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Thread: Criticism of TI Principles

  1. #1
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    Criticism of TI Principles

    I've noticed at lot of dicsussion in recent threads about TI principles,
    As you can see from my location, I'm on the other side of the atlantic and TI has started to make an impact over here.

    I've come across a lot of people in my local University pool who seem to have been mesmerised by the TI message and it is now common for me to see people swimming on their sides with one outstreached arm and a submerged head.
    When the time comes to breath these guys have their heads so deep from pressing their bouy that they end up lifting it so high that they loose whatever alignment they had in the first place.
    From talking to them, none of them seem to want to develop a proper kick and build up endurance so they can develop
    good form.

    I have decided to post a list of TI priciples and my own critism of these, feel free to add to the list or post a TI defence!

    TI PRINCIPLE 1
    Side to Side Rotation
    to get into Low Drag Fish-like Position

    Criticism
    Rotation is good to get extentsion and
    a good catch + power into the stroke,
    Excessive rotation slows down the stroke.

    TI PRINCIPLE 2
    Swim DownHill
    Press your Bouy

    Criticism:
    Holding head too deep creates drag
    Makes breathing Difficult

    TI PRINCIPLE 3
    No Kicking

    Criticism
    Kicking essential to fast swimming
    + to maintain good form particularly
    for male swimmers.

    TI PRINCIPLE 4
    Front Quadrant Swimming/
    Distance per stroke,

    Criticism
    A reasonably high Stroke rate is necessay for
    fast swimming,
    Unless you have a very strong kick a glide
    phase in your stroke will cause decelleration

    TI PRINCIPLE 5
    Drills will make you a better swimmer

    Criticism
    Drills are important, but there is no
    substitute for good quality fast training.

  2. #2
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    Total Immersion does not advocate "no kicking." Terry Laughlin has been a vocal proponent of integrated kicking. He teaches swimmers to use their legs for balance, and not to overkick in search of propulsion. He coached sprinters this way at Army, and they had much success. I think it's a good idea to approach the kick as assistant to the arm pull, because very few people have the ankle flexibility and foot shape and size necessary for a propulsive kick. These people tend to be very successful in swimming, because they have an extra weapon. But all of the two-beat kickers in the Olympics prove that a propulsive kick is not necessary for fast swimming. Jeff Commings admits to having a terrible flutter kick due to inflexible ankles, and he has gone under 51 seconds in the 100 backstroke. Maybe his kick is not as bad as it seems in kickboard training.

  3. #3
    Very Active Member Ken Classen's Avatar
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    You mean TI is not the end all and final word on swimming? I think first and foremost we need to remember TI is a business and by the looks of it a successful one. And just like McDonalds they are franchising out and going global. Nothing wrong with that. We love our entrepreneurs in America. However you do bring up some valid criticism. In my coaching, I've used TI style drills for years with swimmers, I find they do have some benefit especially for novice to immediate swimmers. However I have noticed many swimmers who plucked down the $'s for the clinic, bought the books, videos etc. have not become faster swimmers. Prettier swimmers maybe, but not faster swimmers. I believe much of that is an attempt to leap frog their ability without doing the Background (swimming some yards) as Mr. Goodsmith would say. Anyway, Bobby Patten, Head Coach of Dallas Aquatic Masters wrote an article on this several years ago. See linksee link

  4. #4
    Bigger than a breadbox mattson's Avatar
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    criticism of the Criticism of TI

    Originally posted by free142
    A reasonably high Stroke rate is necessay for
    fast swimming,
    Unless you have a very strong kick a glide
    phase in your stroke will cause decelleration
    All studies of competetive swimmers have shown that stroke length is highly correlated with speed, while stroke rate is not. That is not to say that if you slow down your stroke rate by half, that you won't go slower. It says that people in the faster heats often have the same stroke rate as people in the slower heats. That is why, for people who do not have an efficient stroke, they will have more to gain by figuring out how to get a longer stroke length.

    For your second part, sounds like you recommend popping up swimming immediately after you start your race, because during the glide you are decelerating. But during that glide (after the start, and off each wall), are you still moving faster than your average speed? If you can conserve energy by adding a little more glide in your stroke, will you be able to swim at that speed for longer than if you put in more continuous effort? For most people, they cannot maintain their 50 speed during a 100, so energy conservation does become an issue.

  5. #5
    Very Active Member Matt S's Avatar
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    Criticism of the Criticism

    If I may:

    TI2: "swim down hill": if a swimmer is pressing his torso so deep that he has to lift his head to breath, he is overdoing it. The problem is as you describe; however, the issue is the swimmer executing the skill properly, not the design of the skill. As discussed below, the primary purpose of the balance drills is to learn how to swim with your spine, and especially your neck, in a neutral position the entire time, and to breath by rolling to your side with your "fore and aft" balance unaffected. The term "swim downhill" is meant to be a sensation the swimmer experiences, and not the literal truth. A casual review of the illustration in a TI book, or a video, would make that clear.

    TI1 "over-rotation": you are confusing the drill with the desired effect on whole stroke swimming. Of course, no one actually swims whole stroke by rolling their body entirely from one side to the other (i.e. with shoulders and hips aligned vertically on top of each other and perpendicular to the surface of the water, so-called "point your belly button at the wall"). The purpose of the lower arm extended drills (I am trying to avoid TI jargon) is to find your balance, and then learn to roll with proper body alignment, as described in T2 above. You take a single stroke, and roll from your balanced position on one side to the same balanced position on the other side. This is a dynamic balance drill. When you go to whole stroke swimming, you don't roll that much. But you do roll MORE THAN YOU DID BEFORE, and you maintain your balance. I know this works. Once I got the body roll idea, I did some serious butt-kicking in practice when we did long pulling sets with a pull buoy. While my teammates were using their arms, I was using every muscle group I had above my waist. The longer we went, the more I pulled away.

    TI3 "no kicking": Jazz answered this pretty well. Let me just add that the real idea is to stop using a heavy kick to correct imbalance because your head is too high. Yes a strong kick does add speed, but at what cost in lactic acid and especially oxygen debt? It is a useful tool in sprinting, but you reach dimishing returns at the longer distances.

    TI4 "front quadrant swimming": this may seem counterintuitive, but hydodynamic studies from as early as the 19th century have shown that all other things being equal, longer hulls suffer less drag traveling through the water. Don't believe me? Look at modern naval architecture. I can show you modern supertankers, cargo ships, and aircraftcarriers, all with a bulge at their bows just below the water line. The ship builders added that feature because it makes the ship more efficient. It is possible that FQS does lose a little forward thrust over "windmill" arm technique, but it gains some back by losing a little drag. Also, the energy you save by not windmilling early you get to use later in the race.

    TI5 "drilling bad": if your point is all drills and no conditioning is bad, that would be valid. Terry does say that many swimmers would be better off doing only drills, and letting conditioning happen. Many people wrongly believe he meant that for all swimmers. That is not what he meant. He is talking about beginners who skills and conditioning are poor, and who only desire to swim more comfortably. People who plan to compete clearly need to have conditioning work as well. The question is emphasis. If your point is that only conditioning matters and you can leave stroke technique to chance, I would disagree.

    Lots of people may not care for TI; that's fine. But, it does work for a great many people, and some are too quick to dismiss it because they don't fully grasp the ideas behind it. I hope these clarifications help.

    Matt

  6. #6
    Very Active Member Leonard Jansen's Avatar
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    In addition, concerning your TI4: You do NOT emphasize stroke length to the total exclusion of increasing your rate. Rather, you carefully trade some length for higher turn-over as needed.

    -LBJ

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    Very Active Member gull's Avatar
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    Great link, Ken. I think part of TI's appeal is that it seems to offer a short cut to swimming proficiency. Mr. Laughlin even advocates that you not use the term "working out." If by success you mean simply being able to swim laps with decent (?) form, I guess TI succeeds. It's hard to be critical of anything that gets adults into the pool, although I'm not sure I buy into a cookie cutter approach (nor do I find the end product that appealing). I would be very surprised if any of the top ten swimmers in my age group are the product of this method.

    BTW, I tried one of the drills one day, and my wife said something to the effect of, "That's nice, but why are you swimming on your side?"

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    Very Active Member geochuck's Avatar
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    I have heard that TI no longer uses the phrase swim down hill, I wonder why?
    Keep it simple George Park
    Swimsuit Sale http://www.swimdownhill.com/index.html

  9. #9
    Very Active Member Ion Beza's Avatar
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    Maglischo's 'Swimming Fastest' advocates training at 60% of the weekly mileage in anaerobic threshold.

    This means training at maximum Stroke Rate for 60% of the weekly mileage, otherwise the Stroke Rate (and its cause, the cardiovascular) atrophies.

    Olympians Pieter van den Hoogenband (Ned.), Jason Lezak (U.S.), Lenny Krayzelburg (U.S.), Gordan Kozulj (Cro.) and many more, they train this way.

    In 'Total Immersion', Terry Laughlin writes in page 33 "...Tell me which part of the swimming-speed equation you'd rather work on:...", Strole Length or Stroke Rate, and argues to work on the skill of Stroke Length, and neglect the brawn of Stroke Rate.
    This is intended for middle aged Master swimmers who 'think' that they don't have the time to get fit, but they have the 'smarts' to work on skills, like in golf.

    Olympians van den Hoogenband, Lezak, Krayzelburg, Kozulj and many more, they argue to work mainly on the brawn of Stroke Rate.
    For example, in 'The Coach Swimming Bible' by Dick Hannula coach Mike Bottom (U.S.) describes working on increasing the Stroke Rate of Kozulj who then went on to win 200 back at the 2000 European Championships in a Personal Best of 1:58.

    Also 'Total Immersion' argues not to kick with a board, not to pull, not to use the dry land Vasa Trainer.

    Olympian Larsen Jensen (U.S.) argues to kick 1/3 of the weekly mileage with a board, Olympians pull and use Vasa.

    There is no Olympian produced by Terry Laughlin with his antagonist principles described in 'Total Immersion'.

    I look up to what works best, the Olympians.

  10. #10
    Active Member MetroSwim's Avatar
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    Excellent and interesting critiques all around, however as a TI coach, I have a couple of thoughts on a Friday nite (plus a note each to gull and geochuck), now that the kids are nearly in bed and I'm settling in to catch up on my Tivo'd shows:

    The Bobby Patten "Fish Donít Swim On Their Side" article itself is a little dated, particularly "World Class swimmers do not leave their arm extended for a long period of Time". If you compare stroke technique from 2000 to 2004, you will see a significant increase in front-quadrant swimming across the board. in effect, they ARE leaving their arms out there longer.

    I'm not just blowing smoke here. I attended the ASCA Level II stroke school two years ago (john Leonard taught the class), and everything related to the currently desired stroke mechanics is in agreement with the final product of the TI stroke progression, across all four strokes.

    In addition, as a Physics teacher in training, in my eyes Mr. Patten's understanding of the forces involved in swimming is not what it could be. Without getting into details, consider that the behavior of a body in the water and a body in the water in motion are two different scenarios, with a whole different set of forces in play.

    As (I think) was mentioned, do not confuse individual drills with the final stroke -

    gull: this is one of the things I often encounter when folks try one of the drills. In my coaching (In TI Workshops and private instruction as well as in masters workouts I coach), I am a big advocate of never doing a drill (TI or otherwise) unless you understand how to do it, what you are trying to achieve and an awareness of how to know if you are doing it correctly.

    geochuck: who'd ya hear the "swim down hill" rumor from? It's still commonly used, and I'm out there directing workshops.

    Finally, consider that the focus we give to beginners, triathletes, age groupers, masters swimmers or anyone else, will vary in many aspects. A triathlete who has to hop on a bike after the swim is not going to want to be burning it up with a vigorous kick, and will not be putting in the amount of yardage necessary to build up that kind of endurance anyway. Conversely, in training for a 50 or 100 sprint, a vigorous kick will come into play, along with the mcuh heavier workload necessary to maintain it.

    just a few thoughts, anyway...

    Rich

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    MetroTri.com

  11. #11
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    Originally posted by Ion Beza
    In 'Total Immersion', Terry Laughlin writes in page 33 "...Tell me which part of the swimming-speed equation you'd rather work on:...", Strole Length or Stroke Rate, and argues to work on the skill of Stroke Length, and neglect the brawn of Stroke Rate.
    This is intended for middle aged Master swimmers who 'think' that they don't have the time to get fit, but they have the 'smarts' to work on skills, like in golf.
    I would prefer to ditch the stupid equation altogether. It's pointless to focus on stroke rate and stroke length, because those variables are secondary to things that swimmers can actually control. Huub Toussaint's research indicates that swimming ability is mostly determined by propelling efficiency. Basically, maximize propulsive force for a given level of exertion. Force is something that swimmers can feel on their arms and hands. It's something that they can increase with focused swimming and proper resistance training and drills. Yes, that includes TI drills. If Toussaint's research is to be believed, the most important part of TI is the lesson about "anchoring your hand in the water." Stroke rate and stroke length are nothing but distractions.

  12. #12
    Very Active Member Ion Beza's Avatar
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    Originally posted by MetroSwim

    ...
    The Bobby Patten "Fish Donít Swim On Their Side" article itself is a little dated, particularly "World Class swimmers do not leave their arm extended for a long period of Time". If you compare stroke technique from 2000 to 2004, you will see a significant increase in front-quadrant swimming across the board. in effect, they ARE leaving their arms out there longer.
    ...
    Rich

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    MetroTri.com
    I compare stroke technique from 2000 to 2004 and find a majority of Olympians including Alex. Popov (Rus.), Pieter van den Hoogenband (Ned.), and most Australians like Michael Klim and Geoff Huegill using not the front quadrant but the rotary style.

    In 2002, 1996 Olympian Sheila Taormina (U.S.) writes this, to scrap the pause advocated in T.I.'s front-quadrant and get more rotary and faster turnover:

    http://www.slowtwitch.com/mainheadin...ropulsion.html

  13. #13
    Very Active Member Ion Beza's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Jazz Hands
    I would prefer to ditch the stupid equation altogether. It's pointless to focus on stroke rate and stroke length, because those variables are secondary to things that swimmers can actually control. Huub Toussaint's research indicates that swimming ability is mostly determined by propelling efficiency. Basically, maximize propulsive force for a given level of exertion. Force is something that swimmers can feel on their arms and hands. It's something that they can increase with focused swimming and proper resistance training and drills. Yes, that includes TI drills. If Toussaint's research is to be believed, the most important part of TI is the lesson about "anchoring your hand in the water." Stroke rate and stroke length are nothing but distractions.
    I read earlier in another thread your same position on this.

    Toussaint speaks about the efficacy of the strength of the pull.

    T.I.'s anchoring the hand in the water is physics nonsense, it's a flowery metaphor, every boat's anchor catches the ground, a swimmer's hand doesn't.

    Coach Mike Bottom -of the Gary Hall Jr. (U.S.) , Duje Draganja's (Cro.), Anthony Ervin's (U.S.) fame- credits the gold won in 200 back by Gordan Kozulj (Cro.) at the 2000 European Championships, to working on a much faster Stroke Rate.

    He writes about his work on Stroke Rate in 'The Coach Swimming Bible' by Dick Hannula.

    There are numerous examples of the importance of a high Stroke Rate, one mentioned by Cecil Colwin in 'Swimming Dynamics' as the reason for an Olympic gold, another when yesterday I spoke with a sprinter training in the same Masters program as me who is 5'9" and went 20.42 in the 50 yards free when swimming for the Syracuse University five years ago.

    Toussaint's force of the pull is important, but so is the Stroke Rate.

  14. #14
    Very Active Member geochuck's Avatar
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    The Japanese used front quadrant swimming in 1956 at the 1956 Olympics it is nothing new.
    Keep it simple George Park
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  15. #15
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    Of course the hand isn't actually anchored. But when a pull is efficient, it might feel that way. I personally don't get that metaphor for my swimming. I'm a sprinter, and every time I sprint I'm thinking "max force." That's a new focus for me and it has been working very well. I just started my season this week after about a month off with a shoulder injury and I'm already hitting my best ever practice times in the 50 and 100 free. So I am enamored with Huub's research, but I still have a skeptical eye for it. I see some flaws in his experiments, even the ones that are key to the understanding on which I base my training.

    As for the real world cases of top swimmers improving by focusing on stroke rate, I don't understand how a coach comes to the decision that a swimmer's stroke rate is too low. Could that be said of such low tempo superstars as Ian Thorpe and Larsen Jensen? If a swimmer doesn't have a visible hitch in their stroke, how can a coach know that they are using the wrong stroke rate?

  16. #16
    Very Active Member Ion Beza's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Jazz Hands

    ...
    As for the real world cases of top swimmers improving by focusing on stroke rate, I don't understand how a coach comes to the decision that a swimmer's stroke rate is too low. Could that be said of such low tempo superstars as Ian Thorpe and Larsen Jensen? If a swimmer doesn't have a visible hitch in their stroke, how can a coach know that they are using the wrong stroke rate?
    I don't have the book handy now.

    From my recollection Bottom counted the number of strokes taken by Kozulj in a 50 meter.
    He found X.
    He thought Y, greater than X, is better.
    Y came to him from the stats of the eight finalists in a major meet that he names.
    To get to Y, he made Kozulj and Gary Hall Jr. to swim and pull against the cord that was going to a weights machine.
    He asked them to pull weights, quicker and quicker over many months.
    This, he says, is cardiovascular and muscular training.
    That T.I. despises.
    Bottom describes how Gary Hall Jr. ended pulling down the entire machine, and how Kozulj got to Y strokes per 50, and gold in the 200 back.

    Thorpe worked hardest to change his slow stroke to a higher Stroke Rate for his 48.5x and a bronze medal in the 100 meter free at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

  17. #17
    Very Active Member Ion Beza's Avatar
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    Below are excerpts from the book, showing coach Mike Bottom (U.S.) work on aerobic conditioning.

    It's contrary to T.I., but T.I. hasn't produced one single Olympian.

    The book 'The Swim Coaching Bible' by Hannula and Thornton
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    has this in page 211:
    -----------------------------


    "...To build aerobic fitness we do a circuit every Tuesday afternoon that lasts from 40 to 60 minutes. In one circuit Bart Kizierowski, 1999 NCAA champion in the 100 meter freestyle does the following:

    .) Runs a quarter mile in less than 1 minute;
    .) Does 10 pull-ups;
    .) Runs 5 times up and down a basketball court dumping the basketball at each end;
    .) Does 24 plyometric jumps on a 3-foot platform;
    .) Runs and dives into a 25 meter sprint kick;
    .) Does 275 meters of backstroke pulling on the lane line;
    .) Grabs a kickboard and does 31 second 50 meter kick;
    .) Swims 250 meters.

    Then he is back to the ring to begin another round. During the 45 minutes it takes to do four rounds of the circuit, Bart's pulse falls between 150 and 185 beats per minute..."


    (Note: Bart Kizierowski, a 6'5" from Poland, finished 6th. worldwide in 2000 -an Olympic year- in 50m freestyle sprint, finished 12th. worldwide in 2004 -another Olympic year- in 50m freestyle sprint, and 3rd. at the 2005 Montreal World Championships in 50m freestyle sprint)

    has this in page 212:
    --------------------------------


    "...Gary began to trust me as the season progressed. At one point I asked him if he felt we were doing enough aerobic yardage. He laughed and said,

    "We start with one and a half hour of weights, do 30 minutes of stretching and core body work, then we get in and swim about 30 to 40 minutes of technique work, and finish up with about 15 minutes of speed work. By the time of warm down my heart rate has been over 120 for about 3 hours. That is just the morning workout! (i.e.: there are two workouts per day) Yes I think we are doing enough aerobic yardage."


    Gary ended that 1995 season with five Pan Pacific gold medals..."

    and this in page 216:
    -------------------------------


    "...From 1999 to 2000 Gary Hall Jr. dramatically increased his muscle mass...My fears subsided when, while swimming with fins and paddles against the maximum weight of the power rack, he not only beat all the other Olympic sprinters in the water by over a second, but almost pulled the machine as well..."

    (Note: Gary Hall Jr., a 6'5" from USA, won silver in the 50m and 100m freestyle at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, won the gold medal in the 50m freestyle sprint and the bronze medal in the 100m freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and won again the gold medal in the 50m freestyle at the 2004 Athens Olympics)

  18. #18
    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Ion Beza
    Coach Mike Bottom -of the Gary Hall Jr. (U.S.) , Duje Draganja's (Cro.), Anthony Ervin's (U.S.) fame- credits the gold won in 200 back by Gordan Kozulj (Cro.) at the 2000 European Championships, to working on a much faster Stroke Rate.
    And of course all these swimmers are sprinters [edit: oops, didn't see the 200 back. I should say with the exception of Kozulj]. It seems to me stroke rate is much more important for sprinters. However, once you start swimming longer races reducing drag becomes more and more important. Sprinters can take the tradeoff of greatly increased propulsive force by slightly increasing their drag. Distance swimmer cannot.

    I think there are a couple reasons TI is popular. One is that it produces a reasonably efficient stroke which can be sustained. This is something very enticing to triathletes or others without a swimming background who found that, before learning TI, swimming was an absolute struggle. The second is that it is written such that it's so portable. What I mean is it's pretty easy to learn the basic principles, they make sense, and this makes it easy to take on the road or write down in a book.

  19. #19
    Very Active Member Ion Beza's Avatar
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    Originally posted by knelson
    And of course all these swimmers are sprinters [edit: oops, didn't see the 200 back. I should say with the exception of Kozulj]. It seems to me stroke rate is much more important for sprinters.
    ...
    I don't have the book handy.

    What I quoted is from my notes.

    Kozulj's 200 back is not a sprint, and in the book it goes how I remember it, Bottom seeing Kozulj doing X strokes per 50, Bottom wanting Y strokes per 50 like the stats in a big meet, working to increase Kozulj's Stroke Rate (against T.I.'s belief), and Kozulj winning 200 back at the 2000 European Championships in a Personal Best of 1:58.

    Quod Erat Demonstratum regarding Stroke Rate

  20. #20
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    Originally posted by knelson
    And of course all these swimmers are sprinters [edit: oops, didn't see the 200 back. I should say with the exception of Kozulj]. It seems to me stroke rate is much more important for sprinters. However, once you start swimming longer races reducing drag becomes more and more important. Sprinters can take the tradeoff of greatly increased propulsive force by slightly increasing their drag. Distance swimmer cannot.
    Why do you think stroke length is about drag and stroke rate is about propulsion? Think about men versus women. Stroke rates are about the same, but men take longer strokes. Women are smaller and obviously create less drag, but men are stronger. Strength must be an important element in stroke length.

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