Head-Lead Supine Balance follows the Flutter Kick Drills and precedes Head-Lead Prone Balance in our series of swimming drills for the front crawl/freestyle stroke.
Maintaining balance means maintaining a horizontal position in the water with little effort. Balance is the key to being able to swim front crawl (and backstroke) in a relaxed fashion. Good balance also makes learning the front crawl much easier.
In this article, we will practice balance in the supine position (i.e., floating on your back). Practicing balance on your back means you won’t be distracted by breathing issues. Instead, you will be able to focus on the principle of balance and putting it into practice.
In subsequent drills, we will then practice balance while floating in a prone position and on your side.
The Principle of Effortless Balance
Since we move upright on land, our legs are usually the most muscular and dense parts of our body.
By contrast, swimming is usually done in a horizontal position. The density of our legs can become a problem because our legs tend to sink. This disturbs our (horizontal) balance and increases drag.
So, we have to find a way to compensate for the tendency of our legs to sink. In front crawl (and backstroke), beginners often do this by kicking hard, but then quickly get out of breath because their leg muscles require a lot of oxygen.
There is a more effective way to keep our legs from sinking. We just have to use our body’s natural buoyancy.
When our lungs are filled with air, our chest cavity acts like a natural buoy. We can then leverage this buoy to keep our hips and legs up.
Let’s think about floating in the water on your back. Imagine your body is a seesaw with the fulcrum located below your chest. If you lean on your upper back, your body will pivot across the fulcrum (which are your lungs), and your hips and legs will come up.
You can use this principle to maintain your balance and keep your hips and legs up with little effort. Consequently, only gentle kicking is required for propulsion and balance. You don’t get out of breath easily and can swim (or practice swimming drills) with little effort.
Swimming Drill Video
The following video demonstrates Head-Lead Supine Balance:
Swimming Drill Instructions
Here is how to practice Head-Lead Supine Balance:
- Push off from the ground with your feet and get into a horizontal position on your back. Keep your arms at your sides, and start to flutter kick.
- Contract your abs slightly to keep a straight back throughout the exercise.
- Make sure your head is in line with your trunk and slightly tuck in your chin.
- Try to maintain a horizontal position while flutter kicking on your back.
- If you notice that your hips and legs drop, lean on your upper back. You should notice that your hips and legs rise in the water in response.
- Use this method to counteract sinking legs instead of kicking harder.
- If your kick isn’t propulsive enough when you are just beginning to learn, you can use swim fins. You can always get rid of them later, once you have learned balance and your kicking technique has improved.
- You can use a nose clip to stop water getting up your nose.
- Even though this drill is done on the back and your face should remain above the water, you can wear swimming goggles to prevent getting water in your eyes, if you wish.
- A friend observing you can be a source of feedback if you find it difficult to get into a horizontal position or maintain it. They might be able to spot a problem and guide you to correct it.
Moving in a Straight Line
When you float on your back, moving in a straight line can be difficult at first. There are different strategies to alleviate this:
- If you are swimming indoors, fix your gaze on an overhead feature — for example, a row of lights, or lines painted on the ceiling that indicate lane markings — to help you swim straight.
- From time to time, you can overextend your head to be able to look ahead (in the direction in which you’re swimming, not towards your feet). However, you need to have good balance already to do this, and it can also strain your neck.
- If the pool isn’t too crowded, you can just perform the drill over short distances, then stop, look around, and correct your trajectory, if necessary.
- If you are wearing swimming goggles, you can also look over to the side from time to time. You can then assess the distance to the wall or the next lane divider and correct your trajectory accordingly, before rolling back to your original position.
Please note that as you gain experience, you’ll also get better at swimming in a straight line on your back.
Learning Path for the Front Crawl
Below is an overview of our series of articles on learning the front crawl. Each article in this series contains one or more drills that have to be mastered. The current article is highlighted:
Once you have gone through all the steps of this learning path, you should be able to swim front crawl without any problems.