This past weekend, I gave a talk about the Vasa Swim Erg to a group of athletes participating in a training camp in San Diego.
After the talk, when athletes were trying the Vasa, the most common mistake that I saw in form was that their legs would sway back and forth like a pendulum when they swam. I was curious to see if this was also true in the water.
Sure enough, when I saw them in the pool the next day, their legs did the same thing. This is a very common swim form malady but fortunately with easy root causes.
The first potential cause is weak core engagement. When we we pull just from the arms and shoulders and not from the back and the hips, it is easy for our body to feel unstable and off balanced, thus our legs swing to compensate.
To fix this, try doing one arm drills with a focus on hip rotation as you pull. You should feel your opposite hip engaging as you pull. A good visual of this can be found with this video:
The second cause is that your hand placement is too narrow and/or you are crossing over. Many swimmers slam their hand down and extend diagonally, crossing over their center axis. When this happens your legs move in the direction that your hand moves and sway back and forth. To correct this, widen your stroke and place and extend your hand at about the 10 and 2 o’clock position.
I like to recommend visualizing extending to the corner of the lane. It might feel odd at first and that your stroke is too wide but chances are it will be just right.
Lastly your head position could be off. Many swimmers look up while they swim instead of keeping a neutral spine and looking down more. When you look up, not only does your lower body sink but also your body’s balance is thrown off. To try to reclaim your balance, your legs sway.
Instead of looking up, focus on keeping your chin tucked and your spine straight. If you can see the wall or the feet of the swimmer in front of you, you are looking up too much. Granted, not everyone has the same head position; some people do fine with a slight angle up while others, myself included, have to look straight down and a little behind to feel that balance point.
Experiment to find a good head position by doing the balance point drill and kick drills without a board.
Fixing swaying legs will translate into more movement forward and less movement from side to side, which means instant speed and efficiency.
For more on the Swim Erg and how to try it risk-free for 90 days, click here.