Sinking legs is one of the biggest causes of slow and inefficient swimming. Most swimmers try to compensate for this by kicking harder. However, this drains a lot of energy.
How do you stop your legs from sinking? Effortless Swimming expert Brenton Ford provided his insights on how we can do this and become more efficient swimmers.
“When you lift your head up, your feet are going to sink,” says Brenton. Swimming is all about balance; if you lift your head (which weighs about 8 kilograms) above water, your feet and legs will sink to counteract this movement.
When breathing, you want to turn your head to the side without lifting your whole forehead out of the water. You should be looking to the side of the pool, not up at the ceiling or sky. “Ideally, you want to have one goggle in the water or at least part of one goggle in the water… keep half of your head in the water when you take that breath, and that way, your feet and your legs will sit a whole lot higher.”
Pushing down on the entry and catch is another common reason your legs sink. When you push down with your arm and hand, the front half of your body lifts up and again your legs will drop.
Brenton says, “We want to make sure that when we enter and extend forward, in the next phase of the stroke, we want to start to tip the fingertips down so you're starting to press back against the water and propel yourself forward instead of pushing down on the water.”
Holding your breath while swimming creates unneeded buoyancy in your lungs, again causing legs to sink. Exhale when your face is in the water, and make sure you breathe out all the air inside your lungs before you take the next inhale. (This also has the added benefit of bringing more oxygen in with every breath.)
Swimming tall means: chest out, shoulders back, drawing your belly button towards your spine and lightly squeezing your buttcheeks together. Think about growing tall through the top part of your head. “And what that will do is create great connection through your core so that you're firm through there and it's not like you've got a wet noodle in the middle.”
One good drill to encourage your body to swim tall is the torpedo or streamline drill. Push off from the wall underwater with arms above your head and in that “tall” body position. Notice how much further you can go from one push as your swim posture gets better.
Head position also affects your swim posture. “If your eyes are looking directly forward, for most people, that's going to cause your hips and your legs to sink down,” says Brenton. For most people, the ideal head and eye position is when you’re looking down at least 45 degrees from the pool surface. “It's not straight down, but just a little bit further forward of that.”
Lastly, Brenton says that kicking from the knees with a motion similar to doing bicycle kicks will cause your legs to sink. Due to poor ankle flexibility, your feet will be pointing to the ground instead of back behind you. If you’ve ever done kick drills with a kickboard and noticed you don’t move forward (or worst-case scenario are moving backward!), this could be why.
Instead, think about initiating the motion from the hip, letting the rest of your leg move with the wave. Keep your thighs and toes close together, with your heels just breaking the surface of the water.
Brenton Ford is available for MX Endurance members to consult regarding their swim form.
(Header photo by Richard R. Schünemann on Unsplash)
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