There is no question that swimming in a short course pool is faster than swimming in a long course pool! The Olympic sized swimming pool is gold standard in international competition. Times recorded in a Long Course (50 meters) pool are considered the most respectable in the swimming community. When you look at the best swimmers in the world, their times in Short Course (25 meters or 25 yards) are significantly faster.
Interested in learning why?
Check out this week’s Whiteboard Wednesday!

Short Course vs Long Course

Short course is significantly faster than long course swimming because of the turns! Each turn does two things: 1) increases speed, and 2) allows for a period of inactivity. Pushing off the wall is much faster than swimming any stroke (including underwater dolphin kick). The period immediately following the push off the wall is a ‘resting‘ period where the arms and legs are taken out of their normal stroke cycles allowing the body to recover.

Time Comparisons

Below are a few examples of some of the best swimmers in the world in their respective strokes and how they perform in Short Course vs Long Course. As you can see short course times are much faster averaging 2-3%. In some cases turns can lower a swimmer’s time 5% or more if they have very strong underwater dolphin kick or pull outs in breaststroke.

  • Sarah Sjöström (50 Freestyle)
    • Short Course Meters: 23.00
    • Long Course Meters: 23.67
    • Difference: +2.8%
  • Adam Peaty (100 Breaststroke)
    • Short Course Meters: 55.94
    • Long Course Meters: 57.13
    • Difference: +2.1%
  • Katinka Hosszú (400 Individual Medley)
    • Short Course Meters: 4:19.46
    • Long Course Meters: 4:26.36
    • Difference: +2.6%
  • Chad le Clos (100 Butterfly)
    • Short Course Meters: 48.08
    • Long Course Meters: 50.56
    • Difference: +4.9%

Additional Considerations

  • Strokes – Freestyle has the lowest impact, while Breaststroke and Backstroke have the greatest difference.
  • Distance – the shorter the event, most often the bigger the difference. Distance freestyle has the lowest change.
  • Gender – Men are typically able to produce more power and carry more momentum off the walls which in turn makes thei difference larger between short course and long course.

Workout Tips

  • Balanced Training – try to swim in both short course and long course pools consistently.
  • Compete in SC and LC Pools – training in a pool is not enough. You have to train your mind and body to perform in the pool course you’re trying to peak at.
  • Modify Workouts – train for long course in a short course pool (or vice versa) by adjusting sets to either build capacity or increase power.


I hope this video was helpful in understanding why short course swimming is faster than long course swimming. Until next time, happy swimming!

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