6 reasons your legs sink in Freestyle Swimming

Well I have finally made it into the pool ! Im only about 2 months behind everyone else, but hey ho I did it. Subsequent visits should come easier now.

Having been reading a good Ironman swim for months, it was good to finally start to put into practice some of the techniques that I have been reading about.

I have never been a brilliant swimmer in the pool, I have always had a pretty mediocre stroke with lots of bad habits. So since getting into triathlon a few years ago, its been an uphill struggle to make some improvements. Body position is my downfall, I have pretty poor posture too which I dont think helps, but I plan on starting Yoga soon so hopefully that will help a bit with the posture.

Body Position

I think this is the key aspect to anyones swim. If your body position is wrong all you are going to be doing is making life harder for yourself as you drag your body through the water, more akin to ploughing a field than gliding like a fish! So what am I doing to work on this. With the absence of a coach, I am using the t’internet to research and then I am trying out some of the drills I find to see how I get on with them.

Sinking Legs

Its all down to these sinking legs of mine, for years I have always believed I have legs that sink more, but it’s blatantly clear now that its just down to bad technique / body position. From what I have read, the sinking of your legs can be down to one or all of about 6 reasons.

  • Lifting Head to Breathe
  • Pressing down
  • Holding breath
  • Poor Posture and connection
  • Looking forward
  • Kicking from knees

 Lifting Head to Breathe

I tend to always breathe to my left when I swim. It’s the most comfortable way for me and the only way I can swim any distance consistently and in some sort of rhythm. I want to start bilateral breathing, but that will be for another post. From what I have read up, and you will hear in the film below if you watch it, that even making too much movement of your head during breathing can affect your swim position. So this is something I am working on I do tend to find that I am looking almost up to the sky whilst taking my breath so I am working on making this a much smaller movement. One coach that has watched me swim suggest that I should be aiming to be almost looking backwards so that my chin is pointing towards my shoulder. I would love to hear is any one has any opinions on that theory.

Pressing down

I think I am guilty of this too, during my swim today, I was making a conscious effort to try and notice when I was catching the water. When I first set off it felt like I wasn’t catching the water at all, and I was finding it very hard going. As I warmed up and stretched my arms further in the stroke, it felt mall like I was catching the water. I just need to determine if I am catching and pushing down or whether I am pushing back. Oh it would be so nice to get some video footage of my swim.

Holding breath

So if you aren’t exhaling properly then you are going to make your upper body more buoyant, and therefore sink your legs. This is something I haven’t considered so far, so it’s definitely going to be something I will be putting into a Drill for my next swim.

Poor Posture and connection

I definitely have poor posture when I’m out of the pool, so there’s no reason to say its going to be any better in it ! Think I need to be doing some core exercises to help with posture and getting the connection through from shoulders, tummy, bum and legs. Yoga will help too.

Looking forward

I know this affects your position, and this is one area I have made some good improvements. I was told previously that I was looking too far forward and ever since I just look at the bottom of the pool. Just keep staring at that line!

Kicking from knees

Now I didn’t think I did this. But after using my wife’s swim fins , and she explained how she feels the work out from using them in her thighs, I am now starting to think I might need to pay more attention to my legs. As after using them my thighs felt fine, but I could really feel it in my calf. So does that mean I am kicking from my knees?

Putting it into practice

So during todays swim, I was trying to be more aware of my head position and really trying to feel the catch of the water. During a couple of sets I certainly felt a difference, whether I was faster I am not sure. Using a pull buoy I felt helped, it enabled me to experience the catch whilst not having to worry so much about my leg kick and body position. Here is a decent article on the benefits of using a pull buoy. The next few times I go to the pool I will follow a more structured set of drills, and now that I know how to operate my watch properly I can hopefully get some better metrics to see if I am making progress.


In the meantime here’s a few links which act as a reminder for me and hopefully will be useful for any one else who is looking for more information on triathlon swim training.

pull buoy.

2 thoughts on “6 reasons your legs sink in Freestyle Swimming

  1. Swimming is one of my weak points – and I too suffer from sinking legs however I try not to use them too much in my triathlon training due to needing them on the bike and the run.

    Interesting notes about breathing – I tend to trickle breathe during the stroke as my head is in the water, I then turn to the left and breath in before starting again. I can do both sides, but left is more comfy for longer swims. I’ve been told that trickle breathing is one of two techniques for breathing – the second being the ‘whoosh blow out’ just before you turn your head. This latter method keeps air in your body longer making you float a bit better.

    I’m trying lots of things in the pool at the moment. – none of which I think is improving.

    I know we spoke about this – but what about a visit to Whittlefit in Cardiff (http://www.whittlefit.com/) for one of their structured swim lessons in the endless pool? It’s on my radar for April/May. Fingers crossed it will be money well spent.

    1. That’s great to hear about your experiences with your swim training, and thanks for the link to whittle fit, I shall be checking them out in due course.

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