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Thread: Ditch core work?

  1. #21
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Based on the way animals and young children move, it seems that swimming - or doing just about anything - with an "engaged core" just means moving naturally, as in, it's our normal, default mode of moving. That would explain why most animals and young kids move so fluidly and efficiently, even though they do no "core work." So swimming with an engaged core does not mean doing some "special" thing that you wouldn't do when just walking or picking up a bag of groceries, etc. Maybe that's why some people don't get what it means to swim with an engaged core - because it's just what they do automatically without ever thinking about it. But those of us who, for whatever reason, have gotten away from the natural way of moving, now have to figure out what it means to swim with an engaged core. To us, it does feel like doing something "special" and very different from what we normally do. And we might need some special exercises, not just to "strengthen" our core (all athletes need that), but even just to engage it in something approaching our natural, default way.

  2. #22
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Using the words "core'; or "trunk" are completely useless regarding specific exercises or even how strength can impact swimming. It's just as specific (and productive ) as saying to work on "arm" or "leg" exercises.

  3. #23
    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    The head is the most important area to work on

  4. #24
    Very Active Member SolarEnergy's Avatar
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Quote Originally Posted by smontanaro View Post
    I was wondering about the term, "engage your core" the other day. How do I know (when swimming, let's say front crawl) when I've done it correctly (or at all)? Is it sufficient to "suck my navel to my spine"?
    In order to correctly answer this question, it is worth taking time wondering what role does the core/trunk plays in swimming.

    The simple answer to this would be that its main purpose is to ensure an optimal body position and action whilst swimming (at all time). That's quite a big task. So I'd say that of the body position/action flaws can sometimes be explained by an improper involvement of the trunk (or core, whatever).

    Now my personal opinion would be that the difficulty with swimming as for core engagement or involvement, is that core must be smart, ie it must engage very smartly in a rather complex chain of events to support the stroke, or to act as a foundation for the stroke. And for that, I don't think strength is the main limitation for most people.

    In order to achieve a nice symmetrical well calibrate streamlined body rotation (freestyle), muscles must learn to engage/release in sequence, with just enough effort put to it, but not too much effort which would create unnecessary tensions etc.

    Think about the fly! Same thing. One needs a certain level of strength, but the main difficulty is to learn to coordinate into what hopefully becomes a smooth undulation action, around with other elements of the stroke are added. Etc...

    Good and simple drill to better understand the explanations above is to swim the Free with a pull buoy at ankles level, possibly a band to hold this tight. In order to avoid the fishtailing, core will need to engage little more than normal as usually the legs (when not tied at the ankle level) help correcting the fishtailing effect. In fact this simple drill, along with the variation without the pull but whilst keeping the band around the ankles are, in my opinion, much more valuable than any Pilates session. Fly kicking in prone, side and back position, SDK prone and back position, all that is also very valuable.
    Charles G. Couturier
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  5. #25
    Active Member tigerchik's Avatar
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    I figure swimming is why I have nice abs. A flip turn is like a crunch!

  6. #26
    Very Active Member quicksilver's Avatar
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    In one study, on rowers who followed an eight-week core-training gym programme in addition to their normal training, there was no improvement in a rowing-machine time trial at the end of the study.
    Doesn't rowing contribute to a good core in the first place?

    The core trained group probably wasn't any better at snookers either.

  7. #27
    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    I just rely on yoga and classic weight lifting to work whatever body part it is they call a "core"

  8. #28
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Quote Originally Posted by __steve__ View Post
    I just rely on yoga and classic weight lifting to work whatever body part it is they call a "core"
    I can attest to the fact that it's possible to do both of those activities - for years - without working the core very much at all. I did aikido for years as well, pretty intensively at times, and that is supposed to be ALL about using your core ("hara" in Japanese); but there too, I managed to not use my core very much. Technically, I learned the moves, but never had a clue why it wasn't quite clicking for me.

    Seems that some of us develop - without knowing it - what could maybe be called a "core-avoidant" style of moving. So unless someone really spells it out to a person like me, my automatic tendency is to find a way to "get around" engaging my core. It's sort of like having slumped posture. You just learn to do everything with bad posture, and since you get so used to it, it feels "normal." You can even be "in really good shape" this way. I guess you end up recruiting other muscles to fill in for the core. Probably really bad for those over-stressed muscles in the long run, though - and probably a very inefficient, energy-sucking way to move, too.

    That's why someone like me definitely does need some kind of focused "core work" and why it feels so difficult and odd at first.

  9. #29
    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Isn't that the difference between doing the moves correctly (efficiently, or with power, resp) or not?

  10. #30
    Very Active Member SolarEnergy's Avatar
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    My drill of choice for assessing and developing smart core awareness:



    Simply explained, obliques are being engaged to allow the body to flip from one side to the other. Hands finish the job with a slight sweeping action to provide propulsive forces.

    Those who still don't engage their core correctly (regardless of the strength or tonus put to it) basically fail miserably at that one.

    From above:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHSYQ6BaM2A

    Good swimmers generally get this drill within the first 5 minutes in trying it. Those who are not as skilled, ie still learning the basics will rather need several weeks.
    Last edited by SolarEnergy; May 5th, 2013 at 11:47 AM.
    Charles G. Couturier
    Swimming / Triathlon Coach (University of Montreal / Canada)
    Founder and head coach at the Swim Training Day
    http://blog.swimtrainingday.com

  11. #31
    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Almost looks like that swimmer is moving through the water without propulsive forces, cool.

    I practice a similar drill using a solid kick to help momentum. It's more for a shoulder driven approach but it helps the ability to move your mass forward with rotation with inner muscles.

    George Bovell at 2:15 below:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...cs3iD5Ns#t=78s

    I think holding a streamlined position also requires core strength

  12. #32
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Steve, Yes, I think that probably is the difference between doing the moves (yoga, aikido, swimming, chopping wood, anything) with efficiency and power or not. But it can still look like you're doing the moves more or less correctly, even if you really aren't, and you might never know it. That's the tricky thing.

    And that's why I'm excited to try solarenergy's "drill of choice." If it really can't be done without properly engaging the core, then that's exactly the kind of drill I need.

  13. #33
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Greg are you in the 50-54 AG by chance?

    If so I highly recommend swimming with a disengaged core. Slouch at the shoulders, let your legs splay apart like scissors and let your kick do what it wants w/o any rhythm or timing to your catch and pull. THIS is the key to fast, efficient freestyle.


  14. #34
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Quote Originally Posted by SolarEnergy View Post
    My drill of choice for assessing and developing smart core awareness:
    Thanks. I'll give that a try.

  15. #35
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Quote Originally Posted by vo2 View Post
    Greg are you in the 50-54 AG by chance?

    If so I highly recommend swimming with a disengaged core. Slouch at the shoulders, let your legs splay apart like scissors and let your kick do what it wants w/o any rhythm or timing to your catch and pull. THIS is the key to fast, efficient freestyle.


    Ahhh, finally! The words I've been longing to hear! I'm only just shy of turning 45, but hey, no need to wait, right?

  16. #36
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Fortress View Post
    "Engage your core" is fairly meaningless to me as well. I do weighted exercises to strengthen the "trunk." But I don't bother much with crunches or wobbly balls, and I think I have a fairly strong core. I recall going to a "Pilates mat" class once. It was so easy that I laughed and left -- that is a good example of the concept of "core training" run amok.
    Yeah, but what if you had to do Pilates for longer than 30 seconds?

  17. #37
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Quote Originally Posted by SolarEnergy View Post
    My drill of choice for assessing and developing smart core awareness:

    Good swimmers generally get this drill within the first 5 minutes in trying it. Those who are not as skilled, ie still learning the basics will rather need several weeks.

    Looks like I'm not in the 5 minute club. But after 20-25, I started catching on and my body wasn't wiggling to-and-fro quite as much. But it felt like my hands/arms were playing a fairly significant role in initiating the flipping from side to side. Not sure if that's how it should feel when done correctly??

    Another "core connection" that became clearer in the pool today: my left arm recovery is especially short and choppy and I've been working on extending out a bit more, but have found it difficult. Today I noticed that my core engagement is especially weak on that side. So I concentrated on engaging more fully during the left side recovery and that felt like it evened it out with my right side recovery. Again, it felt way over-exaggerated and "wrong" because it was so different from what I'm used to, but it seemed to work well. General lesson: even if you know what your body is supposed to be doing, it can't do it if it doesn't have the support from the core.

  18. #38
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Good for you Greg stick with it. Remember, the HTFU and bag more yardage motto certainly has it's place once gross technique issues are resolved. BUT until that time technique is still a huge limiter if not the predominant issue. I swim with guys who simply refuse to look into these things, even after their times have stayed stagnant for a decade. They just won't accept that little things like plantar flexion of the ankles will make a difference in drag. Why? B/c when they try it 'oh this is hard and feels weird' so they go back to having underwater drag parachutes for feet. You can only lead a horse to water.....glad you are drinking up!

    Specifically what you felt on one side of your stroke is a nice indicator that you are beginning to feel the right things. That slight core tension is good and you just like you don't ever want to let go of the water or lose contact, so goes core tension. Not spastic 1,000 lb squat tension, just enough to know it's in the drivers seat. The fact you are becoming aware of a particular area of your stroke that is causing you to disengage your core tells me you are paying attention and on the right track. Keep at it the payoff is large. If it were easy then everyone would do it!
    Quote Originally Posted by GregJS View Post
    Looks like I'm not in the 5 minute club. But after 20-25, I started catching on and my body wasn't wiggling to-and-fro quite as much. But it felt like my hands/arms were playing a fairly significant role in initiating the flipping from side to side. Not sure if that's how it should feel when done correctly??

    Another "core connection" that became clearer in the pool today: my left arm recovery is especially short and choppy and I've been working on extending out a bit more, but have found it difficult. Today I noticed that my core engagement is especially weak on that side. So I concentrated on engaging more fully during the left side recovery and that felt like it evened it out with my right side recovery. Again, it felt way over-exaggerated and "wrong" because it was so different from what I'm used to, but it seemed to work well. General lesson: even if you know what your body is supposed to be doing, it can't do it if it doesn't have the support from the core.

  19. #39
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    "His own studies have demonstrated that repeated bending of the spine, as happens when we do crunches, can damage spinal discs over time."

    Uh-oh. I probably do 17,000 flip turns a year. Guess I'm in big trouble.

  20. #40
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    Re: Ditch core work?

    Thanks again for more encouragement, vo2 (now that you know I'm safely out of your age group, right?!). It's obvious you've traveled a ways down this road I'm just getting my bearings on. Looking forward to some of that payoff. Sounds like a good tip about keeping those ankles flexed, too. I'll throw that one in the mix as well.

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