Swim like a dolphin?
This is the first post in a multi-part series designed to share thoughts on technique, to help you go from swimming like a clumsy human to swimming like a graceful dolphin. The first two topics are about proper head/body position and body rotation during freestyle. Once these two areas have been mastered, swimming becomes exponentially easier and more fun. You’ll notice that when you swim with proper body position and rotation, breathing becomes easier, your stroke will become longer, and you will feel as if you are gliding across the pool.
Freestyle Head/Body Position
The reason that many new swimmers feel as if they are sinking while swimming is not necessarily because they have a poor kick. Instead, the swimmer’s head and body position are causing their hips and legs to drop in the water. Even a swimmer with an effective kick will drag slower through the water if their body position is incorrect. To swim like a graceful dolphin, you want to be floating on the surface of the water, where there is less water resistance. Swimming with proper head and body position will greatly improve where your body is in the water and may also increase the effectiveness of your kick.
Good: Face down looking at the bottom of the pool.
Keeping your face towards the bottom of the pool will keep your spine aligned with the surface of the water. This will make it easier to keep your hips and legs from sinking. Your eyes can look up through your goggles to see what is in front of you. Use the line at the bottom of the pool to keep yourself going in a straight direction.
Good: Keep your head still.
Your body will follow your head, which is why proper head position will help keep your body afloat. The same is true if you move your head while swimming. The only time your head should move is in conjunction with your body, rotating to the side to breathe. If you wiggle your head when you swim, your body will wiggle with it. Any extra movement will create additional drag, causing you to waste more energy than necessary.
Bad: Face pointing straight across the pool; parallel with the bottom of the pool.
Keeping your head up while you swim will cause your hips to sink, which in turn will cause your legs to sink. Swimming with your head up will also cause unneeded strain on your neck and shoulders, which could lead to injury. You may need to pick your head up to practice sighting, but if you want to improve your swimming technique, keep looking at the bottom of the pool.
Bad: Tucking your chin while swimming; looking underneath your body.
Swimming with your head too low in the water could cause there to be extra water on your back, creating more drag. This additional drag can increase fatigue and cause you to swim slower. Swimming this way can also force your arms deeper in the water during each stroke, slowing down your turnover rate. Make sure that when you swim, your head just breaks the surface of the water.
The goal of a swimmer is to navigate through the water with as little effort and resistance as possible. You want to be able to glide through the water. This occurs from proper body rotation. Too many new swimmers swim flat in the water. Imagine cutting butter with a knife. If you try and cut the butter with the flat side of the knife, you will smush the butter. You must use the edge of the knife if you want a crisp slice for your toast. The same is true in the water. You need to learn to swim from side to side. Swimming never occurs on your stomach.
The rotation of your body during freestyle should be a quick movement. If you slowly rotate from side to side, you will spend a few seconds swimming on your stomach. When you’re rotating your body during freestyle, think of flipping a light switch. A light switch is either on or off and when you flip the switch it moves quickly. Your body should switch from side to side just like moving a light switch from on to off.
What drives rotation? Your hips.
The power and rotation of your stroke is generated by your hips. By engaging your core and hips into your stroke you are not only able to better rotate your whole body, but you are also able to produce more power with your stroke. If you use just your shoulders to rotate your body, you may end up only rotating your upper body. Using your hips and core will also help to activate your large upper body muscle groups into your stroke.
When do you rotate? As your pull finishes and the other hand enters the water.
While many new swimmers tend to under-rotate when they swim, body rotation is a natural part of the freestyle stroke. Your body should start to rotate to the other side just as one stroke finishes and your hand is entering the water for the next stroke. This rotation is what drives the power of your underwater pull. Instead of just using your shoulders, focus on the timing of your rotation so your hips and core help to pull through the water. There should not be a pause in your stroke, so once you rotate to one side immediately start rotating to the other side and initiate the next stroke.
What rotates? Everything from your shoulders down.
When your body rotates, everything from your shoulders down should rotate together as one unit. Most new swimmers understand that rotating is important, but end up only rotating their shoulders. Because they can feel their shoulders move, they believe they are rotating properly. The problem is that most of their body is still flat in the water and slowing them down. They don’t understand why their swimming isn’t improving even though they are “rotating”. Proper body rotation involves your whole body, from you shoulders down, rotating at the same time. Having someone record your swimming is a great way for you to see if you actually rotating your body or just rotating half your body.
Courtesy of iron swimmer