Body position. It’s the fundamental, baseline starting point for swimming. Why? Because if your trunk and head are in the wrong place, you’re creating drag, you’re wasting energy, and the foundations for your legs and arms will, quite literally sink.
But it’s pretty much the least complicated thing to correct. You need to imagine yourself as streamlined as possible; head, neck and spine in a straight line. When I teach children, they’re torpedoes, and you’re never too big to be a torpedo.
Your head leads the way, so it’s important to keep it still, part from when you take a breath. You also need to keep your legs up; don’t let the drop. That’s what your kick is for, but when you’re doing drills for body position use a pull buoy.
Start off by practicing your push and glide. Push from the side on your front keeping your arms in front of you, your head in line with the waterline, head down and eyes looking forwards slightly. Your bum, thighs and calves/ankles should also be at the waterline as pictured (picture from swimteach.com).
You can then practice kicking lengths using a kick board, bringing your head up facing forwards to breathe. Keep your kicks small and tight, legs pushed together so you don’t create drag. Picture that torpedo! Try it without the kick board – your head mustn’t come up or your legs drop. Try it with fins to help your hip position and buoyancy.
Once you’re happy with your base position, introduce rotation. Again, keep yourself tight; now you don’t just have a line down your spine, but across your shoulders and hips too.
Kick down the pool on your back, you left arm pinned to your side and your right raised above your head. Raise your left shoulder so your chest slopes down to the right at almost a 45 degree angle. Keeping your ear clamped your upper arm, roll your face into the water and back out to breathe as you kick down the pool.
Try kicking a length on your right side and then on your left, the six strokes on your left, six on your right, and then three to each side. The idea is that when you reintroduce your arms, when you breathe, you will barely need to lift your face out of the water because your rotation is so effective.
Although one side will feel tighter, you should be able to breathe bilaterally (on both sides) like this.
Dry land exercises that help strengthen, or even just make you more aware of your posture and using your core, like yoga and Pilates, will support what you do in the pool.