How To Stop Your Legs  From Sinking

The  Ultimate Guide To Balance & Alignment In Freestyle Swimming

Frequently Asked Questions on Body Composition

  • I am 6ft5, could it be that my legs are too long and heavy? 

The length of your legs will have an effect on how well you float, but is not an indicator of your swimming potential. The longer your legs, the further your center of gravity will move away from your center of buoyancy. But if you have long legs, you also likely have long arms. Using your arms to lengthen your body out ahead of your lungs will counterbalance your body. You can use the length of your arms to shift your center of gravity closer towards your center of buoyancy. 

The best swimmers in the word tend to be taller and lankier individuals. If anything, long legs are an advantage in the water. Take a look at the average height of the medal winners from the 2016 Rio Olympics in each sport. 

The male swimmers are taller than any of the other sports. The difference isn’t as big with the females, but they certainly aren’t the shortest. 

If anything this study suggests that having long arms and legs is actually an advantage! 


  • I’m at 10% body fat. Is it possible that I need to add more fat to float? My legs in particular sink like cinder blocks.

Fat will help you float, but it’s not going to solve your problem. 

Matt Fitzgerald, author of  “Racing Weight”,  says that elite swimmers typically carry more fat than other endurance athletes. Elite male swimmers carry 10-12% body fat while elite females sit between 19-21% body fat, he says. By comparison, professional male triathletes carry 6-10%. While pro female triathletes sit between 12-16%. Fat floats, so the higher your body fat percentage, the better you would float. 

But before you hit up Krispy Kreme. Rethink your strategy. Simply putting on fat is unlikely to help you swim significantly faster. Your total body fat percentage will play a small role in how well you float. But where that fat is distributed plays a bigger role.  

Fat that’s distributed around your legs, below your center of gravity to help you float better. But if you carried more fat in your belly than you do in your legs, you’ll sink even faster. But then you have to look at the big picture. The downside of gaining weight to float will far outweigh you benefit. Especially when you get to your run on race day. 

  • My bone density is unnaturally heavy. My legs just sink no matter what I do….

There are people that have higher bone density and may find it more difficult to float than others. But heavier bones does not mean you can’t balance and swim well. I personally sink like a rock. 

You have to learn to adjust your body and manipulate the forces of buoyancy and gravity. If you have unnaturally heavy bones, you may not make an Olympic swim team. But you could still hold your own in a triathlon swim field! It just takes consistent time and consistent effort.

  • If I lay in the water and don’t move, my legs sink instantly and pull the rest of my body down. If I exhale, my whole body sinks to the bottom

Welcome to the club! 

Buoyancy pushes up through the area of the lungs. Gravity pushes down through your hips and thighs. So your legs sinking is natural and makes complete sense. 

Your lungs are big bags are air! They act as balloons that pull your upper body up towards the surface. Your hips and thighs on the other hand are packed with bones and dense muscles. These bones and muscles act as anchors, wanting to pull your lower body down towards the bottom. 

If your lungs are partially filled with air they may not pull you all the way up to the surface. But the little air that is in them will stop your whole body from sinking to the bottom. If you exhale all of your air and empty your lungs, your whole body will go down. 

To counteract this you will want to keep some air in your lungs at all times. Keeping the air in your lungs will help keep you bouyant. 

  • I lack the natural ability to float and so I tire quickly…

No one floats naturally. 

The human body isn’t designed to float horizontally. Learning to keep your legs up and float takes body control. You have to learn to manipulate the forces at play to get your head, hips and heels aligned. 

When children learn to swim, floating is the first skill they learn. We start with the mushroom float. Then the Starfish Float and the Back Float before moving on to any actual swimming. 

Children float better than adults. Their bone density is lighter. And their body composition tends to be better, but they still have to learn how to float. Once they learn it, they are able to hold on to it as their bodies grow and develop. 

As an adult with heavier bones and more muscle, it is more challenging to learn the skills. But the water does support the human body very well, if you learn to manipulate the forces. 

  • I’ve got very muscular quads and they just keep dragging me down.  

The more muscular you are the more of a challenge floating horizontally will be. Carrying the dense muscles below your center of gravity will pull your legs under faster. But as I stated many times, this does not mean that you cannot learn to float. 

Josh Schneider is a perfect example of this. Josh is 6ft4 and 220lbs. He played Football through high school and only really got into swimming in college. He’s a solid unit of muscle. Yet he swims the 100m Freestyle in 48.91 seconds. And represented the USA team at numerous meets around the world. 

Another example is some of the Crossfit athletes I work with. One of my Crossfitters, Tanner weighs 200lbs and has a body fat percentage of 7-8%. While he’ll openly admit that the Balance Drill is not his favorite.  But he has a CSS pace of 1.41/100m, very respectable for an adult learner that only swims twice a week. 

This dude is jacked and still has a CSS of 1.41/100m. 

Body position looks good for a big guy! 

Generally, it’s not the muscle in the quads that’s causing the issue, it’s the way you are kicking. Swimmers with muscular legs tend to use their quads more when they kick which results in more knee bend. It’s the knee bend that causes your hips to sink. Not the muscle in your quads.

  • I have heavy legs and poor torso flexibility

Muscle density generally isn’t the biggest hurdle to floating or swimming well. Flexibility is. The most muscular athletes tend to also be the most inflexible. If you are able to increase your range of motion, you are able to help them float better and swim faster. This will require time and consistency, but it’s the key to helping you get more efficient. 

  • I have below average buoyancy and was advised to try wearing buoyancy shorts. They have definitely been the answer to my buoyancy problems but is there a downside to wearing them? 

Wearing buoyancy shorts will help you solve your sinking leg problems…. While you have them on. 

Faster yes. 

But just like a pull buoy that gets used too much, they give your an inflated sense of your swim fitness/ability. And it doesn’t transfer well on race day (even if you race in a wetsuit). 

I have found that buoyancy shorts do nothing to help correct balance and alignment.  They don’t actually contribute to becoming a better swimmer. There is a time and a place for their use in a training program. But wearing them for every workout will not help you develop your swim. In fact it will hurt your progress.   

The added buoyancy usually results in you ignoring your core. Instead of turning on your core and staying connected, it relaxes. And the bridge between your lungs and your legs breaks. You still swim faster with them on because the neoprene artificially holds your hips up. But you’re ingraining poor postural habits. 

Finishing Up

If there is one thing that you take away from this guide, it’s the following: 

How well you currently float has little influence on how fast you could ultimately swim. 

Whether your legs are short or long. Muscular or inflexible. Whether you’re new to swimming or have been struggling for years. My hope is that this guide has convinced you that you, yes you, can learn to swim faster and more efficiently. 

What To Do Next 

The value on the pages of this guide are only as useful as the implementation of what you learn. Acquiring the knowledge is half the battle. Now you must practice. 

First identify why your legs sink. I’ve laid out 15 different reasons I see most commonly causing swimmers hips and legs to drop down in the water. Which of these are responsible for your sinking legs? 

Then apply the fix. In each section I showed you how to address your issue. If you’ve downloaded the guide along with the videos you should have a very clear set of tools to start using. It’s time to get to work. 

If anything doesn’t make sense or you have questions, email me 

Just one more thing. If you learned one thing in this guide that a friend of yours needs to learn too, why don’t you send them a link to the guide? They’ll thank you for helping them! (and you’ll make my day too!)

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I found some answers to why our legs sink like rocks! Here’s a guide that I found really helpful.  I think it will help you a ton too. You can find it here:

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