Expert swimmers everywhere wince in pain when they see someone inexperienced struggling with freestyle as they drag their legs low in the water.
Whether you’re swimming in the pool or out in open water, keeping your legs straight behind you is the best way to swim freestyle.
When you let your legs sink, it creates drag on your body. You end up straining with your arms and shoulders even more, and a lot of swimmers forget about kicking and their legs altogether.
Swimming like that is not fun! You’re gonna end up incredibly tired without going very far.
If you’re interested in swimming competitively or participating in any sort of race like a triathlon, then you’re going to want to reach some level of mastery with your kicking technique. It will help you keep your legs higher in the water so you’ll move more aerodynamically.
Swimming is a tough sport! It takes hours and hours in the pool to master. Even then, it’s going to be a struggle.
Still, getting your legs up and keeping them there will make a massive difference in your time and effort in the water, especially for beginners. Here are some tips to keep your legs floating high while swimming freestyle.
One of the biggest things that you can do is to keep your breathing right! I know, easier said than done when you’re tired and gasping for air, but it makes perfect sense. Just think about it.
When you’re swimming in the water, your body is sort of like a board. Your head is one end of the board, and it’s fairly heavy. When you lift it up to breathe, it’s putting downward pressure on your legs. That’s one of the main reasons swimmers do their best to limit head movement in the water.
If you see the pros swimming, you’ll notice that they move their heads quickly to the side only enough for their mouths to just come out of the water for a gulp of air. This method keeps them in balance and avoids making their legs sink.
Not lifting your head up straight out of the water and training will make it easier to breathe when you’re tired. Practice makes perfect!
While we’re on the topic of breathing, let’s talk about holding your breath while you swim. What’s your first instinct when your head is in the water? It’s to hold your breath for as long as possible in case you need it, right!?
It’s what we learned when we started swimming, and it’s a natural instinct in the water. Holding your breath while you swim freestyle, however, will increase buoyancy in your torso, pushing your chest up and, naturally, your legs down.
When swimmers train, coaches emphasize the need to constantly exhale after every breath to keep their bodies even. You go up for a breath and then spend the strokes evenly pushing bubbles out until you’re ready for your next breath. This stops your body from moving up and down in the water and decreases drag.
Just like going up for a breath of air by lifting your head straight up, if you look forward while you swim freestyle, you’re lifting your head too far. Ultimately, your legs are going to start sinking, and once they start heading down, it takes way more effort to correct your posture mid-swim.
As a best practice, you should be looking down and focusing on keeping your body straight and fluid while you push through the water with your strokes.
An occasional look up to see where you’re going is fine, but that’s not how you’ll want to spend the entire time in the pool or as you compete. Your comfort level will increase the more you swim. Some beginners have a very hard time when they feel like they can’t see where they are going.
The way you kick matters a great deal. We’ve all seen swimmers who barely look like they’re kicking. It’s almost like they’re flicking their feet in the water as they swim. It’s a natural reaction as you get tired.
We feel like our arm muscles are the most important part of freestyle, and swimming can quickly turn into a dragging exercise where we’re pulling ourselves through the swim. This, of course, is a recipe for fast fatigue and slow swim times.
Instead, your kicks should be a constant focus as you swim. Point your toes out behind you and kick with your entire leg. You shouldn’t be kicking from the knees down or cycling your legs through the water. Your legs should be flat and generate good churn in the water.
Also, the faster you kick, the easier it will be to keep your legs straight and prevent them from sinking. A lot of swimmers have mental lapses where they forget to kick, then they suddenly realize their legs are sinking, and have to kick furiously to push their legs back up high.
Keep kicking at a fast, constant speed and make it a natural part of your freestyle stroke.
The workouts you do outside of the pool will affect how you perform on your swims. Poor core strength is one of the main causes of legs sinking in the pool. Your belly is relaxed or you have a weak back, and your hips bend, sending your legs toward the bottom of the pool.
When you’re not practicing in the water, make core strength a focus of your exercise routine. You’ll notice a difference in your performance whether you’re swimming or biking.
It will help you improve your posture and stay nice and straight in the pool, which is an important factor if you’re doing open water swims in any of your races.
Give these tips a try and keep practicing to improve your freestyle stroke!