How Bad Balance Can Kill Your Swim Times

When you think of balance, you probably don’t think of swim times.  Instead you might think of surfing, yoga, dance, skiing, or even diving.
But balancing your body is the key to swimming efficiently and maintaining good stroke technique.
Here are the 3 most common ways that bad balance ruins your stroke.

Sinking Legs

The most common problem that many swimmers have is that their hips and legs sink in the water.  When you are tilted in the water, it creates more drag, which slows you down.
There are lots of reasons why this might happen.
One is that you aren’t exhaling, so your lungs are filled with air.  This raises your chest in the water, which causes your legs to sink (like a seesaw).
Another reason is that you’re kicking from the knee and not from the hip.  If you keep your legs straight, they are less likely to sink down.  It’s that simple.
You could also be bending your spine, angling your legs down although your chest stays on the surface.  Think about it.  If your spine stays straight, and your chest is on the surface, there’s no way that your legs can sink.  Planks are a great way to strengthen those inner core muscles.

High Head

Sometimes you’re tempted to lift your head when you breathe.
Don’t give in!
The reason why your legs sink so much is that they are way heavier then the top half of your body.  Your head is the one heavy part that you can really control on top.  So it acts as a counterweight.
When it stays in the water, in line with your spine, it balances out your legs and pulls them up.  If you lift it up, it does the opposite and forces your legs and hips down further.
Always keep your head straight, with slight downward pressure to force your legs to stay up.

Uneven Hips

There are two axes to balance: horizontal and vertical.  When your hips and legs sink, that’s an issue with the vertical axis.  You have a seesaw effect going on, moving the two sides of your body up and down.
But you can also have problems with balancing the horizontal axis.  And this usually comes from the hip roll.
You should be rotating your body 180 degrees with every stroke you take.  Face one side of the pool, roll to the other side, roll back.  This helps you move through the water (like a torpedo) and makes breathing easier.
If you don’t roll enough, your balance will be thrown off when you have to either rotate more or raise your head to breathe.
If you roll too much, you will feel like your body is out of control and your strokes will take too much time.
Another issue is side favoritism.  Everyone has a side they feel more comfortable breathing on (mine’s the right).  If you keep rotating more to one side than the other, your body will be thrown off-balance. You won’t swim straight, which will force you to spend energy correcting your direction instead of working on speed.

How to help

There are lots of drills that you can do to work on your balance in the pool.
Try floating on the surface and moving your head up and down to see what happens to your legs. Get a feel for where it should rest so that your legs stay on the surface.
Here are a bunch of other drills that will help if you find that you have this problem in the water!

Your thoughts on balance & swim times

Do you have any drills that help you stay streamlined in the pool?  Share them below!

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