What is a key contributor to poor body position in the water?  Have you ever considered that it’s all in your head?

Well not quite as there are a few factors that can cause a poor body position in the water but your head position can be a strong contender.  Some swimmers legs are too high whereas some swimmers legs drag along the bottom, other swimmers complain of pain in their necks, shoulders and backs after longer periods of swimming.
I have been asked about body position a lot recently both online and in my South West Swim sessions and the first port of call is usually a head position test.  Head position is a very individual thing and the position of the head in the swim can play a part in dictating your body position in the water.  Your head can act as a pivot point for your body, looking too far forward can sink your legs and cause drag whereas looking to far down may make your legs too high so you are kicking air.

I always prescribe a simple test (based on the Swim Smooth version shown to me by Paul Newsome), its amazing to see the look on a struggling swimmers face when this one simple change can impact the whole feel of their stroke, for the better.  Why not give the test a go yourself:

It is fairly simple but does rely heavily on your feel for the position and if it feels right for you……..or not. You could also have somebody looking out for your body position on the side if possible, noting how you looked in the water, were your feet higher , legs higher etc.

I must also state that if you have any neck problems take care doing the test.

Swim one or two lengths at a time in each of the following positions:

First – Swim with your head down, almost with your chin touching your chest. This position is an extreme and not really a proper swimming position. I include this so the swimmer can feel what it does to their body shape in the water.  Most usually complain that is it not comfortable and hard to rotate / breathe.  Again, take care doing this if you have any problems associated with the neck, back etc.

Second – Swim with your eyes looking straight down to the bottom of the pool.

Third – Now swim with your head facing forwards, goggles under the water, so that you can effectively see the end of the pool.

Fourth – Now swim with your head in a position between the two. Start with your head down looking at the bottom then move your chin slightly forward. Your eyes should be able to see around 1-2 metres in front of you. You should NOT be able to see the end of the pool.

Note how each of these positions felt to you. The first position is strange and can make your legs higher, or lower in the water (yes, it can strangely make some swimmers legs sink.  going against the grain). The second position should bring your body position higher in the water, the third should sink your body and legs. In most people I have coached the fourth position is the most popular and gives a good degree of balance in the stroke and also buoyancy. It is also a great open water position as it makes sighting low to the water easier.

Lastly swim a few lengths in your favoured head position and try and tweak around it slightly, seeing what is comfortable for you individually.

There is no one answer to this one, hence the importance of how it feels to you. At the end of the simple test you should be able to gauge a good position for you and it may (or I would hope should) make you feel a little faster in the water as you will be more streamlined and efficient.

There are other factors to remember too, such as to expel air under the water, this is so your chest is not too buoyant (which can also lead to sinking legs) and also to remember that wearing a wetsuit may change your body position by default, so your head position may need to adjust slightly.

A great tool for capturing this and other stroke flaws are video analysis sessions. We offer our own service for this here

I hope this post has been useful to you.


South West Swim