The Best Head Position for Swimming

author : Tri Swim Coach
comments : 2
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 strained. Less common, yet still potentially problematic, is looking too low (almost backwards) in the water. When this occurs the head and shoulders becomes completely submerged, which can cause drag and wastes energy. So is there an ideal head position?

Yes, there is, but that ideal head position is only ideal for you and depends significantly on your body type. Since everyone has a different body composition ranging from muscular to lean to pear shaped, everyone has a different balance point in the water, and thus a different head position to maintain that balance point. The criteria below will give you a general idea of when you know you have found your sweet spot for head position:

  1. Your lower body is not sinking and swerving: If your lower body sinks and moves from side to side as you swim then try lowering your head position and looking more towards the bottom of the pool. Doing so will raise your lower body and steady it. After adjusting, you realize that it is a struggle to breath or you can not get too much shoulder rotation, then you have lowered your head too much. You do not want to tuck your chin as if you were giving yourself a double chin. Those who have skinny legs (like runners) will most likely need to look more towards the bottom of the pool then those with wider hips and thicker legs, who may have to look up to balance their body.
      
  2. Your neck does not hurt after each swim: If you get out of the pool with your neck tight and sore then you are looking too far up or too far down. A good way of see your neutral position is to stand perfectly straight up against a wall with the crown of your head in line with your spine. You can also lie face down in the water and just let your body float changing your head position until you find your lower body, hips, spine, shoulders and head are balanced and inline.
      
  3. You can breath and rotate with ease while not wagging your head: A relaxed, controlled breath is a good indicator of proper head position. Looking too far up or down will inhibit breathing. Moreover, when looking too far up your head will move from side to side as you swim. If your head is level, as if you could balance a wine glass on top, and rotates with your shoulders when you breathe, then your head position is perfect.

Overall, the clock will be the final indicator of an efficient head position. If you swim faster with less energy by looking slightly forward or slightly behind then do it.

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date: July 14, 2014

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Tri Swim Coach

I'm at http://www.TriSwimCoach.com- a resource for beginning through intermediate level triathletes looking for help with swimming. The site features a free email newsletter offering tips and articles on triathlon swimming. I have also written an electronic book titled “The Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming” and created "The Essential Triathlon Swimming DVD", both available on www.triswimcoach.com.

For a 20% DISCOUNT on Zoomers Z2 fins and Freestyler paddles, go to www.finisinc.com and use discount code ‘aggies20’ at checkout!

Author

avatarTri Swim Coach

I'm at http://www.TriSwimCoach.com- a resource for beginning through intermediate level triathletes looking for help with swimming. The site features a free email newsletter offering tips and articles on triathlon swimming. I have also written an electronic book titled “The Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming” and created "The Essential Triathlon Swimming DVD", both available on www.triswimcoach.com.

For a 20% DISCOUNT on Zoomers Z2 fins and Freestyler paddles, go to www.finisinc.com and use discount code ‘aggies20’ at checkout!

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