What are you looking at?

In my last blog, I wrote about excessive head movement and how it can negatively affect your swimming. Since then I received quite a few inquiries about what is ideal head position and where a swimmers eyes should be focused. Should they be looking completely forward to the other end of the pool? Or straight down at the black line? Or somewhere in between? 

In 1988, while swimming for St. John’s University we were taught to look straight ahead, eyes forward with the water line at our forehead.  This position is not the best for most swimmers and should not be adopted unless you have been analyzed and your body line can afford this head position. 

Here are a couple of pictures from my Charleston, SC Clinic last month. Notice the difference between the eye/head position and body line with regards to the surface of the water. You can clearly see how looking forward negatively impacts her body position, sinking her hips and legs in image 1.

 image 1

image 1

In image 2 the swimmers eyes are looking diagonally downward toward the bottom of the pool. Notice her body position instantly improves. (also observe the great exhalation coming out of her nose/mouth also helping to improve her body line.) 

 image 2

image 2

A low head position with eyes looking straight down toward the bottom of the pool is often advised by swim coaches as a way to help lift the legs. At Swim Smooth we treat this as a last resort to improve body position.

Looking straight down (image 3) or down and back (image 4) lessens the swimmers' peripheral vision and proprioception of the lead arm, making it difficult to learn proper hand entry. It also hinders good spinal alignment. Furthermore, swimmers who normally have good body position may feel unbalanced when looking straight down, as it could lift their legs too high in the water. 

 image 3

image 3

 image 4 

image 4 

Bottom Line: You have a variety of head positions to choose from and unfortunately it’s not one size fits all. Head position is truly individual, but the one that works for most swimmers is in image 2 (eyes diagonally downward).
And by all means, keep your eyes open when you swim!