Head Position in Swimming

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I am trying to fix my head and hip positioning by looking down instead of forward and pressing my chest and / or head down.

It's kind of awkward to press your chest down while also looking down and keeping your head at the surface of the water. My friend tells me that I was swimming with my whole body about an inch below the surface. But I'm pretty sure it was faster.

In some videos, Phelps looks like he's looking pretty far forward, so I tried to look a little forward and press only my chest. That felt like it really worked to get my hips on the surface and my head at the top, but I was told that my head was still underwater and it also didn't feel quite as fast. It was also hard to press the chest without feeling like I was looking way too far forward.

I'm sure I'll get used to this, but when I press my chest down, I feel like I have so much less breath. I'm a sprinter, so it's less of a big deal, but I'm hoping that goes away eventually or is at least...

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To swim front crawl with the greatest efficiency and prevent neck injuries, you need to properly position your head and roll your body. This article explains the correct swimming technique to be able to do this.

Use a neutral head position in front crawl

Have a Neutral Head Position

In the past, it was often advised to lift the head up and to look forward while swimming front crawl. The idea is that by lifting the head higher up in the water, less drag is created resulting in faster swimming times. However, there are two problems with that approach:

Your hips and legs often have the tendency to drop when you lift your head up. As a consequence, you create more drag instead of less. Furthermore you need to kick harder to keep your hips and legs up. If you look forward at all times while swimming front crawl, you put your neck in an awkward position which can lead to neck injuries over the course of several years.

So, in my opinion, it is best to keep...

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Take home points
1) Raised freestyle head position is one of the most common stroke flaws in freestyle
2) Corrective strategies must be individualized to each swimmer
3) Avenues for change include biomechanical, cognitive, and environmental

Raised freestyle head position in freestyle is one of the most common stroke flaws in the pool at all levels of the sport. In the literature this has been termed “eyes forward carrying angle” and has been associated with an incorrect pull through pattern. Specifically, a raised head position has been linked to swimmers pulling with the old S-shaped pattern. (Biomechanical Flaws in College Swimmers) In this post, we’ll address different ways to address a raised freestyle head position.

Treat the upper quarter

As we discussed in our Troubleshooting series and in the Troubleshooting System, problems with freestyle head position often related to upper quarter limitations (neck, shoulders, upper back). Swimmers...

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If you have gotten this far, you have seen

the light

and are serious about improving your swimming, so let's get started.

There are many schools of thought regarding teaching swimming, some rely on repetitive swimming a lot of kilometers or miles to improve, some swear against it and focus only on certain aspects of technique and others combine both approaches in one way or another. However, none of them are perfect and never will be. The reason being, every person wanting to learn how to swim is different and respond to different stimuli, so one approach to teach all does not work. That said, some basic themes and principles do or should be present in all swim schools and that is to streamline your body as much as possible, in a way that you swim through the water in path of the least resistance with the least effort.

In my opinion, swimming many laps with wrong technique will not give you much improvement in the long run and might cause you injuries to...

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One of the first things everyone always asks me when it comes to swimming is, “How can I get faster?” More often than not this question comes from the recreational swimmer, triathlete, or CrossFitter. And then they complain, “My legs are solid muscle and they sink so I can’t really swim.” Well, yes, and no. I too suffer from the solid muscle leg ailment (that's me in the photo below) and it has not stopped me from swimming the 50m freestyle in a little over 26 seconds, or even successfully completing 2km open water swims.

Like in other modalities, it all comes down to technique. If we use Olympic lifting as an example, your lifts significantly improve when your body is positioned correctly and the bar is traveling in the most efficient trajectory. Swimming is no different. Our body replaces the bar (our body is the load we are moving), and the “bar path” is typically our hand trajectory. But swimming has an added component. We swim in water, in horizontal position. The...

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What’s best in the pool is unlikely to be best in open water

Dan Bullock

Want to swim faster and more efficiently during your triathlon? Discover how to perfect your head positioning during open water swimming with tips from triathlon swimming coach, Dan Bullock.

Head positioning – how swimming in open-water differs to the pool

Head positioning is one of the key elements of your freestyle technique that will differ during an open water swim. Why? Open water swimming is a balancing act of compromises, where we try to make the best of a less than ideal environment. Add in the lack of self-correcting, auto-straightening mechanisms familiar to a pool swim (the submerged black line, straight walls and lane ropes) and there’s much to be considered, including what else we can do to use the stroke to keep us swimming straight.

Staring at the bottom of the pool in the clinical conditions of a pool race is probably the most hydrodynamic position for the...

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Originally published on SwimSwam.com

While swimming freestyle, the positions of least frontal drag do not necessarily correlate with the positions of maximum propulsive power. Head position is just one example of this conflict. When the head is in alignment with the body and the spine is straighter, the least frontal drag is encountered. Yet, to maximize the power of the underwater pull, the lower back should be arched some, which results in an elevation of the head.

With some of our freestyle swimming motions, such as the underwater pull, we need to choose between more powerful force and lesser drag positions and often compromise between them. Not so with the head position.

Because of the exponential relationship between frontal drag and speed, the most important time to have the lowest drag coefficient is when our body is moving the fastest within the cycle. That occurs precisely when one hand first enters the water. It is at that point that it is most...

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Backstroke, one of the most commonly practiced swimming disciplines, has many subtle facets to technique that when executed, can make you a more efficient backstroker. Why practice to become more efficient? Because in swimming, EFFICIENCY = SPEED!

As a lifelong competitive swimmer, and 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials participant in the 100 and 200 Backstroke events, I know how to take a backstroker from being good to being great. In this article, I will detail some seldom taught tips that backstrokers at the highest level use to swim fast.

Head Position

To use a sailing analogy, the head, in swimming, acts as a sort of rudder for the body. Wherever the head goes, the body will follow. The most common mistakes a swimmer will make while swimming backstroke all have to do with head position. If you tuck your chin into your chest, your entire body will sink. If you dunk your head too far back, you will choke on water, and you will increase drag from just your head. If you...

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Swimmers should learn as many different swimming techniques as possible, since each of them will put your body in a different position and will use different muscles. This can hold importance if you ever find yourself swimming for a lengthy distance, as it can help prevent fatigue by allowing you to rest in certain positions. Competitive swimmers should also learn multiple swimming techniques, since it gives you the chance to compete in more than one event.

You will commonly hear the front crawl referred to as the freestyle stroke, since the majority of the swimmers in a freestyle event use it because it provides the most speed. The front crawl calls for you to kick hard with your feet, while bringing your arms over your head and into the water one at a time. You must keep your body as straight as possible, as any lateral movements will slow you down. Your breathing also holds importance, as you must time the breaths that you take with...

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Head Position in Freestyle Swimming for Triathlon

Dear,

I just did an underwater video swim clinic last weekend and came across an issue with head position in freestyle that seems to be more common than I thought.

The typical problem with head position is that the swimmer looks forward instead of looking down. The second most common problem is a head that moves around. The head should be still and focused on the pool bottom during freestyle swimming, keeping the back of the head at the surface of the water, only moving along with hips and shoulders to get air on a breath.

The new issue I saw with a couple of the triathletes was their chin tucking in a little too much. Be careful with this! I think what has happened is that many coaches have hammered this notion of “head down” so much into our heads that it’s easy to overcompensate, and actually tuck the chin into the chest (which will create drag as you swim).

By the way, if you think you can get...

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Fall is almost upon us. And as we move kicking and screaming to the pool, it’s time to think about off-season pool swimming and training.

Now is a great opportunity to make advancements in your swimming skills without the pressure of the spring and summer goals cresting on the horizon

If you could pick just one thing to work on, this fall, to improve your swimming a lot, what would it be?

Improve your head position, especially on each breathing stroke.

The most difficult thing about swimming is controlling your head position.

In the photo below, I’m exaggerating what happens when the head (and also lead arm) are just too high. Even if your hips sink an inch more than they should for your stroke style, the increase in drag is really, really big. You can also see the curve in my spine.

If you’ve ever tried swimming nose down, looking down at the bottom of the pool, with your chin tucked in slightly, you probably had a little voice...

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Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.

Propulsion & Frontal Drag

There are two fundamental laws or forces that govern our ability to swim fast that often don’t agree on what position we should assume. The two forces are those that move us down the pool, propulsion, and those that slow us down, frontal drag. A good example of this disagreement is head position.

In order to assume the position of least frontal drag, the head should be in alignment with the body. That means the line of sight needs to be straight down toward the bottom of the pool. Not only does this head position straighten the body, creating the best position to reduce our drag coefficient, it also allows the water on the surface to pass over the tops of our heads, reducing wave or surface drag.

Most swimmers swim freestyle or backstroke with their heads positioned too high, looking forward...

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By Mat Luebbers

Swimmers, the way you position your head while you swim can have a huge effect on technique and how fast you swim. Head position can make your swimming technique fast or it can make your swimming slow. Swimming with your head up or down - which is fast, and why? Or are both good, but in different situations? Head position, body position, and balance are all related to fast swimming.

I like to look at head position in terms of where you are looking in comparison to your spinal column.

Freestyle, Breaststroke, and Butterfly If you are looking forward while you swim, then you are in a more head-up position This tends to push your hips down towards the bottom of the pool If you are looking at the bottom of the pool directly below you, then you are in a head-down position If you are in a head down position and your head and spine are in a direct line, then you are also in a neutral position This will tend to keep your hips neutral, too. Backstroke...
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Editor's note: Earlier in the decade Gary Hall, Sr., wrote a series of articles for Slowtwitch. This one is especially prescient as it speaks to the one issue discussed right now in other Slowtwitch editorial (our 10-week series called the Guppy Challenge: our effort to make poor swimmers good swimmers). I think you'll see how well Gary's article holds up almost 7 years after he wrote it, on May 26, 3022. Sound counsel doesn't go out of style!]

Nearly every swimmer, good or not-so-good, who has visited The Race Club camp in the past several years has shared one common problem; the head position is wrong. After watching countless heads bobbing up and down, waves crashing against the forehead as the swimmer plows through the water, I have come to an almost undeniable conclusion. The human head must be made out of cork.

Or there may be another explanation. Perhaps swimmers really like to see where they are going. The fact is, if you swim in a pool like most, with 4, 5 or...

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This week’s Speedo Tip of the Week comes from Greg Davis, a coach at Nitro Swimming near Austin, Texas. Davis is also the creator of Flippers, a company that publishes flip books that illustrate proper swimming technique. Here, he offers some tips on freestyle head positioning.

Davis’s Tip:

“With proper balance and a stable head position, a swimmer can gain more propulsion and efficiency in every stroke. Use the nose as a reference point instead of the eyes because you don’t necessarily need to alter your head position to look down.” Here’s a drill progression for achieving proper freestyle head position:

Short Arm Dog Paddle. Keep your head up with nose pointing forward. Do the first 3rd of the stroke- from the catch to about the armpit line. You must kick hard on this drill. Focus on keeping your head still and extending your hands in front of the shoulders for the catch. Long Arm Dog Paddle. Point your nose directly down at the bottom of the pool. Take...
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Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.

While swimming freestyle, the positions of least frontal drag do not necessarily correlate with the positions of maximum propulsive power.

Head position is just one example of this conflict. When the head is in alignment with the body and the spine is straighter, the least frontal drag is encountered. Yet, to maximize the power of the underwater pull, the lower back should be arched some, which results in an elevation of the head.

With some of our freestyle swimming motions, such as the underwater pull, we need to choose between more powerful force and lesser drag positions and often compromise between them. Not so with the head position.

Because of the exponential relationship between frontal drag and speed, the most important time to have the lowest drag coefficient is when our body is moving the fastest within...

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comments :2

Is there an ideal head position? The criteria below will give you a general idea of when you know you have found your sweet spot for head position.

Member Question

The other day I was swimming at the gym and one of the guys told me that I was swimming with my head too low. I asked my training partner to look at me and he said that my head was completely submerged, just barely. However, my balance looked fine (hips and feet were just below the water). Do I need to have my head higher? Most advice I found was for head position that was too high. I tried having my head higher, which made my breathing a little easier, but my balance felt off. I didn't feel like I was gliding through the water as well.

Answer from Coach Kevin Koskella and Chris Hague
TriSwimCoach

Many swimmers like to look up as they swim, which obviously can cause serious problems with body position. The lower body tends to sink, rotation can be thrown off, and the neck becomes...

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This week’s Speedo Tip of the Week comes from Terry Laughlin, the head coach of Total Immersion Swimming and of the Hawks Swimming Association in New Paltz, N.Y. This week, Laughlin offers some advice on head positioning.

Laughlin’s Tip:

The higher head position (“Keep the water at your hairline”) for freestyle may have become popular 70 or 80 years ago, when no one used goggles and races were often held in pools without bottom lines. Swimmers looked forward simply to see where they were going. Johnny Weissmuller and several generations of the world’s fastest freestylers swam that way. In fact, it was widely believed that holding your head up was the way to “get your body on top of the water.” Like most everyone, I believed it to be true and taught that way for a long time.

But when Bill Boomer persuaded me to test that theory in the pool, I found that just the opposite was true. A lower head position brought my hips and legs closer to the surface. As I studied...

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Ten contentious issues in swimming

Our philosophy on the controversial aspects of swimming coaching


Get the mix of technique and training right for maximum results.

1. Technique vs. Fitness Training

Swimming is a very technical sport and requires plenty of attention to the technique aspects of the stroke. Some coaches take this to the extreme, believing that fitness isn't important at all and that if you're a triathlete you'll get sufficient fitness from the other two disciplines. One coaching company even bar you from doing any fitness training at all!

If you become a technique hermit and just perform single length drills then some improvements will come but you'll soon hit a performance ceiling. You may also find it very hard to swim beyond 200m without getting fatigued.

We believe that a mix of technique and fitness work brings the best results. We've observed hundreds of swimmers trying different approaches and the sweet spot for...

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