Learn to Swim Front Crawl / Freestyle: Head-Lead Prone Balance Drill

A novice swimmer who practices the head-lead prone balance drill for the front crawl stroke.

This front crawl / freestyle stroke drill teaches you how to be balanced in the water in a prone position (floating on your chest).

In fact, this is the best drill to get forever rid of sinking hips and legs while swimming front crawl.

Swimming Drill Video

The following video demonstrates how to do this drill:

Drill Instructions

1) Lie flat in the water, with your face turned downward. Your head is in line with the trunk.

2) Keep your arms relaxed and extended along the sides of the body.

3) Start to kick with a gentle flutter kick.

4) If you notice that your hips and legs tend to sink, try this: increase the downward pressure on your chest and head while keeping your head in line with your body.

Don’t press down too much though; your body should still be more or less horizontal.

5) You should notice that by the lever effect explained in the previous front crawl drill, your hips and legs are pushed upward. This is the key lesson of this drill.

6) When you need to breathe, gently extend your chin forward until your mouth clears the water.

7) You will notice that your hips and legs tend to sink while inhaling. Press your chest and head down as explained above to compensate and bring your body back into balance.

8) Pressing your head and chest down this way to make your hips and legs rise in the water is sometimes called pressing your buoy or pressing the T.

Additional Tips

Here are a few additional tips to practice this swimming drill:

1) If your kick is weak you can give swimming fins a try. Just make sure to compensate for sinking hips and legs by pressing your buoy, not by kicking harder with the fins.

2) Don’t overdo this drill, as extending your chin to inhale can strain your neck. Once you have integrated how to press your buoy to keep your hips and legs up, move on to the next drill.

3) A tip for sinkers from Frank, one of our readers: to bring your hips/legs in balance with your shoulders, consciously engage the lower back muscles and also do dry land exercises to strengthen those lower back muscles.

Learning Path for the Front Crawl

Below you will find an overview of our series of articles to learn the front crawl.

Each article includes one or several drills/exercises to be mastered.

The current article, which is part of this series, is highlighted:

By completing the different steps of this learning path, you should soon be able to swim front crawl.

Good luck!

9 thoughts on “Learn to Swim Front Crawl / Freestyle: Head-Lead Prone Balance Drill”

  1. Avatar

    I am not able to breathe at the right moment when I take out my neck and my body totally sinks in the water. What should I do ?

    1. Avatar

      If needed, you can give your hands a little sweep (like the sculling drill), but keep them at your side.

      This should provide a little little rigidity and slight upwards propulsion sufficient to breathe until you become strong enough to do this drill without it

  2. Avatar

    In the video, the swimmer doesn’t seem to be exhaling while the head is submerged. I only see bubbles right before the head is lifted to inhale.

    Should the breath be held while the head is submerged during this drill?

    1. Christophe

      Good catch!

      It’s been a few years since I made the video. Ideally, you should exhale a bit all the time.

      I didn’t do it in this video though, I don’t know why, maybe because I was a bit tense because I was being filmed?

        1. Avatar

          I noticed the same thing! As a grown woman trying to sharpen my skills in water for fitness purposes, I was also confused. Thanks for clearing that up. :)

  3. Avatar

    I had a problem with this exercise.

    My experience is that after inhaling, it is better to hold your breath while you obtain balance and the chest is higher. Then you can start to exhale.

    Does anyone have the same experience?

    1. Avatar
      Maria Verrecchia

      Hi Stefan, at last a Forum (thanks to Christophe, where I can find others with similar swimming experiences. Yes, I totally agree, and it makes sense, as the lungs fill with air, optimum buoyancy and the moment to at least ‘feel’ what a prone flutter kick is like before dropping. It is hard to raise the chin after that to inhale and that’s when I tense up, so I put in a pretty wide sweep, almost breaststroke for breath before returning to horizontal position, but I am 65, and two years into learning. Maria, Scotland.

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