Get Your Head in the Game
By Katie Arnold//High Performance Consultant
We’ve talked here about the importance of maintaining a good body line for all four strokes. We’ve also discussed body line in relation to underwaters and entries on starts. However, we haven’t really talked about how important good head position is to maintaining this body line. If you think about how heavy the head is, even minor mistakes when it comes to head position can throw off a swimmer’s body line significantly. Over the past few months I have started to take notice of how many athletes have poor head position, and how much this can affect their body line.
The two most common mistakes I see are lifting or burying the head. When an athlete is either lifting or burying the head, the ideal body line for that stroke is compromised and this often results in “dragging” parts of your body through the water. Another problem presented by poor head position is the tendency to lose the connection through the core that is so important to body line and rotation in long-axis strokes.
Generally speaking, the head should be in line with the spine and back. I like to call this a “neutral spine” where I should be able to draw a straight line from the back of the head down the neck and spine. For butterfly, breaststroke and freestyle, the eyes should look down towards the bottom of the pool and the waterline should hit the top of the head during full extension. On backstroke, the eyes should look up at the sky (or ceiling depending on where you train) with a very slight tuck of the chin. The head will be just slightly higher than the chest and torso. Be careful not to lift the head too high on backstroke though because doing so will cause your hips to sink.
The good news for all of you out there reading this that may be swimming with poor head position is that in most cases, simply fixing the head position will alleviate most issues with body line.