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Six ways to get more horizontal while swimming

Improving your body position will help you swim faster for less effort

One reason many people, especially men, swim faster with a pull buoy between their legs is because it helps them hold a better body position. The improvement in streamlining more than compensates for the loss in propulsion from their feet.

The best swimmers achieve this body position without the aid of a float (which means they can still kick). They are horizontal in the water. In contrast, the legs and hips of weaker swimmers often sink. If this happens to you, it’s worth dedicating a few minutes every swim to improving your body position.

Here are some suggestions for helping you get more horizontal in the water. Lie face down in the water with your arms above your head, pointing forward, shoulder-width apart. Relax and see what happens. Unless you are naturally buoyant, you will probably find you start to sink from your feet first. Assuming you do sink, see if any of the following help you hold a more horizontal position in the water:

  • Reach forward and slightly down with your hands so that your shoulders lift towards your ears. Hold the tension lightly.
  • Relax your neck so that your head is in a neutral position, eyes looking down.
  • Press down with your chest.
  • Tighten your core: pull your belly button up and clench your buttocks (lightly – you need to be able to maintain this).
  • Stretch your legs to make yourself as long in the water as you can.
  • Point your feet inwards slightly so your big toes are touching.

Hold this position until you need to breathe, then stand up. After a few repeats, try pushing off the wall and gliding while holding this position. Does it make a difference if you push off the wall and allow your body to go limp compared to following the steps above? Do a few more push and glides and then continue swimming full stroke. Swim slowly to give yourself time and space to focus on and be aware of your body position. If you can do it while swimming slowly, it will be easier when you speed up.

If you find it difficult to sense your body position, ask a friend to watch. Get them to tell you if your backside and heels are at the surface. Of, if they’ve sunk, by how much. Keep experimenting to see what you can do to improve it. Don’t accept the “I’ve got sinky legs” excuse.

Attaining a more horizontal body position will help you swim faster for less effort. However, it will take time to achieve the change so persevere and be patient. Keep returning to these basic exercises.

Discover more about improving your body position for swimming (premium content)

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.