View Full Version : Head Position

March 27th, 2003, 02:06 PM
I'm a fairly new competitve swimmer (although I'm gonna be 50 this year). I'm reading a book entitled "The Essential Swimmer" by Steve Tarpinian. He's telling me that the water line for freestyle should be somewhere between my goggles and my cap (hairline) on my forehead. Is this right? I've been swimming all this time (started last August) with my head straight down. Seems to me that I'm gonna get quite a neck ache swimming that way, but if that's correct I'll start today! Any help is appreciated.


jim thornton
March 27th, 2003, 02:44 PM

When I was younger, i.e., in the 1970s, I was taught to have the water level hit me right on the forehead during freestyle. This, the old theory went, would help you hydroplane during sprinting. In reality, this head's up posture caused your legs to sink, and you ended up plowing through the water.

Today, it seems to me a new and better head position theory has emerged. Now, I look straight down to the bottom of the pool, and have a significantly lower head position. The water level hits me between where my hairline used to be and where it is, in fact, now--i.e., closer to the crown. This head position keeps you flat on the water surface so that you torpedo through horizontally rather than plow through in a wedge configuration.

Anyhow, I find the latter (flat, head down) works better for me not only for distance but sprinting as well (I don't think we were ever expected to "hydroplane" for long distances--too tiring.)

Where you can really see this is in backstroke. Watch the sunken legs of swimmers who keep their heads up compared with the much better body position of backstrokers who are in a flat, neutral position, their eyes staring straight up at the ceiling.

Others may disagree, but I think flat is better. At least in swimming.

jim clemmons
March 27th, 2003, 03:19 PM
I agree with Jim. You want to keep your head down which will help to keep your body parallel to the surface of the water. In this position your effort will be directed at moving you forward and not be draining energy trying to keep you "up on top of" the water.

March 27th, 2003, 05:50 PM
I'm also for the head-down position. head-down; hips-up.

However, I have been reminded on several occasions not to completely bury my head in the water. In order to keep a peice of my head, diameter 4-5 inches worth, out of the water I do look ahead slightly... probably 70 to 80 degree angle ... not 90 degree straight down and not 45 or less forehead first.

good luck!!


March 27th, 2003, 07:19 PM
There's some good information on this web site under 'Training' which will link into articles on technique.

Coach Emmett Hines has written an excellent book titled Fitness Swimming, and he is the author of the following article:


From personal experience (after a twenty year taper) I discovered that head facing down will make for a much more even flow of water around your upper body and helps keep those hips high. Less drag makes swimming easier, and ultimately makes you swim faster. I was once from the 'hydroplane' school of thought when we were taught to look forward towards the far end of the pool. If we only knew then what we know now.

March 28th, 2003, 01:02 AM
In the early 90's, I was actually *ahem* corrected by Mr. T from the neutral head position (facing down) I had used in college to one where I had my eyes at the water line.

I can still vividly recall his comment of "we got a head dunker" that is captured somewhere on video tape in my archives.

It wasn't until last year that Total Immersion freed me from that yoke and eased my aching neck. It also raised my hips and I haven't needed to use a pull-buoy since then.

Clearly, my vote is heads down, but read up on Emmett's site referenced above as well as Total Immersion. Try it out and decide for yourself.

jim thornton
March 28th, 2003, 09:37 AM
I just want to ask who Mr. T is--it can't be me, can it? I don't think I've ever used the expression head dunker in my life!

the other Mr. T

March 28th, 2003, 10:42 AM
No Sir, this is another Mr. T, the one referred to in the first post in this thread whose clinic I took a decade ago.

March 28th, 2003, 05:51 PM
I, too, am a recent convert to the head down swimming approach. As well as keeping your hips up, it seems to allow the shoulders to roll more - in fact your whole body rolls more on the vertical axis.

One problem, kinda embarassing, is that when I put my head down and think about stroke mechanics, I forget about the wall - ouch.