Balance while rolling is a freestyle swimming drill that lets you practice balance while rolling between a head up and a head down position. Mastering this skill is important because you should roll on your side instead of lifting your head up when you need to breathe. Otherwise your body loses its horizontal alignment in the water and drag increases.

Note: This drill belongs to an older sequence of swimming drills to learn the freestyle stroke. Please consult the Learn How To Swim The Freestyle Stroke article to read about our current sequence of swimming drills.

Drill Instructions

  • Float flat in the water, with your head turned downward and aligned with your trunk.
  • Keep your arms relaxed at your sides.
  • Use a supple flutter kick for propulsion.
  • Apply downward pressure on your head and chest to maintain balance, like you learned to do in the balancing on your front swimming drill.
  • When you need to breathe, roll your body and head up into the position you know from the balancing on your back swimming drill. Make sure to roll your body all at once. Don’t anticipate the rotation with your head.
  • Once you have taken a few breaths and feel balanced, roll back toward the initial face down position. Again, make sure you roll your body all at once.
  • Alternatively roll toward each side.

While you roll between the head up and the head down position, you will need to continuously adapt how you apply downward pressure on your upper body so that your legs and hips don’t drop.

This is a valuable skill to posses as you should roll from side to side with each arm stroke to increase the efficiency of your propulsion. Furthermore, as described above, it lets you keep your balance while rolling on your side to breathe in.


This was the last one of our freestyle stroke drills to practice balance. You should now be able to keep your balance during all phases of the stroke cycle. This is very important to keep drag to a minimum.

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