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The head lead body rotation drill is the foundation of a successful swimming stroke.
If you do not spend enough time on this step or if you skip it entirely, you will regret it later on as you will struggle to improve.
Got your attention? Yes? Very good.
To reiterate, a proper body balance is one of the key aspects of fast and efficient swimming.
I already talked about the balance a bit in the previous post about sinking legs.
You might be thinking, what kind of balance do I need in the water while I swim? I just float, don't I?
Well, that is true, your body naturally floats, however, it matters how you float and how much effort (energy) you consume while floating :).
In this post, you can see a decent video of a well-performed head lead drill that is great for balancing your body in the water.
Watch the video and below you will find my comments about the exercise.
As simple as it looks, it actually is not that easy for many.
Here are the major elements of the head lead body balance drill:
As you can see, this drill requires constant kicking and a lot of core body strength.
The number one mistake is to kick way too much to get exhausted.
When I say constant steady kick, I do not mean a hard kick which makes you tired.
I mean just an easy slow supportive kick, just enough to give you some propulsion forward.
If you have a weak kick, do not worry, just add fins into the mix to keep the focus on the balance and rotation and not on the struggle to kick.
2) Arm location
Keep your arms at your side, as if you had your hands in your front pockets (don't move them).
Most importantly, they should be relaxed.
Mistake number two is to keep your top arm in a rigor mortis shark fin-like position that is not resting on the top of your body.
3) Head position
Your eyes should constantly look at the bottom of the pool or at the sky when you breathe (not to your sides like in the video).
Mistake number three is to rotate your head from side to side along with your hips.
No no no!
The head and the body are separate elements in this drill.
The head is stationary and only the body moves.
The swimmer in this video does a very good job of rotating while keeping the head steady and hips at the surface.
Your body rotates on an axis that goes through the top of your head and comes out of your toes.
As you can see, the rotation should be very smooth, trying to minimize the visual effect of tightening your muscles to turn.
Mistake number four revolves around pausing on your belly during the rotation.
Think of your hips as ice skates. You should glide from one skate to another, but never on both simultaneously.
5) Body position
Your body should be aligned at the surface and your spine should maintain a straight line.
Mistake number five is to drop the hips down while kicking or while breathing.
Which in turn causes a curvature in your spine and for you to swim uphill instead of the preferred downhill swimming notion.
In order to keep the hips up, you will need to exert pressure with your shoulders and upper chest.
Keep pressing the upper part of your body into the water to cause the hips to rise to the surface.
If this is a bit too advanced, please consider working on your head position first.
It is nice to turn on your back to breathe, however, if you can you should keep the rotation only from one side to the other across your front, so you never end up with your belly up.
That is if your kneck flexibility allows for this.
If you really have trouble with the side to side and your kneck flexibility does not allow for this, go side to back and back to the side.
Start on your side, looking down, then rotate to your belly, head still down, then rotate to your other side and now you can rotate your head to breathe in the same axis as described above.
However, mistake number six is not about how you breathe, but more about swimmers blowing bubbles while submerged.
As much as it is nice to blow the bubbles while you swim to keep yourself relaxed, during this balance drill, you should keep your mouth shut and the air in your lungs.
You need as much air in your lungs as possible, so you can leverage it and use it to put pressure on the water to keep the hips up.
If you drain the air from your lungs, you will sink :).
Finally, if you struggle with breathing, the best way to eliminate it from the equation is to use the front swimmer snorkel. A swim gear which everyone who is serious about getting better in swimming should have.