should NEVER Swim with a Gallop Freestyle Stroke!

Welcome Back! In today’s blog post, we are going to be discussing the ever trendy (and fairly common) Gallop Freestyle Stroke – including its’ pros and cons. When Katie Ledecky came onto the scene, she was infamous for bringing attention to the Gallop Freestyle Stroke and it changed the way a lot of coaches were teaching Freestyle technique. There are a few common issues within this technical style though and some glaring reasons why this technique doesn’t fit all types of swimmers.

Let’s dive into it now!

What is the Gallop Freestyle Stroke?

Basically the Gallop Freestyle stroke is a style of Freestyle Technique that involves an unevenness of a swimmer’s stroke rate between both their arms. Due to this imbalance, there is a noticeable pause after a single stroke cycle. This type of stroke is often coupled with a single-side breathing pattern.

I normally describe the Gallop Freestyle Stroke as swimming with a ‘nemo fin’. The arm that you breathe against will inevitably pause longer up top, compared to the ‘nemo fin’ arm that is arm with the quicker stroke rate and the side the swimmer breathes towards. The distances that these two arms travel are the same, but the rate that they move differs which gives a swimmer the gallop ‘look’.

Here is a visual of the Gallop Freestyle Stroke below:

Why Shouldn’t Swimmers Gallop?

For mostly 3 main reasons, let’s dive into them one by one!

1.) The Kick Matters SO MUCH!

I’m sure you’re reading this and like huh, DUH – but it is true. With a Gallop Freestyle Stroke having an uneven stroke rate from left to right arm, you are stuck with that awkward pause after one full stroke cycle – which means NOTHING is generating propulsion at that time. This is bad for lots of swimmers – UNLESS – they are strong kickers!

One of my favorite blogs I have ever written is titled the Fastest Freestylers are the Fastest Kickers because it is true. You want to have a great body line and a nice, consistent motor from the backend of the Freestyle stroke – regardless of what the arms are doing and especially, if you’re thinking about using a Gallop Freestyle Stroke. You cannot get away with having a mediocre Freestyle Kick and swimming with a Gallop Freestyle Stroke!

2.) One Arm Generates WAY MORE Propulsion!

As we talked about above, there is one arm that swims at a slower stroke rate because it is the arm you breathe against. Let’s use Katie’s Video (from above) as the example.

Katie prefers to breathe to the right side, so her current ‘nemo fin’ is her right arm and her longer/slower arm is her left arm. Because the left arm gets to spend more time through its’ stroke cycle, it generates more propulsion compared to the right. The extra time the left arm gets compared to the right arm allows it always produce a higher force, which makes the output from the arms uneven.

There is also a vertical body raise seen in the Gallop Stroke as well. The raise of the body upwards happens when Katie’s left arm enters into the water and then, the body lowers down during her right arm pull. This vertical raise is another reason why the propulsion from the arms stays uneven during a Gallop Freestyle Stroke.

Here is a Drill I’ve Used to Teach a Swimmer the Gallop Stroke and the Vertical Body Raise:

For most swimmers, you want to generate as much propulsion from both arms. It doesn’t make sense to have one arm significantly responsible for the majority of the propulsion generated through their Freestyle Pull – which adds to the argument on why MOST swimmers should never swim with a Gallop Freestyle Stroke!

3.) Higher Risk of Injury

There’s multiple reasons as to why a Gallop Freestyle Stroke puts a swimmer at a higher risk of injury and a lot of them are due to the fact that the stroke itself is unbalanced. The longer/slower arm spends more time with the hand physically above the head, which is already a vulnerable position. On top of that, the swimmer spends the majority of their time rotating their head to a single side to breathe – which can be disastrous for their neck. And, they also have a total rotational imbalance within their body too!

All of these 3 main issues stemming from an imbalanced Freestyle stroke can increase a swimmer’s risk of injury. The way I see it is some swimmers start to naturally Gallop and what you should do as a coach is make sure they know how to get themselves into and out of a Gallop stroke. That way they are able to make their own decisions on when to Gallop versus not. This will avoid them Galloping all the time.

The Reality of the Gallop Stroke!

It is really not for all swimmers. This type of stroke technique should be swimmers on the elite level who already have trained their kicks to be great, have so much body awareness and control of what they’re doing, and already have injury prevention built into their training routine.

Your average, everyday lap swimmer – along with age-group swimmers do not need to learn the Gallop Freestyle Stroke. This technique is a perfect example of ‘just because Katie Ledecky does it, does not mean it’s right for you’.

Stay tuned for next week, where we discuss how often should swimmers be training with fins! Also, sign up for our FREE webinar on Crossover Turns here! The replay will be sent to ONLY people who registered!

Until Next Time,

Abbie Fish

9 Responses

  1. You really know what you are talking about. Brief and exact explanation to make your own decisions about any topic. Thank you so much

  2. I think the main reason some swimmers (like me) start to naturally Gallop is that one kicking leg is noticeable more effective in terms of propulsion than the other. If your dominant leg is the opposite leg to your breathing side, then the gallop technique IS best for you. Otherwise it doesn’t make much sense.

    1. It really doesn’t have anything to do with the legs – unless you are speaking specifically to a 2 beat kick. A true Gallop holds a 6 beat kick the whole time – that’s the fastest way to swim it.

  3. Thanks for discouraging this distortion of freestyle. It is actually caused by an inadequate rotation of the non-breathing hip which is a flaw. She probably learned to (over)compensate, and that’s why most swimmers just don’t understand it’s a flaw.

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