Total Immersion Forums

Total Immersion Forums (
-   Freestyle (
-   -   Drag and the Dominant Arm Stroke Cycle (

sixtiesguy 10-04-2016 03:51 PM

Drag and the Dominant Arm Stroke Cycle
I can't find on the Forum a discussion for novice TI swimmers who are integrating a lap swim into a daily gym workout, and are striving for efficient freestyle...... and realize that although (I am) injury free, cardio fit (lots of spin classes), and generally supple (lots of "functional" /kinetic chain type workouts), via other sports they have developed one dominant arm/shoulder that can maintain the freestyle relaxed high elbow recovery, and one shoulder/ lats that needs work. In those TI DVD scripts, no one ever seems to have to overcome a so-called dominant arm, so natural to have if you play other sports....

In my case, years of lefty tennis serves have made my left shoulder much more accustomed to that kinetic shoulder/forearm motion than the right shoulder, which again, is injury free, but has no such muscle memory. Thus I'm not getting the same amount of propulsion on the right side.

I'm aware of pilates, yoga, stretching, and of course such drills in the pool as Single Arm Freestyle, but the problem with the latter is that I breathe only facing the left side, so I can't practice single arm for my right side--which needs the work---the high elbow, fingertip drag, etc. I figure many people on this Forum have suggestions about what's worked for's not even mentioned in the TI DVDs or the TI freestyle book I have.

After 5 weeks since beginning this part-time swim regimen, I now swim a lap in a minute, without feeling out of breath..(I used to be at a length). I breathe every fourth switch. 25 yard indoor pool, salt filtration system. Thanks for your answers.

CoachStuartMcDougal 10-04-2016 07:10 PM

Hi sixtiesguy:

We all have dominate sides whether on land or in water. In water it is more about your low side (skating) edge. My fav is my left side edge and I could stay on that edge all day if I could. My right side edge always needs more management and practice to hold the edge clean. I like Coach Dave Cameron's analogy, "chocolate and broccoli" sides. My left side is my chocolate side, but need to force myself to eat more broccoli :-)

However, I'm right handed and my right side recovery hand/arm wants to participate more with added moves that caused some imbalance. Those added moves took some time to remove, but can sneak back in without me knowing it right away; this becomes obvious when getting air off my right shoulder and I find more water than normal being an inch or so lower.

This doesn't answer your question integrating swimming into your other sports, but only that it's ok and normal to have a dominate side (or edge) in the water and to add more practice on your less dominate edge to maintain stroke/edge symmetry. Become aware of your dominate hand/arm and leg doing unnecessary/added movements (above and below surface) which can trigger imbalances as well.


sixtiesguy 10-04-2016 07:32 PM

Thanks Stuart.....My present goal is to reduce drag bc it affects my controlled breathing abilities as a newbie, and I'm trying to swim 100 yards without stopping. Must improve the high elbow/re-enter water stroke on the arm that has no muscle memory and just isn't used to this motion. As I said, the best drill would be the Single Arm Freestyle, but my breathing is not bilateral.....I cannot breathe facing the weak side. I figured this subject has been discussed in this Forum over the years, I just can't find it when I search...

CoachStuartMcDougal 10-05-2016 12:58 AM

Hey sixtiesguy,

There are two things going on with your weaker side breathing, 1. recovery arm/elbow is lifting above your back causing imbalance (sink) and 2. the low side edge is not as balanced and stable, largely due to 1. noted previously.

So on weaker breathing side focus on 1. swing recovery arm wide, away from body line and lead with elbow -high elbow will happen naturally, 2. practice/refine low side skate edge (edge opposite breathing shoulder) or what I characterized earlier as "broccoli side".

The single arm drill will not help much and only cause you more frustration integrating breathing into your stroke. Instead, practice breathing in skate drill. Once stable in skate - rotate head until you find air off shoulder, then return to goggs down. Don't bend the spine and/or lift head to find air from skate, but rather learn to stabilize your skate position until you find air off your shoulder.


CoachSuzanne 10-05-2016 01:45 AM

What is your specific question? as stuart mentioned we all have a dominant side, and we see it in students from lesson one. All of the drills should be practiced on right side and on left side. The dominance is an issue more for coordination rather than strength.

The most common issues I see regarding dominance are
-dominant side is less flexible
-non-dominant side is less coordinated

I've never, in teaching kids as young as 7 and adults as old as 80, seen someone lackign strength to do the recovery motion.

Also, single arm freestyle can be done breathign to each side. Right arm only breath to right or breath to left. Left arm only breath to left breath to right.

There's no issue finding & identifying problem address get feedback through
-hands on
-on deck observation (lifeguards can do this sometimes if you ask them what to look for)
-Video feedback, even from still photos
-self perception seeking symmetry

sixtiesguy 10-05-2016 02:48 AM

Thx Suzanne. My query is actually simple---I'm trying as a TI newbie to practice form and I know that when it comes to my strokes, I need to practice ---both on land and in water--getting my weaker non dominant arm more relaxed and natural in terms of higher elbow and re-entry into water. I see good swimmers who seem to have both elbows equally high. When not elbows high, i tend to get more of a reach. Meanwhile, my stronger Dominant sports arm is relaxed and elbow is always higher ....SO, what are some drills/ exercises on land & in water that TI coaches recommend to get the shoulders and lats loose and relaxed and gain muscle memory to be able to keep elbows high? Thanks!

s.sciame 10-05-2016 11:54 AM


Originally Posted by CoachSuzanne (Post 60607)
The dominance is an issue more for coordination rather than strength.

The most common issues I see regarding dominance are
-dominant side is less flexible
-non-dominant side is less coordinated

Totally agree!


bx 10-05-2016 01:12 PM


Originally Posted by sixtiesguy (Post 60608)
[...] what are some drills/ exercises on land & in water that TI coaches recommend to get the shoulders and lats loose and relaxed and gain muscle memory to be able to keep elbows high? Thanks!


TI has a drill progression for recovery that goes something like:

1. Hang recovery arm in front of goggles, submerged up to elbow
2. Recovery arm dragging in water up to wrist - "wrist drag"
3. Knuckles drag
4. Fingertips drag

Do these for both arms and with any luck your brain will make both arms more symmetrical in recovery. It will take time.

Lats tight? See eg.

Ti isn't about "high elbows" per se. It's a swing out motion. Do you have a reasonably recent TI DVD for reference?

Good luck!

CoachStuartMcDougal 10-06-2016 06:49 PM

Hi Sixtiesguy,

Adding to bx's succinct recovery arm progression (excellent), we (TI) have recently adopted progression for stability and whole body movements and position that has been *very* effective - and is used in 1.0 workshops.

Coaches start swimmers in 1. "Torpedo" (no kick) to get head-spine aligned and learn to balance over lungs without the aid of arms in front or kicking for stability, 2. "Superman" arms in front adding to stability and balance while maintaining head-spine-hips alignment, 3. "Slot to Skate". This is probably the most effective since it places the body in position where entire body fires together finishing on a clean edge (skate) and 4. "Superman to Skate". Now learning to hold the edge, with tone vessel-core stability, level and balanced after the "switch"

The first four sequences have proven very effective for swimmers (of any swim level) to learn and achieve core stability as well as integrate the timing of the switch where entire body fires for whole body propulsion which integrates into your freestyle quickly.

It's all laid out very well, easy to follow and complete in eBook and downloadable demos, step x step, Effortless Endurance Self-Coaching Course: Select this link to review:

Happy Laps and Core Stability!


All times are GMT. The time now is 12:00 PM.

Powered by vBulletin®
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.