Credibility of Advice;Expertise of Advisor

Discussion in 'General Fitness' started by Larry Weisentha, Sep 15, 2003.

  1. I've been having a private discussion with a newsgroup reader, wherein one of the topics under
    consideration is how much attention should be paid to the opinions of a hobbyist versus an expert.
    This is a subject which has been raised on this newsgroup before by others.

    Although I discuss "TI" in this, the following is not offered as an ad hominum attack; but I'm
    hoping that it can be understood as being helpful. I'm trying to point out that different people may
    have a different appreciation for problems and their potential solutions and that a person with
    ostensibly less expertise and experience may, in fact, have an advantage in appreciating the root of
    a problem and possibly also in recognizing a potential solution.

    >>>

    <<addressed to an expert competitive swimmer with a great kick>>

    "TI" was valuable for me (Oct '97 alumn) because it made me realize when I was and wasn't out of
    balance, which was something I hadn't really considered before. But it really wasn't all that
    helpful getting me to stay in balance (I wasn't able to stick with the program as outlined for more
    than a couple months because of a shoulder injury which was caused by the side lying drills in full
    abduction and extreme internal rotation). But I tried diligently to take the lessons I learned and
    apply them to improve my balance, but couldn't ever quite get it to work for me the way it
    ostensibly worked for Terry and others. Until one day I was just fooling around with a kickboard and
    started to use it as an "indicator" of body position. Aware that my butt was riding underwater, I
    just tried to "push" it up using my torso muscles. What did it the best was tensioning the lowest of
    the dorsal spine muscles. When I tensioned them...magic... the butt came up and the board went down,
    clear underwater. When, in this position, I elevated my head slightly, the board went down lower and
    my butt rode even higher. Then, when I tried to assume the kickboard position often used by expert
    competitive swimmers in "social" kick sets (you know, big arch to get the heads way up to make it
    easier to talk), I realized that the muscles involved were the same lowest lumbar muscles which
    pushed my butt up. So I got the idea that kickboard training might be really helpful for teaching
    swimmers how to kick while their lowest lumbar muscles were in a position to produce a relatively
    extreme arch, which, of course, made it easier to maintain a less extreme arch and to kick with a
    less extreme arch when the board was taken away.

    Anyway, my point is that Terry (who has enormously more experience teaching these things than I, but
    who has gotten his main insights by swimming himself), wouldn't get to this point, because he has
    more natural body buoyancy and more flexible ankles and, thus, doesn't have the more difficult
    challenge to remain in balance that I have. Likewise, to a swimmer at a high level, this is all
    second nature/autopilot and completely under the radar to appreciate. But for someone like me, with
    a motivation to learn, who has been thinking and struggling with the basic problem for years, and
    with the body type (relatively thin, heavy runners legs, inflexible ankles, sub- expert level of
    performance) the problem is magnified and the solution, once insight is gained, becomes so clear.

    A swimmer in a wetsuit could never appreciate how profound is the effect of selective back
    tensioning. Someone like a 30 to 40 pound overweight female with buoyant legs and, I'm sure, an even
    more buoyant pelvis and thighs likewise wouldn't appreciate it. Nor, necessarily, would it be
    immediately obvious to a more expert, and great kicking, swimmer like you, who has developed the
    natural lower back tension through years of strong kicking and especially kickboard training.

    But notice that the guys who did get it...right away...were the two guys who were tall, skinny
    runner types? If it works for us, it will work for anyone and, I believe, it does explain why really
    great swimmers, who maintain that lumbar tension, can raise their heads all they want and still keep
    their bodies much more horizontal in the water than can less expert swimmers without lumbar arches
    who are endlessly hiding their heads, skating on their sides, pressing their buoys, and carefully
    placing their hands at entry.

    Anyway, the point of all of the above is to say that, sometimes, the point of view of a person with
    less expertise and experience can be as valuable as that of a person with more expertise and
    experience, precisely because the former person is so much more acutely aware of the effect of his
    own imperfections that it allows for insights which wouldn't be as obvious if he weren't so
    afflicted by these imperfections.

    Larry Weisenthal

    Certitude is poison; curiosity is life
     
    Tags:


  2. Dakitty

    Dakitty Guest

    "Larry Weisenthal" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...

    > A swimmer in a wetsuit could never appreciate how profound is the effect of selective back
    > tensioning. Someone like a 30 to 40 pound overweight female with buoyant legs and, I'm sure, an
    > even more buoyant pelvis and thighs likewise wouldn't appreciate it. Nor, necessarily, would it be
    > immediately obvious to a more expert, and great kicking, swimmer like you, who has developed the
    > natural lower back tension through years of strong kicking and especially kickboard training.

    It's not that it's not appreciates, it's that it doesn't work for all body styles. Probably mmuch
    like the way you say TI aggrivated your shoulder, and maybe lead to an injury, amore of a lumbar
    arch than I already have naturally will probably lead to a lumbar injury in case of mine and the
    like body styles.

    > But notice that the guys who did get it...right away...were the two guys who were tall, skinny
    > runner types? If it works for us, it will work for anyone and, I believe, it does explain why
    > really great swimmers, who maintain that lumbar tension, can raise their heads all they want and
    > still keep their bodies...

    See, your technique may work well for your body style. What gets a bit annoying is that you insist
    that it will work for anyone and everyone. If there is one technique that works for everyone, then
    all swimmers yould be using the same technique, and there wouldn't be as much of a difference
    between even the top swimmers as there is.

    Your technique is probably more of an adjustment for your body style than it is a technique that
    should work for everyone.
     
  3. Larry Weisenthal wrote:
    > Anyway, my point is that Terry (who has enormously more experience teaching these things than I,
    > but who has gotten his main insights by swimming himself), wouldn't get to this point, because he
    > has more natural body buoyancy and more flexible ankles and, thus, doesn't have the more
    > difficult challenge to remain in balance that I have. Likewise, to a swimmer at a high level,
    > this is all second nature/autopilot and completely under the radar to appreciate. But for someone
    > like me, with a motivation to learn, who has been thinking and struggling with the basic problem
    > for years, and with the body type (relatively thin, heavy runners legs, inflexible ankles, sub-
    > expert level of performance) the problem is magnified and the solution, once insight is gained,
    > becomes so clear.

    I agree with the main point, but it applies to everybody. Every swimmer has a specific point of
    view on each item, and most swimmers will form their view based on their own, specific experience.
    We expect that a coach will have a more general view basaed on his/her experience with many
    swimmers over many years, but I have had coaches who base their coaching on what worked for their
    one or two superstars, apparently thinking that if it worked for the superstar, it is correct in an
    absolute sense.

    I think it doesn't work that way. Superstars generally are better suited genetically for swimming
    fast. I think the average swimmer can't learn much from them at all.

    > A swimmer in a wetsuit could never appreciate how profound is the effect of selective back
    > tensioning.

    But it isn't profound, Larry. It was profound for you. It doesn't work for me. You made a good
    point, but then you violated your own rule.

    > Someone like a 30 to 40 pound overweight female with buoyant legs and, I'm sure, an even more
    > buoyant pelvis and thighs likewise wouldn't appreciate it. Nor, necessarily, would it be
    > immediately obvious to a more expert, and great kicking, swimmer like you, who has developed the
    > natural lower back tension through years of strong kicking and especially kickboard training.
    >
    > But notice that the guys who did get it...right away...were the two guys who were tall, skinny
    > runner types? If it works for us, it will work for anyone

    Why? Why would arching the back do anything for the 30 to 40 pounds overweight female (why are we
    picking on females) or the guy with the great kick?

    > and, I believe, it does explain why really great swimmers, who maintain that lumbar tension, can
    > raise their heads all they want and still keep their bodies much more horizontal in the water than
    > can less expert swimmers without lumbar arches who are endlessly hiding their heads, skating on
    > their sides, pressing their buoys, and carefully placing their hands at entry.

    Let's just say that some swimmers can benefit from arching the back.

    > Anyway, the point of all of the above is to say that, sometimes, the point of view of a person
    > with less expertise and experience can be as valuable as that of a person with more expertise and
    > experience, precisely because the former person is so much more acutely aware of the effect of his
    > own imperfections that it allows for insights which wouldn't be as obvious if he weren't so
    > afflicted by these imperfections.

    I agree, which is why I have criticised you in the past for always addressing your analysis to
    elite swimmers.

    martin

    --
    Martin Smith email: [email protected] Vollsveien 9 tel. : +47 6783 1188
    P.O. Box 482 mob. : +47 932 48 303 1327 Lysaker, Norway
     
  4. Chris

    Chris Guest

    "DaKitty" <[email protected]> pondered, puzzeled, prognosticated (perhaps even
    premeditated), and then, in a very wise voice, sed: :

    >Your technique is probably more of an adjustment for your body style than it is a technique that
    >should work for everyone.

    <sigh> This is what Larry has been saying from the very beginning. A long forward, reaching
    (possibly "gliding") stroke, as modeled by Popov works very well for someone who has the same
    body as Popov.

    He goes on to say, that MOST of us have very little in common with Popov (eg height, flexibiltiy,
    kick strength...) and might be far better served modelling our strokes on swimmers with builds and
    bodies more equivalent to our own.

    --
    chris

    "Nothing is real."
     
  5. Dakitty

    Dakitty Guest

    "Martin W. Smith" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > Larry Weisenthal wrote:
    > > Anyway, my point is that Terry (who has enormously more experience teaching these things than I,
    > > but who has gotten his main insights by swimming himself), wouldn't get to this point, because
    > > he has more natural body buoyancy and more flexible ankles and, thus, doesn't have the more
    > > difficult challenge to remain in balance that I have. Likewise, to a swimmer at a high level,
    > > this is all second nature/autopilot and completely under the radar to appreciate. But for
    > > someone like me, with a motivation to learn, who has been thinking and struggling with the basic
    > > problem for years, and with the body type (relatively thin, heavy runners legs, inflexible
    > > ankles, sub- expert level of performance) the problem is magnified and the solution, once
    > > insight is gained, becomes so clear.
    >
    > I agree with the main point, but it applies to everybody. Every swimmer has a specific point of
    > view on each item, and most swimmers will form their view based on their own, specific experience.
    > We expect that a coach will have a more general view basaed on his/her experience with many
    > swimmers over many years, but I have had coaches who base their coaching on what worked for their
    > one or two superstars, apparently thinking that if it worked for the superstar, it is correct in
    > an absolute sense.
    >
    > I think it doesn't work that way. Superstars generally are better suited genetically for swimming
    > fast. I think the average swimmer can't learn much from them at all.

    I think you have a very valid point there.

    > > A swimmer in a wetsuit could never appreciate how profound is the effect of selective back
    > > tensioning.
    >
    > But it isn't profound, Larry. It was profound for you. It doesn't work for me. You made a good
    > point, but then you violated your own rule.

    Same here.

    > > Someone like a 30 to 40 pound overweight female with buoyant legs and, I'm sure, an even more
    > > buoyant pelvis and thighs likewise wouldn't appreciate it. Nor, necessarily, would it be
    > > immediately obvious to a more expert, and great kicking, swimmer like you, who has developed the
    > > natural lower back tension through years of strong kicking and especially kickboard training.
    > >
    > > But notice that the guys who did get it...right away...were the two guys who were tall, skinny
    > > runner types? If it works for us, it will work for anyone
    >
    > Why? Why would arching the back do anything for the 30 to 40 pounds overweight female (why are we
    > picking on females) or the guy with the great kick?

    Cause I said I was about 20 or 30 lb overweight, and that his methods do nothing for me, but instead
    put my back into a very unnatural and potentiall hurtful position. And I think because several
    people said that a great kick helps your legs from sinking.

    > > and, I believe, it does explain why really great swimmers, who maintain that lumbar tension, can
    > > raise their heads all they want and still keep their bodies much more horizontal in the water
    > > than can less expert swimmers without lumbar arches who are endlessly hiding their heads,
    > > skating on their sides, pressing their buoys, and carefully placing their hands at entry.
    >
    > Let's just say that some swimmers can benefit from arching the back.

    Which is probably very true. It really bu8gs me when Larry goes on claiming it will work
    for everyone.

    > > Anyway, the point of all of the above is to say that, sometimes, the point of view of a person
    > > with less expertise and experience can be as valuable as that of a person with more expertise
    > > and experience, precisely because the former person is so much more acutely aware of the effect
    > > of his own imperfections that it allows for insights which wouldn't be as obvious if he weren't
    > > so afflicted by these imperfections.
    >
    > I agree, which is why I have criticised you in the past for always addressing your analysis to
    > elite swimmers.

    He see-saws from applying his technique to elite swimmers to others, then excluding certain groups
    in one post, then later on claiming it should work for all. His target audience seems to change.
    That is what bugs me the most with his "proofs".
     
  6. Dakitty

    Dakitty Guest

    "chris" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > "DaKitty" <[email protected]> pondered, puzzeled, prognosticated (perhaps even
    > premeditated), and then, in a very wise voice, sed: :
    >
    > >Your technique is probably more of an adjustment for your body style than
    it
    > >is a technique that should work for everyone.
    >
    > <sigh> This is what Larry has been saying from the very beginning. A long forward, reaching
    > (possibly "gliding") stroke, as modeled by Popov works very well for someone who has the same body
    > as Popov.

    That's different from what he's been trying to convince me of. Perhaps he got sidetracked when he
    was explaining it to me. That's just what my pet peeve with his stahtements was, that he's been
    trying to convince me that they will apply to everyone.

    > He goes on to say, that MOST of us have very little in common with Popov (eg height, flexibiltiy,
    > kick strength...) and might be far better served modelling our strokes on swimmers with builds and
    > bodies more equivalent to our own.

    Well, being that I too am a tall Slav (although a female), maybe I do have a body style and muscle
    structure that is closer to Popov's than most people around here. (although, not the strength and
    flexibility) Maybe that's why it bugs me so much when Larry knocks down the TI, what TI teaches, to
    me, feels a lot more natural and comfortable and streamlined that what he suggests. So, when he
    calls it wrong *sigh* well, you got to see what happens... no need to rehash it.
     
  7. Martin, quoting me:

    > Someone like a 30 to 40 pound overweight female with buoyant legs and, I'm sure, an even more
    > buoyant pelvis and thighs likewise wouldn't appreciate it. Nor, necessarily, would it be
    > immediately obvious to a more expert, and great kicking, swimmer like you, who has developed the
    > natural lower back tension through years of strong kicking and especially kickboard training.
    >
    > But notice that the guys who did get it...right away...were the two guys who were tall, skinny
    > runner types? If it works for us, it will work for anyone

    Martin asks:

    >>Why? Why would arching the back do anything for the 30 to 40 pounds
    overweight female (why are we picking on females) or the guy with the great kick?<<

    Well, the best way for me to respond would be to re-play the e-mail I got from the expert
    competitive swimmer who does have a great kick:

    >>

    From a really good swimmer, with a really great kick:

    Here are a few points I'd like to share:

    - Whether lower back arch is necessary maybe up to debate. From my experience, my back muscles
    certainly are tensed during freestyle swimming. The tension may be slight, but it's definitely
    there. I only recently started noticing it after your discussion of back arch. It had never
    crossed my mind before. Today when I tried relaxing the back muscles to see what would happen,
    right away my form deteriorated and my could not maintain my kick near the surface.

    I think that we humans are built in a way that we can bend forward or bring the legs up towards
    the chest easily, but trying to bend backwards is very hard. So maintaining a horizontal
    position in water requires certain effort, and most people simply aren't used to doing it.
    Experienced swimmers, on the other hand, tense their back muscles (even if only slightly) and
    can thus quite easily maintain a horizontally streamlined body position. I bet many of them
    don't even realize it! <<

    Now, here's the point.

    I agree that, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you are wearing a wetsuit or if you have a
    naturally buoyant lower body, then you don't need to worry about arching your back or pressing your
    buoy and you probably don't need to worry about head position, either. When I "swim" in a wetsuit, I
    can lift my heels right up out of the water and bend my knees to a 90 degree angle and still remain
    nice and flat. I did qualify all of this by saying that it doesn't apply to such people.

    As far as elite swimmers/great kickers, though, I think it does apply. As clearly explained by the
    above e-mail, arching is very important, even to elite swimmers/great kickers...but they do it
    automatically. They get it from all the kickboard training, and from the looking foward while
    swimming in crowded workout lanes, and from swimming 10,000 meter days (usually with pretty
    continuous and vigorous kicking). All of this develops their lower lumbar arch, which they have on
    autopilot, but, should they relax their backs (see above), they suffer the same fate as us ungangly,
    leg sinking runners.

    The lesson which is applicable for a lot of swimmers, if not all swimmers, is that maintaining the
    tension of the lower lumbar spine is centrally important to balance. How you get it is your choice.
    Do miles of kicking, preferably with a board to train exactly the right muscles; do the Bill Boomer
    "bridge" exercises, e.g.

    http://weisenthal.org/swimming/boombrdg.jpg

    and/or do the "bustle butt" underwater-kickboard exercise I suggested, alternated with bustlebutt
    and cheek to cheek full stroke swimming drills.

    Or whatever it takes. But do it...unless you don't have to because you are naturally buoyant or
    because you only swim in a wetsuit.

    Larry Weisenthal

    Certitude is poison; curiosity is life
     
  8. Larry Weisenthal wrote:
    >
    > Martin, quoting me:
    >
    > > Someone like a 30 to 40 pound overweight female with buoyant legs and, I'm sure, an even more
    > > buoyant pelvis and thighs likewise wouldn't appreciate it. Nor, necessarily, would it be
    > > immediately obvious to a more expert, and great kicking, swimmer like you, who has developed the
    > > natural lower back tension through years of strong kicking and especially kickboard training.
    > >
    > > But notice that the guys who did get it...right away...were the two guys who were tall, skinny
    > > runner types? If it works for us, it will work for anyone
    >
    > Martin asks:
    >
    > >>Why? Why would arching the back do anything for the 30 to 40 pounds
    > overweight female (why are we picking on females) or the guy with the great kick?<<
    >
    > Well, the best way for me to respond would be to re-play the e-mail I got from the expert
    > competitive swimmer who does have a great kick:

    But he already arches his back, Larry. Do you have a letter from a guy with a great kick who did not
    arch his back but whose kick and/or stroke improved measurably when he began arching his back?

    > I agree that, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you are wearing a wetsuit or if you have a
    > naturally buoyant lower body, then you don't need to worry about arching your back or pressing
    > your buoy and you probably don't need to worry about head position, either. When I "swim" in a
    > wetsuit, I can lift my heels right up out of the water and bend my knees to a 90 degree angle
    > and still remain nice and flat. I did qualify all of this by saying that it doesn't apply to
    > such people.
    >
    > As far as elite swimmers/great kickers, though, I think it does apply. As clearly explained by the
    > above e-mail, arching is very important, even to elite swimmers/great kickers...but they do it
    > automatically.

    That's right. They do it automatically. And anyone who can benefit from it will do it automatically.
    My legs are not buoyant. My legs sink without a pull buoy. When I arch my back, they sink more. I
    have a terrible kick.

    > The lesson which is applicable for a lot of swimmers, if not all swimmers, is that maintaining the
    > tension of the lower lumbar spine is centrally important to balance. How you get it is your
    > choice. Do miles of kicking, preferably with a board to train exactly the right muscles; do the
    > Bill Boomer "bridge" exercises, e.g.

    You're not stating it correctly. It should read maintaining tension of the lower lumbar spine is
    centrally importan to being able to raise your head and feet at the same time, but is no guarantee
    that you will be able to raise both your head and feet at the same time.

    martin

    --
    Martin Smith email: [email protected] Vollsveien 9 tel. : +47 6783 1188
    P.O. Box 482 mob. : +47 932 48 303 1327 Lysaker, Norway
     
  9. In article <[email protected]>, [email protected] (Larry
    Weisenthal) writes:

    >(why are we picking on females)

    P.S. I really should answer this.

    If you ever get the chance to look at CT scans of male and female legs it is striking to note the
    difference between the muscle to fat ratios. Take two legs of similar circumference, one male and
    the other female. The former will typically be mostly muscle, with only a relatively thin layer of
    fat. The latter are quite often close to 50/50. So females have the clear advantage of lower body
    buoyancy (overweight men more often just carry it around and in the middle of their waists...right
    at the center of buoyancy).

    This explains, I think, why women college swimmers tend to "lose their kick" at a greater rate than
    men (not my observation; I'm quoting the observation of a 2 time USA Swimming coach of the year). As
    they age, girls' legs tend to increase their flotation and the urge/need to kick diminishes. The
    college guys get heavier and heavier legs, so they tend to at least keep the kick they had in high
    school, if not improve it.

    Larry Weisenthal

    Certitude is poison; curiosity is life
     
  10. Larry Weisenthal wrote:
    >
    > Martin:
    >
    > >>But he already arches his back, Larry. Do you have a letter from a guy
    > with a great kick who did not arch his back but whose kick and/or stroke improved measurably when
    > he began arching his back?<<
    >
    > I don't think that I've explained the point I'm trying to make....simply the point is to
    > illustrate that the lower back arch is important...even at the elite level (the swimmer who sent
    > me the e-mail)...

    We got that point long ago. The point that goes with it is that if arching your lower back works for
    you, you will do it naturally as you become stronger and keep trying to go faster. Nobody gets to
    the elite level without arching his back who then suddenly discovers that if he arches his back he
    can take two seconds off his 100 freestyle time.

    > May I presume to make some suggestions?

    Certainly.

    > If your butt is up and your legs are still dragging that is one thing. But if your butt is down
    > under the water, that is deadly. Just look underwater at guys who swim that way, downsloping from
    > head to toe. The obvious drag is painful to look at. Look at a really good swimmer (my favorite
    > swimmer to watch is Hackett, very long, I'm sure heavy legs, but his butt is on the surface at all
    > times...I don't think that there is any time when some fabric is not showing). If your butt is up,
    > your legs may still drag (more below), but if your butt is down, then your legs are dragging for
    > sure and you are paying a big price in performance.
    >
    > What muscles to tension to get the butt up? Don't think arch the back (you'll end up with a big
    > sway back). Instead, you want a selective arching of the lower most back muscles. The way you
    > learn which ones these are is to think not arch the back but instead to think push up the butt,
    > and note which muscles tension.
    >
    > Don't overdo it at first. You are almost as old as me. I don't want you writing back complaining
    > how your back hurts. Rome wasn't built in a day. You don't even need to push it all the way up to
    > the surface at first. Just, for example, get it half way up and note the muscles which are doing
    > this. Work on these muscle little by little, and you will get more and more up on the surface.

    I think my butt is as high as it can go. I will try it again, but I've been at it a long time, so
    there is nothing new under the sun.

    > Now, about those legs. Backbone connnected to the hip bone (pelvis/butt), hip bone connected to
    > the thigh bone, thigh bone connected to the leg bone.
    >
    > Your legs don't float. Neither do mine. You don't necessarily have to kick them to keep them up,
    > at least you don't need to kick vigorously. But you do need to hold them up, since they won't
    > float on their own. All it takes is to learn to hold them up when the pelvis is on the surface,
    > helped out with whatever level of kick you can manage.

    I keep my legs up with a combination of two-beat kicking and undulation. There is no way to improve
    my kick, because my ankles are very stiff. They cannot be made more flexible. It is a physical
    limitation some people have.

    > By the way, I've taken two adult swimming workshops in my life and, at both of them, the majority
    > of the workshop participants were heavy legged, poor kicking guys like me (mostly triathlete
    > types). So I do think that this is relevant to a great many, if not all, people who are interested
    > in improving their swimming technique.

    It definitely is.

    martin

    --
    Martin Smith email: [email protected] Vollsveien 9 tel. : +47 6783 1188
    P.O. Box 482 mob. : +47 932 48 303 1327 Lysaker, Norway
     
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