Universal Swimming Challenges

Swimming with Drag

Why does swimming present as such a challenging activity? What are the Universal Swimming Challenges faced by all human bodies in water?

Well, lets think about a few things that happen to our bodies (and brains) when we hit the water.

  1. We are no longer on/over our centre of gravity, but hanging from it
  2. Humans tend to move around in water, and move the water around (very uneconomical)
  3. We have reduced visual cues
  4. Our faces are submerged in a medium with no accessible oxygen

The result of these factors, leaves us marginally in, or close to triggering our flight / fright response ( even in confident and regular swimmers).


In addition to these fundamentals,  there are  4 key challenges that are universal to the human swimming problem. Each of these affects any individual in differing amounts, depending on multiple factors….. skill, confidence, body mass, mass distribution, breath control to name but a few.


  • The human body is heavier that water
  • 5% of our bodies ‘rest’ above the water
  • Gravity pulls you down


  • We are trying to move in an unstable medium
  • Instability itself, creates an unstable body position
  • We use energy to stabilise the body – for many in the form of movement, which is hugely energy wasting and costs us precious heartbeats


  • Water is 880x denser that air
  • As we increase our swimming pace, drag increases exponentially
  • Form drag – through body position (see below)
  • Wave drag – through noisy turbulent strokes


Form Drag

Swimming with Drag










All too often, and until we know otherwise, the direct result of drag and instability which tend to cause sinking is to….

Limb Churn (windmilling arms)

  • Disconnects us from our true power source
  • We move water around, instead of moving through the water
  • We emulate ‘wheel spinning’ like a car wheel spinning in ice or mud, with no traction
  • Generally causes a low level of efficiency, less that optimal forward propulsion for the effort’ used



Shinji – Before and After

Some of you may be familiar with Shinji Takeuchi, TI Master Coach, and self taught TI swimmer.  Check out his before and after video.



Before – by no means a poor stroke, he is able to move, at pace, and on observation – swims like many swimmers you and I know;  however observe all of those stroke issues listed above, the instability, limb churning and turbulence (bubbles indicate wasted distribution of energy), low efficiency for lots of effort

After – what do we now observe?  A more balanced, streamlined, stable stroke with higher efficiency, we observe less movement for more propulsion (relative to the lane rope markers). Of course this is a low effort, cruisey demo swim, but the mechanics allow for a platform on which to improve further, and he will gain the benefits of conditioning programs that include increased distance and pace.