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Swim Club Blog: Balance and Streamlining

Swim Club Swim Training Articles

The Endurance Store Swim Club provides you with simple swim training plans throughout the winter months. The plan runs October to October and is completely free. We only ask that you pre-register so that your training plans can be emailed directly.

Registration is free and you may unsubscribe at any time from the Swim Club and stop receiving updates. Overview of the swim plan be seen below, but before you start you need to complete a test to set your swim paces, then register and download the sessions. GO HERE to register for swim club.

Effective swimming can be broken into 2 simple categories:

1. Balance and Streamlining refers to the way in which you change your body position and shape, to more effectively slip through the water.

2. Propulsion refers to how you use your legs and arms to propel yourself through the water. In terms of which is more important, balance and streamlining will always come first. This is clearly evident in age group swimmers, there are lots of physically strong swimmers who travel very slowly due to poor body position. By contrast, swimmers with good body position will glide through the water with even the smallest amount of propulsion.

Start with body position..

It doesn't matter how hard you pull and kick, you'll swim slow if body position is poor, so we always start there. As you move through the water, the size of the hole you create determines how much 'drag' you create, in turn, drag dictates your speed. Imagine you are swimming though a 'pipeline', how deep and wide would that pipe have to be to fit your body through? Body position can be split into 2 simple categories which are balance and streamlining:


When viewed from the side, is your body balanced? If the head, hips and heels are all in alignment and close to the surface then you are balanced. If your head is higher and your hips and heels hang lower in the water, you are not balanced. Remember the pipeline? If your legs hang low, that requires a really deep pipe for you to swim through, which equates to a lot of drag.


When viewed from the front or over-head, is your body in alignment or do you swim like a snake? If you move side to side in the water, you'll create a really wide hole and you'd need a really wide pipe to swim through! This also equates to a lot of drag. In summary, the hole you create in the water should be as shallow and narrow as possible, to minimise drag.

Anything else?

Yes.. the length and tension of your body is critical. Longer body shapes sit higher in the water and shorter bodies tend to sink. Imagine walking on deep snow wearing a pair of skis, then retracing your steps in a pair of boots. When weight is dispersed over a longer surface area, you don't sink half as much. Stretch yourself into the longest, most rigid shape possible and this will greatly assist body position.

Common errors which lead to poor balance:

1. Head is too high in water so legs sink

2. Swimmer looks too far forwards at approaching wall, leading to high head and legs sinking

3. Short body position and no core 'tension' lead to legs sinking

4. Poor kick with 'bent knees' shortens legs and leads to legs sinking

The coaching term we use is 'length, tension and lean'. This refers to keeping your body as long as possible in the water, tensing your stomach and leaning on your chest to help raise your legs. Other terms we use are 'sneaky breathing', this refers to lifting your head as little as possible to breathe. Only one goggle should be clear of the water and your head lift should not be obvious to an observer.

Common errors which lead to poor streamlining:

1. As hands enter water and extend forwards, they cross the centre line rather than extending in line with shoulders

2. As head turns to breathe, the swimmer looks behind them which twists the shoulders out of alignment

3. The head generally moves around too much from side to side rather than staying still, this creates a 'whiplash' effect which passes all the way through the body 4. Poor kick with 'bent knees' means that the feet separate far too much, creating a wide 'parachute like' drag effect behind the swimmer (wide hole)

Is that it?

There is one more thing, that's body roll from side to side, this is much discussed in swimming as critical for performance. Coaches can often be heard encouraging swimmer to roll and in particular, they stress that 'rolling comes from the hips'. In my experience, when swimmers try to 'roll', unless they are already competent swimmers with great streamlining and balance, their stroke looks dreadful. They over rotate, they twist in the water, cross the centre line during the pull to name but a few errors. In essense, when most intermediate swimmers try to roll, it looks like a car crash and ruins their form. Forget it for now, it's an advanced skill and if all the other things are done right, it will happen naturally at a later time.

If you found this article useful, please share. If you have any questions, post them below the blog link on The Endurance Store Facebook page.

Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

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