Head position is critical for most sports, being at the ‘crown of your posture,’ and your head is heavy! I have received conflicting instructions on head position from different swim coaches over the years, but this conflict was glaring recently.
Coach #1: Whilst swimming with Rick Fee, who is coaching me in the local pool, he said, “Kevin, you are swimming looking at the bottom of the pool, with the crown of your head causing increased resistance to the water, while your face is more streamlined, so look forward more to raise your head a little.” I tried this out, and it not only reduced drag but it was much easier for me to breath without getting water down the back of my throat.
Coach #2: Whilst at the Chez Olliethis weekend, one of the coaches, a talented athlete and coach, known variously as Matthew, Matt or Rose, said, “Kevin, look at the bottom of the pool to bring your head down, which will raise your hips and reduce drag.“
Ummmhh! I love to think about things, so I explored this question, and I finally came to the conclusion that, in my case at least, it is all about my eyes, which influence muscle recruitment patterns when I tip my head back. Here is a short video, where I attempt to explain my thoughts on head up versus head down whilst swimming.
Coach #1 is correct, in that lifting your head a little will take advantage of streamlining by the face, but this assumes that you do not allow this movement to depress your hips due to engagement of shoulder, back or core muscles, rather than making the movement almost entirely from the neck.
Coach #2 is correct, in that the tendency to lower the hips, thus increasing drag, will be reduced by keeping the head down, and the face directed to the bottom of the pool, but it comes at the price of increasing drag from the crown of your head as it ploughs through the water.
The answer appears to lie in understanding your biomechanics, and especially the critical role played by eye movement as you adjust your head position. Archimedes Principle would also indicate that lifting your head should push down on the front of your body, which would raise your hips via the fulcrum of air in your chest. I clearly need to work on keeping my hips high, so I’ll explore this eyeball thing a little more next time I hit the water.
Any thoughts on this analysis would be much appreciated.