How To Stop Your Legs From Sinking – Root Cause 4 – Problem 3

The  Ultimate Guide To Balance & Alignment In Freestyle Swimming

Fixing Your Sinking Leg Problems


Root Cause No 4: 

Over Rotation Problem 3: 

Breathing Too Late 

The timing of your breath might be to blame for your over rotation, scissor kick and early push down.

The timing of your head turn is critically important  to maintaining your balance. If you turn or return too late you will over rotate, your legs will flay and your hips will drop.

{1} Timing the Turn

You want the head to start turning to the side right was your opposite fingertips enter the water.

{2} Timing the Return 

You want your head to start turning back into the neutral position right before you get into the catch. What I mean by that is as you begin to push water backwards with the bottom arm, your head should be starting to come back.

If you wait until that arm has entered and extended before you turn your head you’re not going to get a good breathe in.

When you turn your head late but return it at the right time you’re not going to have enough of a window to get in a good breath. Your inhale will feel short and rushed. You’ll quickly begin to feel the oxygen debt build as you work through the lengths.

If you start to return your head downwards too late you’ll throw off your body’s balance. This is when you over rotate, scissor kick and feel your hips and legs drop. You will also lose out on a big proportion of your propulsion.

Why it Happens 

The late breath usually occurs because you feel you need more time to inhale. Either because you’re short of air or because you want to get your mouth well clear of the water. So you hold your head out the water a little too long in the hope of getting a little more air into your body.

Sometimes breathing late is simply a timing issue. You’re just not nailing the exact moment your head needs to start turning and returning. If you don’t have the right rhythm your timing will be off.

How To Fix It  

There are three points to focus on to get your breath timing right.

{1} Starting the breath at the right time

{2} Making the inhale quick

{3} Returning your head at the right time

Let’s work through each of them to make sure you get the breath cycle right.

{1}  Starting the breath at the right time 

When you think about the exact moment to turn your head, it’s easiest to relate it to what one of your arms is doing at the moment your head should start to move. You have two choices here;

{a} You can either work on turning your head as the fingertips on your recovering hand enter out in front of your head.

{b} You can work on turning your head as your pulling hand passes your shoulder on it’s way to finishing the stroke at your hip.

Both of these two happen at the same time (in a balanced stroke).  Some swimmers I’ve worked with find it easier to focus on when the hand enters. While others find focusing on the back end simpler.

Here’s how you can work on that timing:

{a} Balance +1 Drill 

The Balance +1 Drill will help teach you to hold your body position through the breath, but we can use it to learn the correct breath timing too. When doing the Balance + 1 Drill you will want to focus on turning your head to breathe before the elbow and hand of your pulling arm has passed your shoulder. The goal is to get the head to turn early, to feel like you are “pulling” yourself to the breath.

{b} Breathe Like A Champ Drill 

The Breathe Like A Champ Drill is a good test of whether or not you have the timing of the breath right. As you did in the Balance +1 Drill, you will want to focus on turning your head to breathe before the elbow and hand of your pulling arm has passed your shoulder. The difference with this drill is you don’t have the extended arm out in front of you to stabilize your body, making it a lot more difficult to keep yourself aligned through the breath.

{2} Returning Your Head at the Right Time 

We can use the same drills to help you get your head back down early. Typically, the earlier you start the breath, the quicker your head will come back to the neutral position. You’re goal is to start bringing your head back down right as your pulling hand passes underneath your shoulder.

The Breathe Like A Champ Drill will help you use the return of your head to power up the propulsion of the catch and pull. If you turn your head too late you will need to rely heavily on your kick to move you forward. If you get the timing right, you’ll feel yourself shoot forward with every pull.

You can also use a One Arm Freestyle stroke to help you with the return timing. Swimming with one arm (and breathing to the same side) will tell you if you are leaving your head out of the water too long. You should not be able to see your hand recovering back over while your face is to the side. By the time your elbow passes your ear your head should be well on it’s way back into the neutral position.

{3} Making the Inhale Quick 

Between the turn and return is how long it actually takes you to inhale.

You only need to turn your head enough to get your mouth out the water, grab the breath and then turn your head back down. There isn’t a big window of time to get this breath in, you have to be quick and confident to get it right.

To build confidence in a quick breath, go back to the breathing drills. Work on the breathing bobs and crocodile breathing drills. Work on making the inhale short and sharp while doing the bobs. Get comfortable having water in and around your mouth. While still getting in enough air.

When you’re comfortable with those move onto the superman and side kick drills. Work on keeping your head low (lifting up will cause your hips to drop) and making the breath fast.

{a} Superman Drill 

{b} Side Kick Drill