Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

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Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby boroboy » Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:13 am

Hi All. I've been swimming for approx 6 months - just completed 4 ocean swims (2K) and currently doing plenty of squad training at the pool. However, I acknowledge my technique is awful and I need to go right back to square one. I'm currently in the 'buy everything to do with swimming' mode and have just purchased the TI DVD's (haven't watched yet) - and also just about to buy the Swimsnmooth DVD set (and Wetronome when its in stock).

My questions - is there much difference betyween the two schools in terms of overall phiolosophy / technique?, and can I use both and cherry pick what works for me or should I stick to one set only?

Thx

Mick
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Re: Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby andresmuro » Fri Feb 18, 2011 2:17 pm

Both can be good ways to improve swimming. However, they stress different styles. Total Immersion stresses longer strokes, stroke reduction, what is often referred as front quadrant swimming, and catch up freestyle drills. Front Quadrant Swimming (FQS) is when your recovering arm enters the quadrant in front of your shoulder while the other arm is still in front of your shoulder. TI is an exaggerated version of this. It encourages you to keep your front arm gliding while the other arm enters the water.

Swimsmooth on the other hand encourages you to increase your stroke which may lead to what is referred to a kayak style with one arm entering the water while the other one is exiting. It encourages that you increase your stroke rate and kick rate and try to establish a rhythm.

The higher stroke rate presumably will help you negotiate better the choppiness of open water swimming while a lower stroke rate may be more efficient in the pool.

To me, both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. I believe that if your form is terrible TI has some good initial technique things that will get you to start moving comfortably in the water. IMHO, some things about TI are very good while others are terrible. The worse thing about TI is that they want you to keep your head low and to push your upper body down to bring your legs up.

I encourage you to look at both approaches and take what you feel is best from both of them. Another thing that you can do is go to youtube and look at videos of Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe in long distance races. They are easy to find. I think that Hackett has one of the best forms that I've seen, but is not useful for everybody.

Three things that are essential to good swimming with any method. One is to keep your lower back arched to keep a high butt position. The other is to concentrate on pointing toes so your feet won't want to sink. third is to achieve a body role around an imaginary axis through your body. These three things require ankle, lower back and shoulder flexibility. Once you accomplish these things you'll be on your way.
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Re: Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby Mike A » Fri Feb 18, 2011 2:31 pm

I notice Mr Smooth's style is not quite what you call 'kayak' though - when the recovering arm enters the water the other is just about midway through the pull, hand roughly level with the shoulder. It doesn't leave the water until the next kick (by which time the leading arm is fully extended). You could even argue that Mr Smooth is just about Front Quadrant, since his hands cross just ahead of the shoulder - though he certainly doesn't glide as much as a TI swimmer.
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Re: Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby andresmuro » Fri Feb 18, 2011 2:56 pm

You are right. It is just not an exaggerated FQ that TI encourages.
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Re: Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby umi4smooth » Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:21 pm

Hi,
I have done a lot of drills with Total Immersion. Although the "phsysical" explanations given by Terry Laughlin are sometimes completely nuts (so good that Isaac Newton can't hear them): I believe it is a perfect way to introduce excellent body position, roll, balance, coordination and yes: feel for the water in the sense of buoyancy.
I also "tested" the method with 2 complete novices to crawl swimming and the result was stunning: both (a ten 10yr old boy, a 33 year old woman, both with no sports swimming background) learnt to swim a beautiful crawl style in just a sommer.

so why am I now looking at "Swimsmooth" ???

I personally "re-learnt" crawl swimming and due to the strong emphasis of TI on stroke length I started feeling great with my down to 9 strokes on a length in a 25 pool....
However, I also got very slow by doing so. And I also realized that whenever I tried to push harder and gain speed the style collapsed.
So, although the stroke efficiency "seems" to be very good: I simply could not gain speed.

The main explanation to this one can here prayed by Paul at every possible occasion: "glide".
It feels great and if your swimming is all about feeling great: go TI!!!
If you also show some ambition to get your laps done in less time then better go more individual. Where TI prays the one size fits all method (let us all be like the godfather of freestyle, A. Popov and maximize stroke length), Swimsmooth encourages you more to find your individual best fit and gives excellent tips how to improve in your own way.

Dunno, if this helps. But I would be happy to discuss this further.
I worked in Biomechanics labs during my study time and enjoyed to see how many things got revealed for "dry sports" . When it comes to swimming I believe we all are still at the very beginning to really understand what it is all about.

Greats form Germany,
Uwe
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Re: Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby andresmuro » Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:01 pm

Mike A wrote:I notice Mr Smooth's style is not quite what you call 'kayak' though - when the recovering arm enters the water the other is just about midway through the pull, hand roughly level with the shoulder. It doesn't leave the water until the next kick (by which time the leading arm is fully extended). You could even argue that Mr Smooth is just about Front Quadrant, since his hands cross just ahead of the shoulder - though he certainly doesn't glide as much as a TI swimmer.


I was examining Mr. Smooth in slow motion and he is not an FQ swimmer. His pulling arm is already exiting the front quadrant when the other arm starts the catch. For comparison purposes you can examine the video of Bill Kirby who is a true FQ swimmer.

One claim about TI is that by keeping one arm in front while the other starts the catch, is that this is more hydrodynamic. Laughlin's claim is that by keeping a gliding arm in front of the head you reduce drag so that momentum is maintained longer.

I can't either support nor discredit this claim. As Paul claims, different strokes for different folks. Pool swimmers seem to be mostly FQers and Tri swimmers are more rapid tempo types. Even in the pool you'll see differences. Davie Davies, great distance swimmer from GB has a distinct style from Grant Hacket, or Jansen Jensen. The two latter swimmers are clear FQers with a 5 to 6 beat kick. Davies, is a two beat kicker but he strokes with his arms like a maniac. Davies made a great transition to open water swimming taking second in the 10,000 in the last olympics by a very short distance.

Ultra long swimmer and one of my heroes Lynne Cox, who only swims ridiculous extreme stuff in open water claims that she always swims with a fast tempo to get into the rythm of the waves.
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Re: Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby dslippy » Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:30 pm

It seems to me that TI teaches some extremely important elements of the stroke. Learning how to slice through the water with the minimum resistance is vital. TI makes no particular claim I have seen to be an effective sprinting stroke.

At the same time, almost as expensive as resistance is acceleration. To the extent therefore that you allow any deceleration in a longer stroke through too great a patience, you are asking for an expensive waste of energy.

The longer stroke does help to allow a stronger catch and powerful pull.

A well timed and effective kick can help avoid a loss of speed and position the body to maximise the pull.

Where will that leave us?

TI has very clear value, but in the desire to reduce drag, you can lose sight of the need to avoid any loss of speed. A balance has to be found. Take the TI skills, add in the excellent technique tips here, and be ready to listen to your how you feel in the water to attain the technique and speed best suited to the immediate task.

I doubt very much there is any real conflict between TI and swimsmooth - it is not TI 'v' SS. it is I hope finding your own balance with them.
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Re: Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby Mike A » Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:34 pm

Yes, looking again I think you're right. When he turns to breathe his pulling arm is just marginally in the front quadrant, but most of the time not. I think what confused me is that some people seem to define front quadrant by the position where the hands pass each other - in Mr Smooth's case they do seem to pass each other in front of the head, which people seem to say is characteristic of a front quadrant style.
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Re: Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby andresmuro » Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:08 pm

dslippy wrote:It seems to me that TI teaches some extremely important elements of the stroke. Learning how to slice through the water with the minimum resistance is vital. TI makes no particular claim I have seen to be an effective sprinting stroke.

At the same time, almost as expensive as resistance is acceleration. To the extent therefore that you allow any deceleration in a longer stroke through too great a patience, you are asking for an expensive waste of energy.

The longer stroke does help to allow a stronger catch and powerful pull.

A well timed and effective kick can help avoid a loss of speed and position the body to maximise the pull.

Where will that leave us?

TI has very clear value, but in the desire to reduce drag, you can lose sight of the need to avoid any loss of speed. A balance has to be found. Take the TI skills, add in the excellent technique tips here, and be ready to listen to your how you feel in the water to attain the technique and speed best suited to the immediate task.

I doubt very much there is any real conflict between TI and swimsmooth - it is not TI 'v' SS. it is I hope finding your own balance with them.


I agree that TI is very good. it can help many people that have no idea how to swim to transition into swimmers and actually reasonably good ones. it has several drills to make people feel comfortable in the water. Also, learning to relax, glide and have a relaxed effortless stroke is a good way to begin to complete longer swims that can feel overwhelming to some. TI takes someone who has difficulty swimming 25 yards and can make them relaxed enough to swim some distance in no time. For a beginner wanting to do the first triathlon and just finish the swim, this is awesome.

TI, has some obvious errors. The biggest one is the idea that people should push down on the chest to bring the legs up. That is a mistake. People need to acquire a proper back arch to bring the butt up. Swimming encourages beginners to round the lower back which leads to dropping the legs. Second, people don't need to look down. The need to be able to look forward. I hate it when I swim with TI people that run into everything because they look straight down. Aside from this, I think that TI is very good, particularly for beginners.

Swimsmooth proposes a different model than TI suited more to triathletes with more experience. It favors shorter swimmers and comes from observations of triathletes. Laughlin states that his model comes from observations of top swimmers, which are practically fish. Trying to emulate Thorpe, who doesn't really have feet, but flippers at the end of his legs will never get us to move very fast.

At the same time, triathletes wear wetsuits. Wetsuits take away the high butt and efficient kick of top swimmers by making all of us have the butt on the surface. However, the wetsuit makes the kick slightly less efficient since it takes more energy to kick deep. Energy saved with wetsuit can be used to increase arm stroke rate and save the legs for the bike.

To see differences between a TI and a swimsmooth swimmer, look at the video of Bill Kirby vs Mr Smooth, or many of the triathlete videos posted.
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Re: Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby boroboy » Wed Feb 23, 2011 1:04 am

Thanks for all the valuable feedback. I'm now in possession of both sets of DVD's, and for me the obvious conclusion is that both offer a multitude of good training techniques - it's a case of cherry picking what works for me from both.

As both a novice pool and ocean swimmer, I do spend a fair bit of time observing other swimmers and competitors. To my relatively untrained eye, there is a clear difference in styles; the 'effortless' good pool swimmers seem to have a far longer graceful stroke whereas all of the front / middle runners in the ocean races use a much choppier, shorter stroke with the elbows far higher (which I guess is to be expected). As I'm happily trying to learn to be both an effective pool and ocean swimmer, I'm sure both schools of thought are going to be of great benefit.
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Re: Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby RadSwim » Wed Feb 23, 2011 3:18 am

I started with TI six years ago. It is a fairly good system for a novice adult swimmer. In 2005, the drills had several unintended side effects, that have been corrected in more recent TI materials.

I have been following Swim Smooth for about 3 years. It has much more for the intermediate and advanced swimmer. The emphasis on scapula position and stability is not found in most other self-study swimming methods and is particularly valuable for me.

The Ape Index (a Swim Smooth invention, I think) is very helpful in understanding why I have low stroke rate but still swim reasonably fast for my age and sedentary past history. At an AI of +6.5, 45 - 50 strokes per minute works well for me.

TI coaches tailor advice to individuals but the published TI materials provide fewer tools and tips for individualized training. Swim Smooth is superior in this respect.

Overall, I think the SwimSmooth DVDs and website are better quality and have a firmer foundation in sports science. Nevertheless, US and Canadian swimmers and triathletes do not have access to live coaching from Swim Smooth -- at least, not yet. For this group, live coaching from a TI coach is probably a good choice.
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Re: Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby Adam Young » Wed Feb 23, 2011 11:54 pm

Fascinating discussion about how you guys see our work - please keep it coming! I'm going to leave it undistorted by not getting involved in the discussions.

Quick thing on Bill Kirby's stroke, yes he's very catch-up style when demonstrating in our DVD Boxset. When he was racing he switched to a much more conventional stroke timing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5tXUdlwVd8&hd=1

Cheers,

Adam
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Re: Swimsmooth v Total Immersion

Postby andresmuro » Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:33 am

Adam Young wrote:Fascinating discussion about how you guys see our work - please keep it coming! I'm going to leave it undistorted by not getting involved in the discussions.

Quick thing on Bill Kirby's stroke, yes he's very catch-up style when demonstrating in our DVD Boxset. When he was racing he switched to a much more conventional stroke timing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5tXUdlwVd8&hd=1

Cheers,

Adam


Awesome video of Kirby. Thx. He still has a farily FQ style characteristic of a lot of the Aussie swimmers and probably of the times when FQ was in vogue. It is interesting to see how he windmills his right arm. Even with his FQ stroke, he has an amazing tempo.
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