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Old 01-23-2009
FredMcG FredMcG is offline
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Default Body type etc

Hi

I'm sure this idea would have been raised in this forum before, but I'm new to the forum, so I apologize.

I did a lot of swimming as a kid. Started very young and up until early teens had a lot of very good coaching and did a lot of training - up to 11 sessions per week. At the age of 11-12 I was swimming 30 seconds for 50m - not world-beating but not too bad back in the 70s.

As I matured through my early to mid teens I became quite unable to swim (fast). I became frustrated at training because it was too difficult to keep up with the other kids, and ended up quitting. Through this same period I became, as a school boy, able to run 100m under 11 seconds and played tennis for my country and as a professional after I finished school.

I like swimming, find it relaxing etc, but now as a 45 year old it takes me 1 minute to swim 50m (during a 1 or 2km swim - if I push it along a bit I can do 50m in say 45 seconds, but couldn't keep it up). This is very slow. Old ladies in the pool swim breast stroke faster.

I have read the Total Immersion book and think it is fantastic but, probably because of all the good coaching and training I have done in my life down here in Australia, you can believe me when I say that this is exactly how I swim (even before I read the book). I do all of the so-called front-quadrant swimming, rotating, swimming on my side, I'm well balanced etc. I've studied myself closely on video and apart from the fact that I'm not actually going anywhere, I could be Hackett or Thorpe. My slowing down in the pool does not seem to me to be a result of me "forgetting" how to swim. The bit I can't do is catch the water in my hand like I am grabbing something fixed in the pool. When I move my arms my body does not move past the point where my hand grips the water. Quite the opposite. My arm moves through the water and my body, it ain't going anywhere.

The reason I am fired up about this now is that I see the same thing happening to my son as he now approaches 12 years old. Having been a very good swimmer with very good technique, he is now finding it harder to keep up at training. He wants to drop down to the lower group (which is fine by me, of course - just as long as he enjoys it). I watch him at training and I see exactly what happened to me at about the same age. To keep up with the other kids he has to put in a much bigger effort, which he just can't keep up over the whole session. It's no fun struggling to keep up.

Whilst my son's technique is up there with the best in the squad, there are plenty of fat kids, kids with absolutely terrible technique, kids who, when doing fly can't get their arms out of the water, all going faster than my son - seemingly without trying. I also see this in the pool myself with other adults. Some with terrible technique go effortlessly faster than me.

Both my son and I are lean, but all solid and dense muscle, good sprinters and jumpers, small (well, not very small, but not big) in the shoulders with skinny arms, small feet, small hands, muscular (but not big) trunks and legs.

After all of that background, my point is: whilst it seems clear to me that the streamlined front quadrant swimming techniques set out in Terry's work are the correct way to swim, there must be more to it than just this. The laws of physics would seem to suggest that the mass and/or volume of the shoulders and arms in the water relative to the mass of the torso and legs would be an important factor. What about buoyancy? It would seem to have nothing to do with strength - if you lie in the gym on a bench and pull on a pulley handle your body is fixed - you are just measuring strength of your pull. This is not what is happening in the pool. In the water, as you make the swimming stroke two things can happen - your arm can stay where it is and your body can go forward or your body can stay where it is and your arm will move back through the water. All other things being equal, this just seems to me to be a matter of the relative properties of the two bits of your body.

This bugs the hell out of me and makes me bitter and cynical towards swimming as a sport because I think it has more to do with your body shape than it does with any sort of athletic ability. I want someone to tell me why I am wrong and what I can do to be a better swimmer, but the one thing I can tell you for sure is that the answer (both for me and my son) is not more of the Total Immersion tips (because that's how we swim anyway).

Any insightful advice would be much appreciated.

Regards

Fred McG
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Old 01-23-2009
shuumai shuumai is offline
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Perhaps part of the issue is muscle mass. Maybe as your son became older he developed a higher ratio of muscle mass which makes him less buoyant which makes him sink more which makes him "climb" to air to breathe which disrupts the streamlined position?

As far as not being able to grip the water, did you try the obvious test? Put on a set of hand paddles, keep your elbows high, go easy and see what happens. Of course, the TI approach would be to use fist gloves to make your hands even smaller and teach you to pull with your forearms more. Both would be interesting to try.

As an adult on-set swimmer, after one year of swimming I'm not very fast. I'm about 5'8" tall (or short depending on your perspective), 150-155 pounds, have a slightly soft waistline, skinny arms, but my feet are relatively big (US 11.5 wide) and my hands relatively wide.

In general, I don't have much capacity for sustained effort, so I don't assume I'm just bad at swimming. I think there is some hope for me. The areas I'm concerned with are technique (of course), flexibility, core strength, and heart. Yeah...I think that just about covers everything. haha Though recently I've been working on my kick with fins. (I won't even consider using paddles yet since my shoulder aches sometimes. Maybe later after I gain more flexibility and stability.)

EDIT: more thoughts...

Swimmers don't usually have big arms, do they? Does your son run a lot? Could running and jumping make the ankles stiff resulting in a non-propulsive kick? Or worse, a kick with negative propulsion.

Last edited by shuumai : 01-23-2009 at 03:57 PM.
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  #3  
Old 01-23-2009
AWP AWP is offline
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Fred,
First let me say that in my opinion TI cannot be identified as merely "front quadrant" swimming or just a "style" of swimming but more an approach and mindset to better improve one's swimming through very distinct movements.

Having said that, you can very well be swimming front quadrant but if your intent is on pulling your arms you may very well "be going nowhere." Especially if you're as 'cut' as you say. Imagine trying to move that machine of a bod through the water with those skinny arms! ( hope you're laughin')

Working ((with)) your body and the water, utilizing weight shifts, can dramatically improve your movement. Add to that a well timed kick and the results are impressive ... in time.

Please consider trying the TI progression, if only for arguements sake, and let us know how you and your son come along. With your experience combined, and some good 'ol persistance, you'll move through 'swimmingly'.

Any vid ?

Take care and much luck.
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Old 01-23-2009
shuumai shuumai is offline
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Look. Even this Fred can get moving with skinny legs and without big hands or feet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5Lnt...eature=related
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  #5  
Old 01-23-2009
Rhoda Rhoda is offline
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What happens if you take your hands out of the equation and swim with closed fists? Try it and see if you just slip out of control, or if eventually you learn to "grab" the water with your forearms and use your abdominal muscles to pull yourself over the arm. (It's even more obvious if you do it in a breaststroke pull.) As others have mentioned, if you are just pulling your hands back, that's a very small muscle group providing your propulsion.
Oh, and by the way, fat doesn't necessarily mean unfit, any more than thin always means fit. I have plenty of thin co-workers who haven't exercised since 6th grade.
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  #6  
Old 01-24-2009
RadSwim RadSwim is offline
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Default Are you "connected" and Thorpe-like?

Fred-

45 seconds for 50 m is really quite fast. But you wish to go faster and you almost certainly can.

AWP, shuumai, and Rhoda have all given excellent recommendations.

1. If you have not mastered "connected" swimming, working through the TI drill sequence should help you. You will learn to connect kick, core-muscle-driven rotation, scapula motion, and upper extremity movement into a powerful and efficient stroke.

2. If you have not yet developed a Thorpe and Hackett style high elbow catch, your swimming will improve if you work on your catch. I can post some references in the "links and references" section if you wish.

Good luck,
RadSwim
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  #7  
Old 01-26-2009
FredMcG FredMcG is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shuumai View Post
Perhaps part of the issue is muscle mass. Maybe as your son became older he developed a higher ratio of muscle mass which makes him less buoyant which makes him sink more which makes him "climb" to air to breathe which disrupts the streamlined position?

As far as not being able to grip the water, did you try the obvious test? Put on a set of hand paddles, keep your elbows high, go easy and see what happens. Of course, the TI approach would be to use fist gloves to make your hands even smaller and teach you to pull with your forearms more. Both would be interesting to try.

As an adult on-set swimmer, after one year of swimming I'm not very fast. I'm about 5'8" tall (or short depending on your perspective), 150-155 pounds, have a slightly soft waistline, skinny arms, but my feet are relatively big (US 11.5 wide) and my hands relatively wide.

In general, I don't have much capacity for sustained effort, so I don't assume I'm just bad at swimming. I think there is some hope for me. The areas I'm concerned with are technique (of course), flexibility, core strength, and heart. Yeah...I think that just about covers everything. haha Though recently I've been working on my kick with fins. (I won't even consider using paddles yet since my shoulder aches sometimes. Maybe later after I gain more flexibility and stability.)

EDIT: more thoughts...

Swimmers don't usually have big arms, do they? Does your son run a lot? Could running and jumping make the ankles stiff resulting in a non-propulsive kick? Or worse, a kick with negative propulsion.
Thanks.

If I use hand paddles I go faster. If I close my fists I go slower. Should something else happen? I wouldn't expect so.

As an adult taking up swimming I would guess that you would get a lot from the total immersion techniques. As a person who has been swimming since I was born (a lot), I'm not so sure. My contention is that I already do all the things I read in the Total Immersion book. When looking at myself on video I don't look very different to Thorpe, Hackett or some of the videos that are on this website. If I already swim in this way, why does it take me 60 seconds to swim 50m? I feel that when I swim, my arms move backwards through the water but my body doesn't move forward fast enough. How does one get their arms to stay put and their body to move forward? To put it another way, in that time that my leading arm is out in front of me and the arm that has just taken the stroke is recovering (and I am taking a breath) I slow down to almost a stop, and sink, until my lead arm takes the next stroke and moves me forward a bit (but not as much as my arm just moves back through the water). Good swimmers seem to be able to take a stroke and then glide into the next stroke, without losing any momentum. Not me. Not me, even though I am doing everything that the TI technique says I need to do.
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  #8  
Old 01-26-2009
FredMcG FredMcG is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AWP View Post
Fred,
First let me say that in my opinion TI cannot be identified as merely "front quadrant" swimming or just a "style" of swimming but more an approach and mindset to better improve one's swimming through very distinct movements.

Having said that, you can very well be swimming front quadrant but if your intent is on pulling your arms you may very well "be going nowhere." Especially if you're as 'cut' as you say. Imagine trying to move that machine of a bod through the water with those skinny arms! ( hope you're laughin')

Working ((with)) your body and the water, utilizing weight shifts, can dramatically improve your movement. Add to that a well timed kick and the results are impressive ... in time.

Please consider trying the TI progression, if only for arguements sake, and let us know how you and your son come along. With your experience combined, and some good 'ol persistance, you'll move through 'swimmingly'.

Any vid ?

Take care and much luck.
:o) I'd like to clear something up - I'm in no way some musclebound "cut" person. Thin and wiry would better describe it. But thin like a nail. All I mean by saying "dense muscle" is that if you pushed your finger into my leg or arm you wouldn't make a dent (that's a slight exaggeration). Genetically, we seem to be built quite like a sprinter, in the Carl Lewis mould - you wouldn't call it musclebound by any stretch. Skinny shoulders and arms for sure.

I've done the TI drills before. I can do them and they are not uncomfortable.
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  #9  
Old 01-26-2009
FredMcG FredMcG is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shuumai View Post
Look. Even this Fred can get moving with skinny legs and without big hands or feet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5Lnt...eature=related
Ha. Fred the dog is much like me in the pool. Little arms going as best as he can, but Fred's arms are going back through the water much more than his body is going forward.
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  #10  
Old 01-26-2009
FredMcG FredMcG is offline
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FredMcG
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhoda View Post
What happens if you take your hands out of the equation and swim with closed fists? Try it and see if you just slip out of control, or if eventually you learn to "grab" the water with your forearms and use your abdominal muscles to pull yourself over the arm. (It's even more obvious if you do it in a breaststroke pull.) As others have mentioned, if you are just pulling your hands back, that's a very small muscle group providing your propulsion.
Oh, and by the way, fat doesn't necessarily mean unfit, any more than thin always means fit. I have plenty of thin co-workers who haven't exercised since 6th grade.
If I close my fists I just swim slower.

I know fat people can be fit, but I'm not questioning their fitness. I am pretty fit, and as I was talking about the "fat kids" in my son's swimming squad, none of them would be fitter than him. Also, in the first 50 or 100m fitness wouldn't be a big issue. I am questioning how some people who are fat and have quite obviously terrible swimming technique can more through the water both faster and without tiring as much as people like my son and myself, who are very fit, and have near perfect technique. I think this is the $64,000 question, as it indicates to me that swimming is more dependent on body characteristics such as buoyancy and mass/volume of arms relative to trunk and legs, than it does on technique.
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