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  #1  
Old 02-13-2015
danm danm is offline
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danm
Default what about strength?

I hope this is not going to open a can of worms here, but I would like to get some opinions and maybe even some personal experience about this.

The central mantra of TI is "the shape of your vessel matters more than the size of your engine"

But I am afraid that this is taken by many as "the size of your engine doesn't matter". I don't believe TI wants to say that, but from what I read on this forum it seems that this is how most people interpret it.

To me, the idea of working predominantly or almost exclusively on technique seems to be addressed mostly to people who already have decent strength but lack technique, for example triathlonists. But what about people who lack both? I know that TI also says that you will develop fitness while working on technique, and I agree with that 100%, but it is not the same thing - I am talking about strength, not aerobic conditioning.

I have come to believe that beyond a certain point, any improvement in technique is not sustainable without an improvement in strength. I mean, anyone can be taught to perform a perfect, Shinji-like if you want, stroke, but to maintain that over longer distances takes other things as well. Particularly if you want to improve speed, I think you need strength. And by strength I mean muscular strength.

I think the reason strength seems to be dismissed is that great TI swimmers (and all great swimmers actually), like Shinji or Terry already have it, even though they don't appear to, they don't look like body builders and may not even have well defined muscles, but that is not what matters. And I certainly don't believe that you need to look like a bodybuilder to have strength, but I am willing to bet that Shinji or Terry can do more pull-ups or push-ups or whatever you want to use as an indication of strength, than anyone who is struggling with improving technique and not seeing their times improve. I remember when I was in a swimming team growing up, the best swimmers were always the best at strength exercises as well; those who were not the best, like myself, well, we used to suck at pull-ups and push-ups as well...

So, what's your experience? has anyone tried a strength training programe and if so, what was the effect on swimming? And what about people here who are struggling to improve their times (or their ease of swimming), are you strong, can you do proper form pull-ups for example?
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Old 02-13-2015
Talvi Talvi is offline
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Great topic! I wonder about this too. For me though there is another factor: age.

But going at your topic head on first, I think it's not either/or. I'm sure cross-training helps but only if the strength can be deployed seemlessly into technique rather than twisting the technique to suiit itself. I believe that our movement/posture favors our strengths. If we develop a certain muscle set then out movement will change accordingly. Problem is that sport involves extremely complex movement so I suspect it's easy to make things worse by strength training. It's also what I see happen. The people in the group that focus on strength improve less than those who focus on the sport itself. I think cross-training is a great adjunct (though I could never been bothered with it) yest you could also easily reel off a list of apex sportsfolk who aesthetically speaking could do with more time at the gym.

I was going to add that a basic level of fitness is obviously required to build on, but then swimming is used for rehabilitation so that's wrong too.

Then there's age. Over the last 5 years I have realized that I am not getting younger. Obvious? Actually not so much, or other than in its tautological sense I now realize it wasn't for me! In the same way that an inadequate moisturizer regimen is not the reason old people look that way I have to accept the envelope is shrinking even as I work to expand it. Thing is that aging is not just for the old. Laure Manadou just got knocked off the top spot by some bright-eyed teen and of course that's the norm. That physical peak lasts a handful of years and then it's down to skill/technique.

What I consistently find with skiing and swimming is that the harder I try the worse I perform. Sadly though this equation is not bi-directional!
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  #3  
Old 02-13-2015
danm danm is offline
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I wonder why is it assumed that strength training will (almost) inevitably affect the stroke in a negative way and that you have to take extreme measures to ensure that doesn't happen...?

Talvi, maybe if you were stronger you could try harder and perform better?
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Old 02-13-2015
Talvi Talvi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danm View Post
Talvi, maybe if you were stronger you could try harder and perform better?
It's as I wrote Dan, I find that when I try harder I perform LESS well. Strange (maybe) but true. I don't perform less well because I run out of steam. For instance when I up the tempo to 1.00 or 0.90 more often than not my spl crashes so for the added effort there is not as much gain as there should be. On rare occasions my spl has stayed the same as my CSS but that's not my best technique spl. My goal therefore is to find my best technique and then build from that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by danm View Post
I wonder why is it assumed that strength training will (almost) inevitably affect the stroke in a negative way and that you have to take extreme measures to ensure that doesn't happen...?
I'm repeating myself bbut my answer to your question is that our movement/posture favors our strengths so that if we develop a certain muscle set then out movement/posture will change to suit. As sport involves extremely complex movement it's easy to make things worse by strength training because strength training involves only relatively simple movement i.e a subset of the muscle and skeletal movement involved in the real deal.

This is why strength training is an adjunct not a route in itself.
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A psychological disorder is: "Any personal construction which is used repeatedly in spite of consistent invalidation."
~ George Kelly

"The water is your friend.....you don't have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move."
~ Aleksandr Popov
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  #5  
Old 02-13-2015
danm danm is offline
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running out of steam is not the same as not having strength. maybe it's not clear what strength is, it's not aerobic fitness.

now, whether strength is an adjunct or the route I don't care, but most people here don't do any strength training AT ALL, adjunct or not.

I'm sorry Talvi but all you're saying about how more muscle would change the movement is theoretical, you don't really know, you assume. I can easily assume the opposite - my stroke is what it is now, if all the muscles involved in it get stronger, the stroke should get better. It's still an assumption for me as I don't know directly, that's why I'm asking if others do. But based on what I see in other swimmers I believe it is correct. I find it strange to assume that more strength will automatically lead to worsening of techique - if that is what you're saying indeed.
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  #6  
Old 02-13-2015
mjm mjm is offline
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Default Form Drag=speed killer

See below for two reviews of scientific literature related to strength training and swimming. Draw your own conclusions but most studies seem to show that strength training MAY improve short distance (25m or 50m) performance but even some of those studies are flawed and further studies are suggested.

TI stresses streamlining because wave drag increases as the cube of swimming velocity. In other words, the faster you swim form drag triples. See: http://coachsci.sdsu.edu/swim/bullets/forces4.htm

So from a TI standpoint a small improvement in streamlining usually has a larger positive impact on swimming velocity than strength training. Not sexy but true.

Science of Performance: Questioning USRPT Founder Dr. Rushall’s Thoughts On Dryland Training
http://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com...land-training/

Science of Performance: Strength Training and Swimming Performance
http://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com...g-performance/

Mike
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  #7  
Old 02-13-2015
efdoucette efdoucette is offline
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Great thread for my current situation.
I'm 60, only swimming 5 years, self taught. I'm swimming better than I ever have (although lots of issues, who doesn't, right). I focus every swim on technique. My goal over the last 3 years was / is to swim 1km continuous freestyle, haven't reached my goal yet. Although still optimistic I am starting to think it may not happen. My stroke is quiet, 17 spl and not a real energy zapper but I cannot push myself past 300 meters. This may be mental but I am starting to believe it is a lack of physical strength. I walk long distances, am in good health at 60 but do not have upper body strength. Is it necessary to get more muscle strength??? maybe and if so, well I think I surrender my 1km goal.
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Old 02-13-2015
CoachDavidShen CoachDavidShen is offline
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This is a topic that I have been very interested in so i'll give my take:

Danm you said:

The central mantra of TI is "the shape of your vessel matters more than the size of your engine"

But I am afraid that this is taken by many as "the size of your engine doesn't matter". I don't believe TI wants to say that, but from what I read on this forum it seems that this is how most people interpret it.

first i totally agree with you. this is the danger of putting well intentioned statements out there but in absence of a coach guiding you, they can be misinterpreted.

it is a truth that adding more propulsive energy to a vessel that has hips dragging low is a bad and unproductive idea. so other swimming systems' assertion that strength-endurance training training matters most is also unfortunately misinterpreted as "shape of your vessel doesn't matter". go figure.

another thing that gets misinterpreted from TI is the need to be relaxed. i have had clients who were well intentioned in trying to be relaxed, but they were so relaxed that upon the propulsive phase of the stroke, they weren't putting any oomph into the stroke back at all and were just lazily and ineffectively moving their hand back. this also has bad results. clearly some strength is needed to move your forward and you can't stroke the arm/hand back without some energy.

TI currently teaches in this order: balance, streamline, propulsion. strength is required in holding the vessel shape, to be able to transmit energy from toe flick of the 2BK and out the opposite arm, and to stroke and push water back with authority. without some minimum level of strength to perform these actions, a swimmer will find it hard to advance in skill.

i like to add a fourth dimension to our training called optimization after propulsion. once you have mastered the other 3 elements to some level, then you're ready to take those 3 elements into time, speed, and distance. however, to do so, inevitably there will need to be a strength increase of some sort.

what is strength? this term is also interpreted in many ways.

a lot of people equate strength with bulk. this is kind of false.

but it does lead to training for "strength" in the old way, aka arnold type training, which is really about bodybuilding and prepping for being on stage. but people have found that movement patterns and dysfunctions increase when you train that way: lots of movements with weights that isolate muscles. yes you can bulk up that way and look good on the beach and on stage, and yes you will most likely be able to move a lot of weight - hence some strength is increased - however, you risk screwing up your movement patterns in other activities.

strength is more accurately and effectively defined as ability to generate tension in the body. the more tension you can generate, the more energy you can put into your activity. great athletes are able to generate tremendous amounts of energy and release it all in a microsecond. this prevents fatigue and allows freedom of movement while generating tension when needed, and causing it to disappear when not needed. think of the actions of a great sprinter - they could not cycle their legs that fast if they were holding tension the whole time!

in today's world, humans are not very strong at all - our sedentary office lives have removed the need for strength. so some basic level of strength training in the right way will benefit most people. finding some time to get into more whole body movement strength training will most likely benefit a lot without messing up your movement patterns. and by strength training, simple bodyweight training could be enough for most people - if you cannot do a pushup correctly, what makes you think you'll be successful with a weighted barbell bench press?

i also remember listening to Brent Rushall talking about how strength training doesn't have any effect on his swimmers and their time is better spent in a pool rather than the gym. however, that is a loaded comment. he trains elites, who are already freakishly strong by many standards. i have also seen some videos and commentary from college swim teams who have incorporated crossfit workouts to great success. so it's not an end statement but most likely needs to be tailored to the needs of a particular athlete.

so in closing, it's a prioritization issue for TI training in my mind. work on the shape of the vessel first before worrying about putting strength into your stroke. don't misinterpret relaxation as lack of tension at all but you require a minimal level of tension or else you won't be able to swim at all - wet noodles don't move well in water! and at some point, if you want to swim faster, you'll have to optimize and put more energy into your stroke to do so. supporting that with the right dryland strength training can be productive if it's the right kind of training.
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Old 02-13-2015
Talvi Talvi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danm View Post
... I'm sorry Talvi but all you're saying about how more muscle would change the movement is theoretical, you don't really know, ..
Depends what you mean by "know". If it means "you have not done experimental work that has been veified in peer reviewed publications" then yes, you're correct, but then there are peer-reviewed journals and peer-reviewed journals. I have done my research, I'm in the end I'm just sharing my accumulated knowledge and experience because that's what I thought you asked for. And as far as I'm concerened the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and yes, I know. I have experience of training and growing in strength and that strength not translating into better performance. Simple as that.

Now, the theory I proposed is not worthy of the name. It merely reiterates a few axioms: the complexity of athletic movements is distinct to strength training. Top coaches routinely say this but it seems self-evident. It also seems also axiomatic to state that our bodies move according to their experience and learning. This is often called "muscle-memory" in disciplines from dance to martial arts to music to sports to physiotherapy. Can't see where the issue is in this.

Of course strength has a function. The weaker you are the less power you produce and this is directly proportional to the maximum theoretical effect you can achieve. The efficiency of the translation of that strength into the desired movement is the issue and equally true for beginners or for elites. Only the baselines are different. If a beginner has X kw available and is 10% efficient then another beginner with X kw available and 20% efficiency will go faster. Beginnere or elites the maths, again hardly worthy of the term, is the same. What does happen is that improvements reduce exponentially as strength and technique improve, until at the top of the tree it's all about 100th's.

Anyway, having said all that, you are also right! As technique gets better the appropriate strength must be improved in order to continue to improve from that. In other words if some change moves you from 50% to 60% efficiency then if your technique does not improve the only change will come from applying more power. Again though applied power does not equal strength. The strength still needs to be converted into the power and if the strength is in the wrong thing then it's of little benefit.

However, there seems to be a fundamental issue here. You asked for input but then in my case dismissed it as theory. So do you similarly dismiss resultion of conflicting expert opinion? After all that would also "just be a theory". So what are you looking for? Forgive me but it sounds as if you may be frustrated and looking for reassurance that strength training is the way forward for you. I believe it may well be. That's just a theory though. In the end Dan only you can find that out whether that's where the benefit lies for you as it depends on your precise technique, fitness, and goals. Again, just shooting the breeze.
__________________
A psychological disorder is: "Any personal construction which is used repeatedly in spite of consistent invalidation."
~ George Kelly

"The water is your friend.....you don't have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move."
~ Aleksandr Popov
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  #10  
Old 02-13-2015
Talvi Talvi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by efdoucette View Post
Great thread for my current situation.
I'm 60, only swimming 5 years, self taught. I'm swimming better than I ever have (although lots of issues, who doesn't, right). I focus every swim on technique. My goal over the last 3 years was / is to swim 1km continuous freestyle, haven't reached my goal yet. Although still optimistic I am starting to think it may not happen. My stroke is quiet, 17 spl and not a real energy zapper but I cannot push myself past 300 meters. This may be mental but I am starting to believe it is a lack of physical strength. I walk long distances, am in good health at 60 but do not have upper body strength. Is it necessary to get more muscle strength??? maybe and if so, well I think I surrender my 1km goal.
Hei, I can really empathise with this. My experience of it is that the limitation is a psychological "wall" which you just have to push on through. What is it that stops you doing 310m or 325m? Why do you stop at 300? If you can't go on just push off and relax, float, breathe, go slow. What do you find happens when you turn around after 300m and do another few metres? Do you start to drown? ;)

FWIW I did my first km in open water. I did 100m, then swam back, thought: "I'll do another "lap" and then I was on 400, only one more "length" and I'd be at half a km but having done that I "had to" swim back so that was 600m. I paused for a moment, as I'd not swum so far before and it seemed a bit odd, but then thought "wtf?!", and then I was at 800m!! At that point it seemed crazy to not just go for it, so I did.

If you can do 300m my money says you can do, 400m and if you can do that you can do 1km. Break the 400m barrier first and you'll see. It's nowhere near as hard as you think and your swimming will improve after 400m too. Promise! (unless there's something else to the story and I'm just being really insensitive that is)
__________________
A psychological disorder is: "Any personal construction which is used repeatedly in spite of consistent invalidation."
~ George Kelly

"The water is your friend.....you don't have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move."
~ Aleksandr Popov
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