Video: Work Less, Swim Better Part 2

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In this video blog, Total Immersion founder and head coach Terry Laughlin shows us the difference between the TI “fishlike swimming” method and “human swimming”. The difference is amazing. You can also check out Part I of this video here. If you want to swim less like a human and more like a fish, TI can help. You can learn more about taking lessons with me here or you can buy the new 10 lesson DVD from Total Immersion here (use coupon code “coachryan” at checkout for 10% off)!
Video: Work Less, Swim Better Part 2
by Terry Laughlin

For years we used the phrase “fishlike swimming” to describe TI technique and “human swimming” to describe the (highly instinctive and highly inefficient) form most people use. Another way to think of it is that humans swim like all terrestrial mammals – head up and all four limbs churning — while Perpetual Motion Freestyle is designed to emulate aquatic mammals.

Segment 1 of the “Work Less, Swim Better” series showed me moving smoothly through a pack of other swimmers in rough water in the 2006 World Masters Championship. Segment 2 uses underwater video to reveal what was happening underwater as I did. The key points include:

Pierce the Water

Human swimming, exemplified by the swimmer in the next lane, is all about pulling and kicking. His hand goes in, down and back in one motion. As the video shows, I travel twice as far on each stroke, taking 4 to 5 strokes, to his 9 to 10 over about 10 yards. His stroke moves water back, My stroke moves my body forward. One reason is that I use my extending hand to “separate water molecules” (as does the tapered snout of a barracuda) then line up my body to slide torso and legs through the human-sized sleeve I create. That habit – taught in Lessons 2 and 4 of the Self-Coached Workshop – significantly reduces drag so I travel farther on each stroke.

Hold your place

Human swimmers press the hand straight down by instinct – and because they need constant propulsion. When drag is high, you lose momentum quickly, so you have to stroke ceaselessly. Streamlining helps me conserve momentum, which gives me the luxury of more time to firmly trap water behind my hand. My solid “grip” is another reason my stroke propels me twice as far. It also means lets me use the “free energy” of a weight shift, rather than weaker and easily-fatigued arm muscles, as my human-swimming lane mate does. The patient catch and synchronized weight shift are taught in Lessons 5 and 6.

Cocoon of Calm

We all start out as Human Swimmers. It takes targeted and patient focus to replace deep-seated habits with Separating Molecules and Holding your Place. This not only helps you hold form in rough water; it also builds powerful focus that converts into a “cocoon of calm” when you encounter a churning crowd in a triathlon swim leg or open water race. Practice like that demonstrated by TI coaches from 2:14 to 2:38 helps swimmers not only accept, but enjoy, close quarters. Even while crowding each other, and intentionally creating contact, none change their form. (Click here for an expanded version of this video .) This builds resistance to the loss of form and focus experienced by many triathletes in the first minutes of a race.

Anyone can learn PMF.

There’s nothing accidental about the form those TI coaches display. Besides the seven coaches in a pack, the three swimming under the bridge, and the four swimmers following the rope all look virtually the same. PMF is the first example in swimming history of a precisely-replicable technique . . . and one that’s highly effective: All three TI coaches swimming under the bridge — Greg Sautner, Dave Barra and me – have won USMS national open water championships. PMF is a form anyone can learn by following the step-by-step stroke-building procedures in the 10-Lesson Series.


I hope you enjoyed this blog post from TI founder Terry Laughlin. Be sure to visit Terry’s blog at

Ryan Chapman
B.A.S.E. Training

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