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  #1  
Old 07-24-2014
bx bx is offline
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Default Core engagement & everything. I'm an idiot.

I'm a fool. I haven't been engaging my core enough all this time. Surely Rule 1 of swimming is Engage Core. Oh well, better late than never.

I couldn't work out why when I swim 1-armed freestyle, I don't feel uncomfortable or stressed with the breathing, but when I add the second arm, it becomes more uncomfortable. The problem was that as soon as I have two arms, my core naturally wants to disengage, so i was probably swimming with an arched back, which means my breathing is shallow and strained. When I tighten up the core again, bang, my hips rise and I get more satisfying breaths that go into my belly.

I haven't followed the fashion for tattoos, but I might get "engage core" tatted on my inner arms so I can see it every time I turn to breathe. :)
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Old 07-24-2014
sclim sclim is offline
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When I tighten up the core again, bang, my hips rise and I get more satisfying breaths that go into my belly.
Well, I don't necessarily follow the exact mechanism of how you did it, but rising hips is indisputable, and thus you got the job done, which is more than I can say for myself lately, although today I have been trying to keep my diaphragm sucked down, i.e. to keep a constant higher portion of belly breaths in me than before (this was my own hare-brained experimental idea, but you seem to be doing the same thing with good results) and it seemed to help in keeping my hips up.

So, if you define a fool as someone who can't see what he did wrong, after that initial smack on the forehead, you aren't one!
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Old 07-25-2014
bx bx is offline
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Originally Posted by sclim View Post
Well, I don't necessarily follow the exact mechanism of how you did it, but rising hips is indisputable, and thus you got the job done, which is more than I can say for myself lately, although today I have been trying to keep my diaphragm sucked down, i.e. to keep a constant higher portion of belly breaths in me than before (this was my own hare-brained experimental idea, but you seem to be doing the same thing with good results) and it seemed to help in keeping my hips up.

So, if you define a fool as someone who can't see what he did wrong, after that initial smack on the forehead, you aren't one!
I think all I do is go around in a cycle, forgetting things then rediscovering them n months later...

All I'm doing is trying to remember to keep abs engaged and spine a teensy bit in flexion (bending forwards), which I understand is what pressing the chest is essentially about.

I just did a little experiment whilst sitting here. Lean back a bit, arching the back, and breathe in. Try and take a breath into your tummy. What do you feel?
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  #4  
Old 07-25-2014
sclim sclim is offline
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I think all I do is go around in a cycle, forgetting things then rediscovering them n months later...

All I'm doing is trying to remember to keep abs engaged and spine a teensy bit in flexion (bending forwards), which I understand is what pressing the chest is essentially about.

I just did a little experiment whilst sitting here. Lean back a bit, arching the back, and breathe in. Try and take a breath into your tummy. What do you feel?
Ah, now you're talking about belly breathing, or strictly speaking, diaphragmatic breathing (the technical term). I know a little about this end. It's one of those odd things, that you can spend your life not thinking about it, but there's a lot more going on automatically than one might imagine. One problem is that the chest surface is highly visible, while the diaphragm, the muscular sheet that suspends from a frame that is basically the circumference of your trunk at the junction between your thorax and your abdomen (in fact the diaphragm is taken as the 3 dimensional dividing boundary line) is hidden from view, and largely unknown to the general public.

The lungs have no intrinsic pumping mechanism of their own. They are basically a highly convoluted but essentially simple sac (or pair of) with only one opening at the top passively suspended in a semirigid cage (and attached to the walls, essentially by a vacuum holding the outer lung membrane to the inner chest wall membrane).

As long as the opening (pipe) is open (and the only 2 valves are the larynx -- think vocal cords, and the mouth, ok, 3 if you include a nose clip), then any increase in the size of the cavity will cause a temporary partial vacuum in the air spaces and tubes of the lung, followed by a rush of air from the surrounding atmosphere into these tubes and spaces, all down to the most minute spaces or alveoli.

There are 2 ways to expand the intra-thoracic cavity. The most obvious way to those only aware of the ribs and chest, is to raise the ribs, rather like a series of bucket handles with lantern paper draped over these handles. As the handles are raised from the flat position, the draped lantern folds are raised and the volume of the enclosed lantern expands. However this only accounts for about 1/3 of the expansion mechanism.

The diaphragm normally exists in the relaxed state as a highly domed muscular sheet, with the peak of the dome extending quite far into the thorax. When we breath normally, the sheet of muscle contracts, pulling the peak of the dome downwards, rather like the drawing back the plunger in the barrel of a syringe or a hand pump, or cake icing dispenser. This happens quite naturally in normal breathing, accounting for the other 2/3.

However, when one is asked to take a deep breath, most people, focussing on what they know about, concentrate on the chest wall, and hugely raise their chest, completely ignoring the potential of voluntarily lowering the excursion of their diaphragm to lower than its usual excursion. This latter physical action is what is diaphragmatic breathing.

While not usually done in everyday life, it can very easily be trained. Once identified, you can practice it until it comes at will. It's a little complicated to describe, but easy to demonstrate in person.

What you described above sounds like abdominal (diaphragmatic) breathing, except, you really don't need to arch the back. If you just sit or better, stand for a few minutes breathing normally with one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly, you will notice that in the course of your normal respiratory cycle, when air is coming out of your nose, the chest and abdomen are gently collapsing in volume, that is, your hands are moving inwards. When air is moving in, the hands are pushed out. (When the diaphragm moves downwards, expanding the lungs from the bottom end, the contents of the abdomen are compressed from the top, and being essentially a bag of fluid stuff, the abdomen will expand passively in all directions, including outwards against your hand).

By escalating the amplitude of your breathing in very small increments you can get a sense of how much air corresponds to how much movement of your hands. At that point you can experiment with separating or isolating the thoracic and the diaphragmatic components of respiration from each other. Then you can find out how to increase the diaphragmatic component amplitude by itself, which takes a bit of practice and concentration at first. But once it becomes easy, then you'll find you don't have to arch your back. I have practiced until I can do it at will, even to holding on to some residual diaphragmatic expansion in isolation from the thoracic component while running. Oddly, I can't yet do it reliably when swimming, but that has more to do with how alien an environment I find water is still!
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  #5  
Old 07-26-2014
bx bx is offline
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Originally Posted by sclim View Post
[...] What you described above sounds like abdominal (diaphragmatic) breathing, except, you really don't need to arch the back. [...]
Hi, thanks for the detail on tummy breathing, which I find easier to spell than diaframatic (sic). :)

I should say, though, that the purpose of my little experiment was to show that with an arched back (arched backwards, in extension), tummy breathing was more difficult - the opposite to what you seem to think I was suggesting? I maintain that having the spine neutral or slightly in flexion ("pressing the chest") is what makes tummy breathing possible.

Hope I haven't got this all upside-down and back to front.
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Old 07-26-2014
sclim sclim is offline
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Hi, thanks for the detail on tummy breathing, which I find easier to spell than diaframatic (sic). :)

I should say, though, that the purpose of my little experiment was to show that with an arched back (arched backwards, in extension), tummy breathing was more difficult - the opposite to what you seem to think I was suggesting? I maintain that having the spine neutral or slightly in flexion ("pressing the chest") is what makes tummy breathing possible.

Hope I haven't got this all upside-down and back to front.
Sorry, you're right, I did misunderstand.

In fact, from what you're saying, now that I see what you're getting at, you've got it spot on. Arching backwards does make tummy breathing more difficult. The reason is likely because that for the dome of the diaphragm to descend in attempted inspiration, it must displace the contents of the abdomen downwards. Normally these contents, behaving essentially like a flexible bag of fluid, re-disperse their downward compression outwards. That is why a palm placed on one's belly can feel a noticeable displacement forwards in inspiration. During a backwards arching movement, the front surface of the abdomen becomes passively elongated or stretched. The muscles of the anterior abdominal wall (i.e. the flat muscle sheets that make up the front portion of the "bag" that essentially is the abdominal enclosure) can only stretch so far before they can't stretch any further. At that point, any further back bending results in squishing the abdominal contents, increasing the intra-abdominal pressure. This results in more work for the diaphragm in moving the same distance (work = force times distance travelled).

In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, you don't even have to arch backwards to make it more difficult. Any activity that increases intra-abdominal pressure (i.e. not necessarily due to passive stretch) will increase diaphragmatic resistance to downward excursion. I realise now that diaphragmatic breathing while running is not totally effortless. There is a certain amount of abdominal muscle contraction that has to occur to ensure core stability while running. With familiarity, one can minimise the contraction of the abdominal wall muscles to the minimum requirement for core stability which is still compatible with a reasonably efficient diaphragmatic movement.

This probably helps to explain why I still have problems getting an easy comfortable abdominal breath while swimming. There is a corresponding requirement for lower core stability in swimming (less, one would think than in running, but this fact has not helped me yet). I probably am still struggling with the mechanics of generating efficient core stability in swimming balance and propulsion, and so the subtlety of finessing just the right amount of force and tension in my abdominal musculature to allow efficient and precisely timed diaphragmatic excursions is currently beyond me.
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  #7  
Old 07-27-2014
Talvi Talvi is offline
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Originally Posted by bx View Post
... I should say, though, that the purpose of my little experiment was to show that with an arched back (arched backwards, in extension), tummy breathing was more difficult - the opposite to what you seem to think I was suggesting? I maintain that having the spine neutral or slightly in flexion ("pressing the chest") is what makes tummy breathing possible.

Hope I haven't got this all upside-down and back to front.
I know what you mean about cycling through the insights and lessons we get. It's what I call the development spiral, and it's much slower without a coach to give you feedback (or some way to get video after each length).

I'm also with you about "tummy breathing", but it is a little complicated. As you say, bending forward a little makes it easier, however that can easily also create a curve that then dramatically increases drag.

When I discovered what I called solar-plexus breathing, it was as a result of researching the way breathing is controlled and learning that, in the same way that your heart actually enlarges when you make demands on it, your lung capacity and the way they use that volume change with system demands. This insight then combined with the awareness that the more I try to control my breathing the more stressed and innefficient it becomes, and vice-versa. So, I focused NOT on controlling my breathing but on letting it do its own thing. I focused on RELAXING my solar plexus.

Here's an experiment for you:- lie down and focus on trying to breathe ONLY through relaxation. Sounds impossible but it's what your body is doing when your not messing with it (i.e 90% of the time) and doing well. Try to eliminate the feeling of having to drag air in. Let it come. If you're like me it will take a few minutes to get the hang of it but then it becomes easy (until you forget again!) and odd. Most obviously you can breathe out by letting go, but oddly through a focus of RELAXING your solar plexus (that point at the top of the inverted "V" your ribs make) you get the tummy breath (in-breath) too.

The relevance of this to swimming, for me anyway, is that simply "engaging the core" doesn't do it. The question for me is in what way the core is engaged. Tensing the front of your belly introduces an arch. It may also be a tension that is unnecessary i.e wasted. That depends on the rest of your stroke mechanics. Belly tightening, diaphragm movement, ribcage rigidity and many more subtle complex mechanisms too must all co-ordinate to make the space and the vacuum for the air to flow in and be utilized. Indiscriminate tension in the abdomen I think just constricts breathing.

I have come to feel that my tendency is more towards in arching forward than backward and that this is caused by buckling for the breath rather than relaxing into it. When I eliminate this, as well as streamlining far better, the rest of my stroke improves as well.

When it comes together, suddenly it is easy, but that is not so normal that when my body feels a need for more air I don't revert, and kick off a vicious spiral! I find the way to break out of this spiral, when I remember, is often just to slow right down, to give up the struggle, stretch out on the water, and relax. Then I find the breath again. I find that having faith is important!
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A psychological disorder is: "Any personal construction which is used repeatedly in spite of consistent invalidation."
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  #8  
Old 07-27-2014
Zenturtle Zenturtle is offline
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I remember experimenting with belly breathing in a relaxed static float position 1.5 year ago.
It improved leg position, but when I tried to belly breath on dry land in competitive most streamlined push off position, it was impossible to expand the belly.
All the muscles surrounding it were tensed and pulling the lungs and core together. It was a uncomfortable suffocating feeling that I also experienced during swimming. Like an elephant is sitting on your chest.

Just tried the same again and it isn't such a problem anymore.
It is more difficult than in a relaxed standing position, but Its possible to expand the belly without expanding the chest in streamlined position.
Also noticed more power when spitting my chewing gum out.
The muscles surrounding the lungs have become stronger and the skeleton muscles have become more flexible.
Doing a bit of regular hard work combined with stretching has advantages.

Last edited by Zenturtle : 07-27-2014 at 11:03 AM.
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Old 07-27-2014
sclim sclim is offline
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I think that once you're secure in the basic trunk or core positions of your sport or activity, it is then relatively easy to gradually work at belly breathing and experimenting with how much compromise you have to make in your external abdominal musculature tension to allow a more generous diaphragmatic expansion without compromising your other core requirements too much.

However, in swimming, where the balance is so critical, I think that for myself, my hold on this concept is so precarious that I risk losing or not getting the feeling of balance. It's a little frustrating, because with my hip and leg heaviness, the theory that if I move the centre of buoyancy down my trunk a little towards my toes this would help support my hips sounds really attractive. Until I realise what I'm doing to my alignment in my distraction towards "non-fundamental" aspects of swimming.

So, I think apart from making sure I get a reasonably good breath at the appropriate time and not leaking it all out in between breaths, for me the huge abdominal breath experiment was an interesting idea that I will shelve until my balance becomes more secure by conventional TI means. This would be manifest by a lower SPL, I would hope.

Last edited by sclim : 07-27-2014 at 01:53 PM.
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  #10  
Old 07-27-2014
Talvi Talvi is offline
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...However, in swimming, where the balance is so critical, I think that for myself, my hold on this concept is so precarious that I risk losing or not getting the feeling of balance. It's a little frustrating, because with my hip and leg heaviness, the theory that if I move the centre of buoyancy down my trunk a little towards my toes this would help support my hips sounds really attractive. Until I realise what I'm doing to my alignment in my distraction towards "non-fundamental" aspects of swimming...
I've probably suggested this before Slim but have you practised floating?

Our control of our body is dependent on the interpretation of the feedback we get of its position. The feelings we get in water are radically different to those of normal "gravity" and vertical orientation. We need to add a new set of proprioception into that we already have. From my experince, floating can help with this. I will often float during a session, to get the horizontal feel and relaxation granted by the experience of being able to float motionless in the water, the balance position, just for fun, or in OW to take a break. I wonder if you practiced it you might not get an insight into your balance.
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A psychological disorder is: "Any personal construction which is used repeatedly in spite of consistent invalidation."
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