Have you viewed the Video Tutorials page yet?
Because freestyle is by far the most popular stroke to study, our videos there tend to focus on that stroke.
We have some new additions:
We have hundreds of text and diagram articles in the Dojo on so many aspects of swimming. But some things are better explained verbally and with video. So we are glad to produce these as we see a need. And, if you have a question about the stroke or swimming in general, that may be better answered in video, please send us your question and request for a video answer.
In traditional swimming lingo the underwater part of the freestyle stroke is called the pull, as in pulling back on the water, as in pulling the body forward, and this is regarded as the most important part of the whole stroke.
In Total Immersion we call this the catch-and-hold, because we understand the main purpose of this part of the stroke is to get a grip on the water at a certain point, hold that point, transfer that resistant force to the other side of the body and slide forward in streamline Skate Position.
In the traditional style stroke, the swimmer is urged to fling the arm forward in the recovery, splash a flat arm down into the water and immediately start pulling back. This usually results in the swimmer not reaching as far in front of the body as he might be able to. Because the pull, and especially the last half of the pull is believed to be the most valuable part – after all, one can feel the arm and shoulder muscles working hard to make that final push, with the hand traveling down the thigh.
In contrast, in the Total Immersion view, the entry and extension is the most important part of the whole stroke, where the body is channeling all the gathered force into that streamlined body and most easily sliding forward. Then the swimmer reaches and gets a grip on the water as far in front of the body as he comfortably can. The first half of the stroke is viewed as the most important part, starting as far in front as possible. The swimmer is urged to shape the forearm at the set of the catch in such a way to get that grip on the water as smoothly, as quickly as possible far in front, then hold that grip as the body rotates forward, around that grip point.
In the traditional style stroke, since the swimmer wants to push back as far as possible, he must pause his elbow at his waist while the forearm-hand continue to push back (using the tricep muscle), pivoting on that elbow. By pausing the elbow (not allowing it to exit and begin the recovery) the hand can keep pushing and feel resistance of the water. Observers can often see a big splash or ‘rooster tail’ of water shooting out behind the swimmer as his hand flings that final bit of water behind.
In the Total Immersion style stroke, the elbow never pauses, as it gets to its farthest point, but immediately ‘boomerangs’ out of the water and forward on an elliptical path. The hand continues to drift back behind the elbow, like a tail whipping behind. The elbow moving forward while the hand moving backward neutralizes the water pressure against the hand. The grip on the water fades away as the hand reaches the waist. There is not final push of the forearm and hand. Instead, as the elbow swings forward and the hand extends behind to its farthest point, the elbow pulls the hand forward, slipping it out of the water without splash or sound, like slipping an arm out of the sleeve of a jacket.
Can you see the difference?
In traditional swimming, the front end is not important, the back end is. So one must pause the elbow in order to keep pushing water past the waist and down the leg. The overlap of the arms before switch, the patient full extension into Skate, the reach to start the catch farther in front – these are less valuable and therefore quickly sacrificed in the eagerness to get back to the pull and push at the end.
In Total Immersion, the front end is most important. No pause at the back is allowed because the arm is eager to get back in front, to get back into streamline, to get to the next gripping point farther in front of the body. The absence of the elbow pause means the hand has nothing to lever against at the very end of the stroke and so pressure dissolves from the waist line back.
Especially in a fast tempo stroke, every swimmer has to cut down travel distance and time somewhere – there are options on where to cut the stroke down, and those options are not equal.
The default human solution is to sacrifice the front and keep the back end, because this is easiest on the muscles to do, especially when they are getting fatigued, but less effective for actually maintaining forward momentum. This results in a shorter and shorter stroke, with an increasing tempo as fatigue sets in.
But the superior solution, the one that does not come easy, but when trained is more effective and maintaining forward momentum, is to sacrifice the back end and keep priority on the front end. This results in a stroke that resists shortening at fatigue sets in, allowing the swimmer to protect pace better.
One of our Dojo swimmers received a video analysis report recently, and one of the improvement opportunities I gave him was to make his entry closer to the shoulder. He was ready to accept this but still wondered why this was more advantageous than extending a bit farther over the surface like he sees so many swimmers do, even TI swimmers like Coach Terry in some of the videos. After writing my response I realized more of you might appreciate an answer too so I will share it here..
On the freestyle stroke, why have the hand enter closer to shoulder?
Good question, and I am glad you don’t accept the correction without understanding why.
There is a tendency for all of us to extend over the surface too far, and the faster the tempo, the more momentum and the farther that arm wants to extend before entering.
But the purpose for the arm entering sooner is that we want to deliver rotational force into the water through the extending arm as soon as streamline permits (as soon as we can shape the body into streamline to get more distance per stroke), because we need all that power to help part water molecules ahead, where our body needs to go. We have no need of parting air molecules since the body travels under water, not above.
As you observed in some videos, you will see this entry point creeping forward in any of us. But rather than a trait to imitate, it is a trait we want to resist.
It is a similar situation in breathing: we must discipline ourselves to turn the head to air and return as soon as possible, because the tendency is for us to get lazy (especially when feeling fatigued) and turn later, stay longer which ends up causing more problems. Though we see faces just beginning to touch air as the recovery arm comes out, and then see their arm go over their own goggles, this is something we want to avoid, not imitate.
In the entry, letting the arm extend above the surface is a ‘lazy’ action. When the body starts to feel fatigue the brain wants to shift its priority to energy conservation and it will pull resources away from actions that make more effective forward propulsion – in this case, it would rather extend in the air where it is easy on the arm, but extending in the water is the work that must continue if we want to make forward motion easier. Extending through air is easy… and ineffective at cutting that low-pressure path through the water for the rest of the body to slide through. This is one of the points in the stroke cycle where we must exercise great discipline to maintain optimal form, before and especially during fatigue.
At faster and faster tempos that arm will want to swing farther and farther forward – it has more momentum – but we should aim to resist and minimize this forward creep of the entry location.
I should address this concern I have heard from several lately when working on breathing skills…
You start investing your practice time on breathing skills and you notice other skills (like kick, recovery, and catch) that still require your focus seem to degrade. You know you can’t focus on everything at once, but it is frustrating to watch those other things fall apart while you turn your attention this way. So how do you work on breathing but not lose ground in those other areas?
First, fixing breathing is priority because poor breathing causes so many problems with energy waste, stress, and takes up mental/emotional space. If you have problematic breathing, it is lowering your ability to work on any other area. Get this breathing puzzle solved (or at least greatly improved) and you free up so many more resources to use when you go back to work on the other skills.
Second, easier breathing is totally dependent on your most fundamental freestyle skills – you must pay attention and work on the most important features of your body position and movement patterns in order to make breathing better – all those fundamental skills we work on in Superman, Skate and Recovery drills. So, the most essential pieces of your body control are going to be protected and improved when you do thorough work on breathing.
This then puts those ‘other’ skills that you are worried about into a different category – other skills like kick, recovery, and catch are advanced skills that are also dependent on that same foundation. You may not be able to focus on the kick or the catch while working on breathing, and you may feel that those suffer because of it. But you are keeping the foundation for everything tuned, and likely any improvements on the foundation which benefit breathing will also directly benefit the other advanced skills as well. It’s a win-win.
Bottom line – you’ve felt motivated to work on breathing right now by some high price you’ve paid for having inferior breathing. There is a good reason you are focusing on this right now and not something else. You’ve just got to focus on this at this moment and set aside concern for any other advanced skills – you can work on those next, once you acquire improvement in this breathing section first. And that work on other advanced skills will be easier because you can breathe easier.
First things first.
One thing at a time, in sequence of priority.
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Some of you have been drawn to develop your 2 Beat Kick lately.
I would like to call your attention to some resources that may help you.
First, if you are new to this kicking style called the 2 Beat Kick, then you may first want to view some of our stroke demonstrations on the Video Tutorials page. In any video where you see me swimming whole stroke you will see a 2-Beat Kick behind me.
It would be important that you first understand how the 2 Beat Kick is different from other styles of the flutter kick (namely, the 6-Beat and the 4-Beat kick). Then, you may learn why we prefer this style for most of our swimming purposes, and then to learn how to acquire it.
Please start by reading this article 2BK Defense, which will provide some additional links to the remaining articles on learning the 2BK.
And then you may go back to the Video Tutorials page and study the 2BK drill videos there which show you the various exercises we teach to help you train your brain and legs to prefer this kick pattern.
Then you may want to check out the 2 Beat Kick section on the 101 Focal Points page.
Enjoy, and let me know how it goes!