Total Immersion

Total Immersion

Total Immersion is an approach to the coaching of swimming which concentrates on the hydrodynamics of the human body. Its chief proponent is American swimming coach, Terry Laughlin. The aim is to use the whole body to move in a streamlined, balanced way, like a fish, unlike the usual way of mainly using the muscles of the arms and the legs.


Total Immersion claims to be a new way of swimming, to make the experience easier and to improve skill, endurance and even speed.

Swimming is a beneficial skill to have, and is acknowledged as among the healthiest of all activities [ [ Ten Healthiest Sports ] ] , it is thought that few people have the skill necessary to reap the benefits of swimming. This is said to be because humans, being land animals, are known to swim inefficiently and this instinctive inefficiency is said to be reinforced by traditional instruction and coaching. Traditional instruction and coaching focuses on getting the swimmer through the water as fast as possible. On the other hand, the total immersion approach is based on efficiency, leading to the ability to swim for longer periods of time without tiring.

Although few people do swimming as a "sport", the paradigms of competitive swimmers and coaches have been highly influential in how recreational or fitness swimmers develop their swimming, leading to a focus on power and conditioning.

According to Terry Laughlin, the primary impediment to swimming better is neither lack of fitness nor lack of power, but the unique problems presented by the medium of water to a human body travelling through it. Water offers poor support, poor traction and is 880 times denser than air. Thus an emphasis on pulling, kicking and conditioning will lead to frustration and stagnation for most people.

The Total Immersion way is to focus on four essential skills:
#: turns swimming from survival into a skill;
#active streamlining
#: reducing drag will always yield greater benefits than trying to increase power;
#rhythmic weight shifts
#: the combination of gravity and mass is a virtually effortless source of power; and
#: water is so elusive that it is easier to “hold onto your place in the water” than to push forward.

Because these four skills that make humans more efficient in the water are non-instinctive and counter-intuitive, Total Immersion swimmers focus on swimming as a "mindful practice" done in the spirit of yoga or tai chi, rather than the endurance-and-power-focused workouts done by competitive swimmers. The aim is to become more self-aware and to feel “one with the water.” Lap counts and pace times are considered less important than improving one's economy, grace, attention and awareness.

It seems that Total Immersion also increased a greater awareness for Sealmasks and fistgloves because these equipment are often seen in the self-help videos sold - the former for a greater angle of view while swimming, the latter to increase a swimmer's "feel" for the water.


The technique for front crawl:
* Achieve balance by "cooperating with gravity" - relaxing the head into an aligned position and using the leading arm like a "trim tab" (fingers down and wrist below elbow from the moment of entry). This helps bring the legs into a horizontal position with minimal kicking.
* "Actively streamline" the body throughout the stroke cycle through a focus on rhythmically alternating "streamlined right side" and "streamlined left side" positions and consciously keeping the bodyline longer and sleeker than is typical for human swimmers.
* Use body rotation to minimize disturbance to the water flow and to minimize turbulence and drag. Rotating enough so each shoulder clears the water is sufficient to achieve these benefits.
* Create propulsion by using the extended hand and arm to "hold your place" in the water then spearing the entering hand past your gripping hand. Produce energy and power by driving down the "high side" of the body rather than using arm muscles to push water back.
* Emphasis is placed on developing balance and awareness of the dynamics of swimming, over and above the development of simple strength and power.

[ [ EBSCO Publishing Service Selection Page ] ]

For butterfly and breaststroke the body undulates up and down, so that the movement of the torso contributes to the power of the kick.


Terry Laughlin replies to these criticisms by noting that any human body is subject to the same unyielding physical forces in water. The faster that body is moving, the more resistance the water provides, since drag resistance increases as the square of speed. The opportunity to improve one's efficiency by streamlining thus varies exponentially. However, the ability to increase efficiency by boosting power or fitness is more limited and less effective.

Laughlin also notes that DARPA engineers have estimated that human swimmers are only 3 percent mechanically efficient - meaning only 3 percent of energy expenditures are converted directly into forward motion. (For comparison's sake dolphins are estimated to be 80% energy efficient.) Thus, he says, a focus on reducing energy waste will always result in greater improvement than a focus on increasing energy or power.

The emphasis on balance and streamlining [ [ Streamlining ] ] removes the need for a strong leg kick (so often needed to prevent the feet from sinking) and directs more of the force from the kick to forward propulsion. The stroke is thus less tiring, and can be sustained for long distances. Many triathletesfact|date=August 2008 use Total Immersion methods because a triathlon is very endurance based, so that they can conserve their legs for the cycling and running stages of a competition.




title= Strokes of a Genius
publication-date=Jul/Aug 2004
title= There's a Right Way to Freestyle
periodical= Running & FitNews
*cite book
last = Laughlin
first = Terry
coauthors = John Delves
year = 2004
title = Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way To Swim Better, Faster, and Easier
publisher = Fireside
id = ISBN 0-7432-5343-4

*cite book
last = Laughlin
first = Terry
year = 2004
title = Triathlon Swimming Made Easy: The Total Immersion Way for Anyone to Master Open-Water Swimming
publisher = Total Immersion Inc
id = ISBN 1-931009-07-4

*cite book
last = Laughlin
first = Terry
year = 2001
title = Swimming Made Easy: The Total Immersion Way for Any Swimmer to Achieve Fluency, Ease, and Speed in Any Stroke
publisher = Total Immersion Inc
id = ISBN 1-931009-01-5

*cite web
last = Sanders
first = Prof. Ross
title = Total Immersion Strategies - A Closer Look
publisher = coaches' infoservice: sports science information for coaches
date =
url =
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2006-11-12

External links

* [ Total Immersion Official Website]
* [ Total Immersion on Timed Finals]

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