How To Stop Your Legs From Sinking – Root Cause 15

The  Ultimate Guide To Balance & Alignment In Freestyle Swimming

Fixing Your Sinking Leg Problems


Root Cause No 15: 

Being Too Tense 

“The water is your friend…. you don’t have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move.” Alexander Popov (Four-time individual Olympic gold medalist in Freestyle events. Regarded as one of the greatest sprint freestyle swimmers of all time.)

A tense muscle sinks faster than a relaxed muscle.

When you tense you restrict flow of oxygen through the muscle. The less oxygen we have running through a muscle the less float ability that muscle will have. This may be a minor factor but your rigidity does impact your floatability. A rigidly stiff muscle doesn’t move well. Their movement is mechanical which is not what you want to be in the water.

Common Causes

Being tense usually stems from a fear response. The fear is often accompanied by major or minor hyperventilation. When you take shallow breaths you reduce the air in your lungs. This reduces your buoyancy and increases that sinking feeling.

You want to relax. The goal is to hold enough tension to maintain a straight line, but no more. We want relaxed rigidity as Coach Kevin and Chris from the Tri Swim Coach call it.

The idea behind being relaxed is not to go limp.

You don’t want to get flabby and loose. Rather, you want to relax your shoulders, loosen up your ankles. You want to breathe at a rate that supports the intensity you are trying to swim at.

More than that, being relaxed means being in control of what your body is doing in the water. If the only thought that’s occupying your mind is how quickly you’re running out of air… Or you can only focus on getting to the end of the lane so you can grip onto the safety of the wall… you are not in control or relaxed!

Clear your mind. Focus on your breathing and make it flow.

How to Fix It 

As adults (that are short on time) we tend to be very process oriented in our approach to swimming. In our effort to get better faster, we get mechanical.

We go on a quest to know exactly what to do and how to do it. We follow a set routine, go through the same motions and try to force ourselves to get out of our comfort zones. This approach might help you learn how to execute a skill. But it does very little to change the way your brain processes the threat of the water.

Our brains have evolved for an environment very different to the water. We have to change the way your brain processes the threat of being submerged.

Start by building a better association with the water. Play games with your children or your friends. Go to the water park, play around in the splash pool and have some fun. As you enjoy your time in  the water your fear response will begin to subside. You’ll begin to see the water as a friend, not a threat.