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Slight changes in your head position can have a big impact on how fast you are in freestyle.
Why Do It:
Focusing on head position, rather than allowing your eyes to distract you, can help your body stay in a more proper line, which can provide better balance, better rotation, better extension, a more productive pull, a more powerful kick, and a more efficient stroke. In other words... IT'S IMPORTANT!
How to Do It:
1. If you're just starting to think about your head position, open your eyes. By that, we mean think about where you're looking.
2. Young swimmers, with a lot of other swimmers in the lane, can typically spend the majority of their swim practice looking forward... to see where the other swimmers are. This will cause the hips to drop, the kick to become supportive rather than propulsive, and the arms will push down more than they'll push back. Not good.
3. Other swimmers will have heard to keep their head down... so they REALLY keep their head down, too much. If the water completely covers your head, to the point the entire head is submerged, you can create much more resistance with your recovery.
4. Great head position has just a bit of the back of the head showing above the surface, allows for good rotation and a clean recovery, and the eyes will be looking just a bit ahead of you.
How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
First, make sure you leave on time (more on that next week), so you don't have to worry about running in to the person in front of you. Second, try various positions so you can be aware of what happens when you DO move your head too far out of line.
Start with your head too high, eyes looking directly forward. Feel what your hands and feet are doing to hold you up, and focus on what's happening to your hips.
Next put your head too low. Bury it in the water until it's completely submerged.
Finally, relax your neck and look just a bit forward. Your shoulder should be able to go just on your cheek as you extend your arm forward. Also think about how clear of the water your shoulder is during your recovery.
Not everyone has the exact same head position, but somewhere between too high, and too low, you'll find yours. Keep experimenting.