FREE TASTER: The 'Total Immersion' Swimming Technique
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FREE TASTER: The 'Total Immersion' Swimming Technique

Total Immersion head coach Terry Laughlin shows you how to swim faster and further using less effort and energy
4.1 (66 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
2,016 students enrolled
Last updated 3/2017
Price: Free
  • 33 mins on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Understand the Total Immersion swimming technique
  • Feel more comfortable and confident in the water.
View Curriculum
  • Ability to swim 25 meters
  • Motivation to learn and improve

The Ultra-Efficient Freestyle Complete Self-Coaching Course will teach you to swim a dramatically more efficient freestyle—and transform you into your own most effective swim instructor and coach.

This is an introductory free course which teaches you the techniques of "Torpedo" and "Superman", and gives you a taster of what the main course is like. It also contains the introductions for each of the main sections, covering what you are going to learn on the course.

In the full course you will learn . . . the proven advantages of:

  • Saving energy over trying to build endurance.
  • Letting conditioning 'happen' while you improve the skills that matter.
  • Achieving comfort, body control, and weightlessness before any other skill
  • Making your body 'slippery' (reducing drag) over increasing power.
  • Learning technique holistically—so all body parts work in seamless harmony.
  • Swimming a short distance with effortless ease and crisp form before swimming farther.
  • The most effective and fastest-acting skill drills.
  • Practicing over working out.

In the full course your self-coaching tools would include

  • A 140-page, richly-illustrated ebook that explains—in simple language--the biomechanics and fluid dynamics affect your (land-adapted) body as it moves through water, and the freestyle techniques that minimize common problems and take advantage of natural forces like body mass, gravity, and buoyancy.
  • Fifteen downloadable videos. Fourteen illustrate essential mini-skills and how to learn them. The fifteenth is a detailed study of the whole stroke. All videos show every important angle, above and below water, in full and slow motion.
  • A Companion Workbook. This provides detailed guidance—what and how to do, what to avoid doing, how long and how many repetitions, key focal points—for each of the mini-skills and the whole stroke.
  • An Image Gallery of all key positions and timing to print out and take to the pool for reference, or study poolside on your phone or tablet.

You can complete the whole course in . . . 15 to 30 hours of practice, distributed over two or more months.

The full course is structured as . . . Four major learning modules, each teaching an essential efficiency skill. Each module consists of up to four steps or mini-skills—some of which can be learned in 15 to 30 minutes. Do a brief segment of drill or mini-skill work, then a segment of whole-stroke to integrate and consolidate that skill.

Why take this course? You will not only become a strikingly more comfortable, confident, and skilled swimmer. You will also become a passionately-curious student of swimming.

Who is the target audience?
  • Improvement-minded swimmers: Improve continuously and learn for life.
  • Novice to experienced Triathletes or multi-sporters: Swim comfortably, confidently and faster than ever—with more energy for the bike and run.
  • Distance, open water, and fitness swimmers who have plateaued or felt uninspired: Boost your improvement and enjoy swimming more than ever.
  • Runners seeking a low-impact fitness option. Learn and improve while recovering for your next run.
  • Total Immersion enthusiasts: Receive guidance from TI Founder Terry Laughlin.
  • This course is not designed for non-swimming beginners.
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Curriculum For This Course
Welcome to the course
4 Lectures 14:36

In this introduction Terry gives you some background on how he got into swim coaching and how that led to developing the Total Immersion technique. 

Welcome from Terry Laughlin

In this introduction, Terry gives you an idea of what you can get out of the Total Immersion technique.

What is Total Immersion Swimming?

In this lesson Terry gives you an explanation of why he's going to how to emulate a fish, rather than a traditional swimming method.

What you will learn in this course

In this lesson Terry gives some tips on how to get the most from the course and introduces the downloadable eBook which comes with the full paid version of the course.

How to get the most from the course
Comfort and body control
4 Lectures 10:01

This group of drills and skills imparts three qualities essential to ultra-efficient swimming—and to creating the conditions for continuous long-term improvement:
1. Immediate energy savings from a weightless and stable body position.
2. The body control necessary to learn all subsequent skills.
3. The focus, sense of calm, and habits of self-perception that will make your swimming more satisfying and effective for decades to come


Torpedo practice repeats are briefer than any other drill. Though you may only practice it a few times, it will create invaluable and enduring body awareness that improves Balance and Core Stability—the indispensable foundations of an efficient stroke.

The greatest benefit of Torpedo is that it has few ‘moving parts.’ This allows pinpoint focus in several key mini-skills—a ‘weightless’ head, head-spine alignment, and an engaged core:

Isolating your head in front will heighten awareness of when you’ve achieved an aligned and neutral head position, preparing you to maintain that position in every step that follows.

You’ll also have better awareness of activating core muscle. Both skills are essential to maintaining a sleek, stable body position when you begin moving your arms and legs.

Torpedo: Rehearsal
  • Stand tall with feet together in your best posture.
  • Keep shoulders relaxed.
  • Keep head neutral. Don’t lift or tuck your chin.
  • Imagine you’re wearing ‘cargo’ jeans with pockets on the front. Reach hands down thighs as if to reach deep into those pockets. (We’ll reference ‘Cargo Pockets’ several times in our lessons.) Pull navel to spine. Lightly press legs together.

Torpedo: Practice with a Glide

  • Push gently into a surface glide. (Don’t plunge underwater.) Your legs will sink gradually as glide slows. Maintain head-spine alignment as they do.
  • Hold legs together to increase glide and slow legs from sinking.
  • When you lose momentum (in a few seconds) stand for a breather and mental reset. Then push into glide again.

Torpedo Checklist
Head: Release its weight so you feel the water support (or cushion) it.
Arms: Push hands deep in Cargo Pockets.
Core: Pull navel toward spine.
Legs: Press together and lengthen.
Bodyline: Maintain the strong posture from your rehearsal.

Torpedo: Practice with a Flutter
By adding a flutter kick to Torpedo, you’ll gain a few seconds to memorize key focal points and sensations. Do not turn this into a kicking exercise! Keep kick small, gentle and quiet.

Torpedo: Partner Practice
Assisted practice with a partner can greatly ease and accelerate the acquisition of key skills because:
  • The assisting-partner’s hands-on cues provide the most accurate feel for correct positions.
  • Being towed or supported allows the practicing-partner more time to memorize key sensations.
There are two ways to assist:
Tow from Head
  1. Cradle head
  2. Check that only the rear third of the head is visible above surface.

Gently waggle head (and/or lightly massage neck) to release any tension.

Walk backward while towing at pace sufficient to keep body balanced.

Support Feet
Lightly support (don’t lift) feet and:
Stand briefly to observe head-to-toe alignment.
Ensure that legs are pressed together . . . then push into glide.
Watch to see that legs remain together after release.

Torpedo Practice Tips:
  • Repeat Gliding Torpedo four or more times.
  • Strive to glide a tiny bit farther each time.
  • Keeping head and spine aligned and legs together should help increase glide distance.
  • Then repeat Torpedo with Flutter two to four times. As you do, perform a head-to-toe scan of items on the checklist.
  • When you’ve memorized the feeling of weightless head, engaged core, and streamlined legs, proceed to Superman. Revisit Torpedo any time to refresh those sensations—either between repeats of Superman, or before Whole Stroke repeats.

Because your bodyline is longer, you’ll travel farther in Superman than in Torpedo. Yet these reps are still fairly brief—about 8 to 10 seconds. However, a strong and targeted focus will help you imprint essential sensations and habits, even in brief repeats. Unlike Torpedo, Superman is worth practicing hundreds of times, over many months, creating invaluable insights each time. Because both drills are exceedingly simple, you should be able to easily apply new insights to whole stroke.

Essential habits taught by Superman include:

  • A weightless, stable head position. This is always the starting point for achieving a stable balanced body position.
  • A fully extended bodyline. This increases support by extending your body over the maximum water surface area. A longer bodyline also reduces drag. You’ll travel farther effortlessly with a ‘lighter’ body and less drag.
  • Relaxed hands (helps Balance) and a Wide Track arm position (improves Core Stability.)
  • Calm legs drafting behind your upper body (reduces drag.)
  • Maintain these habits in every drill . . . and every stroke you take from now on.

Superman: Rehearsal
Start in Torpedo position, then:

  • Extend arms on shoulder-width Tracks.
  • Relax hands. Hands should be slightly below shoulder height, so arms slope down as shown.
  • Extend hands farther by opening underarm/axilla.
  • Tuck tummy.
  • Memorize these sensations. Check in with them while practicing Superman.

Superman: Practice

  • Extend arms with relaxed hands on Wide Tracks. Then push into glide.
  • If legs sink as glide slows, let them.
  • To glide farther, engage core, and press streamlined legs together.
  • Stand for a breather, self-assessment, and mental reset.
  • Repeat.
  • Choose one focus from checklist. Repeat several times.
  • After each repeat, assess body position and strength of focus.
  • Choose a new focus from list and repeat. Progress focus from head to arms, then core, and finally to legs.

Superman: Partner Practice

You have three options for towing or support:

  1. Hold wrists. Lengthen arms, ensure they are on parallel shoulder-width tracks.
  2. Cradle head. Ensure absence of tension in neck. Draw forward for a sense of spine lengthening.
  3. Support feet. Check head-spine alignment, arm extension, and leg streamline.

Immediately bring new habits and sensations into your whole-stroke swimming by adding a few strokes to Superman.

Practice Superman+Strokes
Choose a mini-skill focus from those you practiced in Superman.
Push into Superman. Glide long enough to check your chosen mini-skill. Begin stroking before glide slows.
Swim three to five non-breathing strokes with same focus, then stand for a breather. Repeat four or more times.

Choose a new Focal Point and repeat the process.

Note: To increase the number of strokes you can take, use a Finis Swimmer’s Snorkel. Increasing
the number of correct repetitions will accelerate learning.

Suggested Focal Point Sequence
For a simple but systematic way to organize Focal Points to cover all key skills, use the ‘head-to-toe body scan’ method, as follows. Focus on these stroke thoughts in this order 

Head. In Superman, feel your head ‘hanging’ (like a dead weight) between your shoulders.
Maintain that sensation as you begin stroking. (Alternatively, focus on feeling the water cushion your face, or visualize a laser projecting from your head-spine line . . . in Superman and while stroking.

Arms. Extend arms on Wide Tracks during Superman. Reach on the same Wide Tracks on each stroke. Also, note where hands are in Superman. Reach to the same place while stroking.

Underarm. Open underarm in Superman. In each stroke, extend forward until you feel underarm open.

Core. Feel core engaged in Superman—and as you stroke.

Legs. Lengthen legs and press together lightly in Superman. Begin stroking by reaching forward (not kicking) and let legs follow your body. Keep legs calm, quiet, and streamlined.

How Much Whole Stroke Practice?
We encourage you to practice whole stroke swimming at regular intervals throughout the lessons. However, if you’re learning these techniques for the first time, we recommend you limit whole-stroke practice mainly to the short, non-breathing repeats prescribed in 1.3 Superman+Strokes.
If you find it difficult to stroke as described in the Focal Point sequence just above, proceed directly to the Group Two Recovery exercises that follow. We promise you’ll feel markedly more comfortable and coordinated upon completing the skills and drills in that lesson.
However, if you already have fairly extensive TI experience, feel free to spend time becoming more deeply familiar with any new sensations or insights gained so far, by employing them in your normal practice routine.

Superman with strokes
Controlled, stable recovery
1 Lecture 02:15

Group One (Balance and Body Control) exercises rely entirely on gross-motor skills. These involve large body parts and major muscle groups. They’re relatively easy to coordinate—and to sense when you’re performing them correctly. This makes them ideal as the first step in improving efficiency.

Group Two exercises introduce many fine-motor skills, requiring the coordination of many more, and smaller, muscles. There are nearly limitless opportunities for error and a very narrow range of effective solutions. This greatly increases the difficulty of coordination and requires much deeper sensory awareness.

To reduce the learning curve, we’ve broken this section into many ‘bite-size’ skills—some in rehearsals, some in whole-stroke—and devised new forms of partner-assisted practice. But, these challenges can also be an opportunity—to develop Super-Learning habits that prepare for years of continued improvement . . . and will apply to learning any skill.

As noted earlier, moving an arm through the air—where it weighs 10 times as much as in the water—has enormous potential to create instability in your core body, making it much harder to learn skills and swim efficiently.

Control these destabilizing forces by imprinting three qualities in your recovery:
Symmetry. Each arm should be a mirror image of the other. This equalizes the forces affecting the body.
Relaxation. This gives arm muscles a ‘rest break’ between strokes. It also averts the creation of ballistic forces in recovery—which can divert your body off its intended path . . . forcing you to do constant course correction.
Direction. Any body part moving through the air should move in the same direction you wish to travel. This channels energy and momentum forward.

And finally, besides closely complementing the lessons learned in Group One, providing a solid foundation for efficiency and skill development, Group Two skills are also the most important for injury-free swimming.

Vessel shaping (passive and active streamlining)
1 Lecture 03:21

In the companion ebook, Ultra-Efficient Freestyle, Terry referes numerous times to Bill Boomer’s maxim “The shape of the ‘vessel’ matters more than the size of the engine.”

Chapter 6 “How Streamlining Works” provides powerful supporting evidence, including:

Fish scientists and DARPA engineers learned that dolphins are over 2500 percent more efficient than human swimmers—and can swim 700 percent faster than their muscular power should make possible possible—because of “a natural ability for active streamlining.”

Olympic medalists generate strikingly less stroking power than slower and less successful swimmers, proving that their success and speed is primarily due to “a superior ability to avoid drag.”

This lesson teaches you the lowest-drag position possible in freestyle. It will also transform your idea of freestyle technique from Upper-Body-Pulls/Lower-Body-Kicks to Streamline-Right-Side/Streamline-Left-Side.

Breath easy
1 Lecture 01:40
While previous lessons included only three drill steps, we divide breathing into twice as many steps because of its great complexity. This lesson includes a series of breathing rehearsals, two basic (no stroking) drills, and three drills-with-stroking. The rehearsals and basic drills will be invaluable aids along the way to breathing in whole stroke—the sixth and final step.

Breathing is often ruinous to stroke efficiency in freestyle because: (i) You must precisely integrate the breath into your stroke rhythm; and (ii) As you breathe, 10% of body mass (your head) turns sideways, while the rest of you is moving forward.
This lesson teaches three highly efficient moves:
  1. Keep head and spine aligned. I.E. Don’t lift your head.
  2. Breathe with body roll. I.E. Don’t turn your head.
  3. Keep lead arm on Track and lead hand patient as you breathe.

Because breathing challenges are considerable—and the solutions non-instinctive—this lesson includes breathing several rehearsals, two basic-skill exercises, and three wholestroke drills. The preparatory work will be invaluable when you get to the main drills.

Breathing Rehearsals

Rehearsals are more valuable for breathing than for any other skill because breathing requires a far more intricate coordination of many moving parts. If any part breaks down, overall efficiency can suffer significantly.

Breathing rehearsals incorporate two familiar skills—2.2 Paint a Line and 2.3 Mail Slot. Performing those skills correctly is critical to getting air efficiently and comfortably. These rehearsals also teach the precise coordination of rotating-to-air with the armstroke.

The whole stroke
1 Lecture 00:56

Lessons 1 through 4 of this video series illustrate a step-by-step method for increasing the efficiency of every key component of your stroke. This whole stroke study shows how all the pieces work together as a holistic system. We do that via a series of stroke studies, from multiple stroke views, to show each part of the stroke from it’s most revealing perspective.
In a holistic system all parts are intricately interrelated. This study guide, in combination ith the video studies, is designed to deepen your understanding of those relationships and empower you to make confident and knowledgeable choices about your own stroke.

Each view is shown first at normal speed to let you take in the natural flow of the stroke.
Then it’s repeated at slower speed to allow you to look closely at fine points.
You will learn the most by using the cursor key or your computer’s mouse to advance or reverse the video one frame at a time, while following the study cues we’ve provided for each stroke view. These study cues provide a systematic way to understand the synergies between all parts of the stroke.

What next?
1 Lecture 00:37

Dear Friends

Thank you so much for taking my the first part of the Total Immersion course. I hope you've experienced, as thousands of others have, the exciting potential of the Total Immersion approach for improving your swimming. I hope it has also inspired you to believe in your higher potential--not only in swimming, but other endeavors as well.

If you would like to learn more, the entire Total Immersion Course is available at a 50% discount here: 

Here at the Expert Academy, we publish other courses on a variety of topics, and seeing as you made it to the end of this course we thought we'd treat you to some free bonus courses too:


If you would like to try our course on how to make a cup of coffee, completely for free please click on the link below: 


We also have a course with the incomparable Russell Amerasekera on Personal Branding. if you would like to take this course for free, please click on the link below:

And if you enjoyed this course, we'd appreciate some good reviews. And if you didn't, please let us know and we'd do our best to improve it!

All the best,

Terry & The Expert Academy team

What next?
About the Instructor
Terry Laughlin
4.4 Average rating
103 Reviews
2,217 Students
2 Courses
Head Coach of Total Immersion Swimming

Terry Laughlin, the founder and Head Coach of Total Immersion Swimming, is considered by many to be the world's leading authority on how to swim efficiently. He was credited with “revolutionizing how the Navy Seals teach swimming."

The Army Rangers, Air Force Pararescue team, Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers, and U.S. Border Patrol have all sent instructors to Terry for Total Immersion training. Terry was also notably mentioned by best selling author Tim Ferriss in his TED lecture “Smash Fear, Learn Anything"

Back in September 1988 Terry met the innovative coach Bill Boomer. His unconventional ideas, capsulized in the maxim “the shape of the 'vessel' matters more than the size of the engine in swimming", would become the chief influence on how Terry would swim and coach forever after.

Terry devoted 10 years to shaping his own vessel, acting as the primary 'guinea fish' for refining the techniques taught at TI workshops. During this period he made a distinct shift from 'working out' to practicing, and experienced marked gains in efficiency, insight, and self-perception. This led him to embrace the ethos of kaizen, a Japanese philosophy that no skill is ever static or fixed but can be improved continuously.

In 2002, to celebrate having turned 50 a year earlier, Terry swam the 28.5 mile Manhattan Island Marathon. His decade of work on efficiency was reflected in completing a loop of Manhattan in 26,000 strokes (8 hours and 53 minutes at an average of 49 strokes per minute) compared to an average of 39,000 strokes for the rest of the field. On the strokes he saved, Terry could have swum another length of Manhattan! He completed the swim pain-free and felt fully recovered the next day. That's despite only training about five hours or 15,000 yards per week, a fraction of the training others had done.

After his Manhattan swim and a decade of vessel-shaping, Terry began to focus on propulsion skills. Four years later, at age 55, Terry's transformation as a swimmer culminated in a 4-month stretch of accomplishments that would have seemed wildly improbable 35 years earlier.

In May 2006, at the U.S. Masters Nationals, he recorded pool times faster than he'd seen in 13 years. During the open water season, between June and August, he completed his second Manhattan Island Marathon, much faster than before (and in 25,000 strokes). He won four National Masters Open Water championships, from 1 mile to 10km. He broke national records for the 1 and 2 Mile Cable Swims. He also placed 8th in the World Masters Open Water Championship.

At 64, Terry is ever more focused on swimming for health and happiness, though he still enjoys competition, particularly in open water events. Some of his open water swimming is for adventure. In October 2013, Terry and two TI compadres swam Gibraltar Strait. In October 2015, the threesome swam from Corsica to Sardegna. One thing is unchanged: Terry still begins every swim (even long swims like the 18km Gibraltar crossing) with an explicit intention to improve his swimming, believing fully that he can be a better swimmer at the end of practice than at the beginning.

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