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Balance: The Secret to Swimming Success Publish Date: 12-22-10
Balance: The Secret to Swimming Success

Human beings are designed to balance on land.

Most of us do it naturally.

Dolphins are designed to balance in the water. They do it naturally.

Human beings, however, have one big advantage over dolphins.

Dolphins are animals that are so specialized that they could not balance on land no matter how hard they tried. Human beings, on the other hand, can go against their instincts and teach their bodies to balance in water.

Balance on Land

Think about how you balance on land.

First your body has to learn to work with the downward pull of gravity. To do that you stand in such a way that gravitys pull is along the longest line of your body, that is, the line drawn from the top of your head down your spine and extended down your legs to your feet. When you move, you must use arms and legs together to maintain that balance line.

Moreover, you present the widest part of your body, full front or full back, to the air to maximize resistance and prevent losing your balance.

Balance in the Water

When you balance in the water, you lose the pull of gravity, but you gain resistance. Have you ever noticed that, in the water, the faster you go, the harder it is to do anything?

This is because of resistance. So to reduce that resistance when you move in the water your have to change the presentation of your body from full front or full back to the narrowest part of your body or sideways. When swimming, the position of your body between strokes is actually far more important than how you take a stroke.

If you train your nervous system to do all the things that a dolphin does to balance naturally in the water, you will make permanent changes in your swimming style, and you will come out of each season a more efficient swimmer.

Think for a minute about a dolphins body and how it is different from a human body. For one thing the dolphin has no neck; so his head and his body move together. For another a dolphin has no legs and no knees to bend. His tail moves up and down in the water to help him balance and to propel him forward. Instead of arms he has flippers which use the water resistance to move him along.

Now think about how you can adapt your body to the movement of a dolphin when you swim freestyle. First you can swim with your whole body, moving your head and body as a unit. Second, swimming in balance, you can kick from hips effortlessly with your knees relaxed. Third you can position your hands to hold on to the water as you move your body past your hand in each stroke cycle.

Swimming in Balance

When you begin to relax in the water and swim with the balance of a dolphin, your swimming efficiency will increase tremendously. This style of swimming achieves the following:

  • Reduces wave drag
  • Reduces frontal resistance
  • Water travels a shorter distance to get around us
  • We can stay as long as possible in a position that causes the least resistance

    As you learn to stay in balance you will stretch out the resting phase of your stroke and reduce the working phase. That means that you will go further with less effort.

    Learning how to lean into the water properly is called pressing the buoy. As you press into that buoy for added balance, your hips and legs rise naturally toward the surface of the water. Your head, on the other hand, is hidden in the water. This head position is important for swimming efficiency.

    As you swim press into the buoy for balance moving side to side from your hips, not from your shoulders. This helps you use your whole body for power. Stretch out and swim as tall as possible, using your hands to lengthen your body and reaching with a weightless arm. This reduces drag.

    Glide on your side for as long as possible in each stroke cycle. This is your best opportunity to gain stroke length and the most important position to remember while swimming. Use your hands to lengthen your body and to hold on to the water. Swim with your body, not with your arms and your legs.

    Freestyle Technique Checklist

    Body/Head Position

    1. Head Hidden
    2. Leading the body line with the top of your head
    3. A Long Balanced Body Line
    4. Roll easily to both sides

    Arms 1. Lengthen Body with Weightless Arms
    2. Swim Taller (Front Quadrant Timing)
    3. Patient Catch  Anchor hand before pulling
    4. Arm and Body Rhythm in Synch

    Legs 1. Compact, supple 6-beat kick
    2. Effortless, balanced 2-beat with strong downbeat

    Coach Moe

    Source: Coach Moe