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Total Body Force Swimming – Part 1

Updated: Jan 22

Over the past 12 months we have received numerous requests from our readers for more information about our swim technique – Total Body Force (TBF). Here Head Coach, Brett Sutton explains TBF swimming in a 3 part series.

  • Part 1 details the reasoning behind this technique and why it was developed, including the overall goals.

  • Part 2 will address the stroke technique specifics – not feeling the water, generating force, rhythm and balance, breathing patterns, hand placement and head position.

  • Part 3 looks specifically at TBF for women.

TBF Swimming At Trisutto, Total Body Force Swimming techniques form the basis of our swim program. Our swim program in turn is the foundation of our overall Triathlon Program. TBF swim techniques are therefore fundamental to Trisutto coaching methodologies. All of our coaches are trained in and attuned to these techniques.

Why TBF? The first point to reiterate is that we DO NOT try and teach our swimmers the theory used by the best swimmers in the world. We find that most age group athletes (and coaches) have tried to follow the line of theory of modelling off what these very best swimmers do and then applying it to triathlon. We do not believe this is effective.

Replicating the mechanics of a Michael Phelps swim stroke for

example, simply will not work. Instead of trying to copy the stroke of a person who has been swimming 80km a week for 10+ years and who has a completely different physique to us (and whose event is a a completely different distance in a different sport), we instead aim to find the swim stroke that is optimal to each individual.

Triathletes come in all shapes and sizes and therefore need a swim stroke suitable to their individuality. One size DOES not fit all!

Trying to copy Michael Phelps will end in frustration. Photo:

We train for Triathlon, not swimming. These are two separate sports and we therefore train the swim component as such. If our sport was speed swimming or pool swimming, we would likely practice an entirely different stroke. Our sport however involves open water swimming with a bike and run after it. We train accordingly.

Swimming in a triathlon is different to pool swimming – we need to develop a swim stroke to withstand these conditions.

TBF goals

  • Implement a stroke that we can replicate over and over without breaking down (approx 1500 times for our Olympic Distance athletes and 3800 times for our Ironman athletes). When working on a swim stroke our priority consideration is ‘HOW DO I TIRE LEAST'

  • A stroke where we can attain the necessary volume in training without causing injury. Also a stroke allowing the volume without causing excessive fatigue levels. We have two other disciplines, bike and run to train for also.

  • Rhythm and Balance in our stroke. Our swim stroke is dictated by our breathing pattern. Whether it be one side only or bilateral breathing, the breathing pattern is critical to helping us find both balance and rhythm in the water.

Different strokes for different folks.

The above video shows 25 swimmers in the pool with at least 8 different strokes at play. Two time Olympic medalist Nicola Spirig leads Lane 2 and is a textbook example of TBF Swimming. In 2016 her swim stroke was altered specifically with the Rio Olympics Ocean swim in mind. Nicola went on to surprise everyone when she emerged with the front pack in Rio.

Total Body Force Swimming – Part 2 Letting go of the false conception that we need to be symmetrical in the water has paved the way for many swimming breakthroughs....

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