Why Does My Body Sink?

I'm currently being taught how to swim by 3 amazing people. In my opinion, they're doing a great job. However, there is a problem. Why does my body sink? I have tried floating on my back, but have had no success. I have been told by someone other than these three amazing people, that I am what is called “A Sinker." They said that no matter what I try I will sink to the bottom of the pool. I would just like to know;

1) Are there people that just can't float?
2) I was hoping that you could give tips on how to float, because I feel like the only real fear that I have of water is not being able to float.


This has to be one of the most common questions that I get asked, particularly by beginners.

Some Float and Some Sink


The short answer is yes, there are people that simply cannot float. But this should not put you off of learning to swim, nor should it be a source of fear as it will only hinder your progress.

Your ability to float is determined by your body composition. In other words if you are lean and muscular and have a low or even normal body fat percentage, you will more than likely sink. If you have a higher body fat percentage then you will more than likely float.

Sounds wrong that a heavier person should float and yet the lighter person sinks!

Heavy Muscles Sink


It is all down to relative density. Human muscle is denser and therefore less buoyant than fat. Fat contains water and oil and is less dense and therefore floats well.

Also your upper body will float better and for longer because your lungs contain air which helps keep it up, whereas your legs will be there first part to sink.

Ok, hopefully now you have an understanding of some of the science behind a static human body in the water. Notice I say ‘static’ human body. It is very easy to judge your body’s ability to float or sink when it remains still in the water.

Floating stationary and remaining afloat as you swim are two different scenarios.

Click here for more about understanding buoyancy and your own ability to float.

Use Momentum To Keep You Afloat


You are learning to swim and swimming requires movements through the water to generate propulsion and momentum. It is this propulsion and momentum that keeps a ‘sinker’ afloat on the surface of the water.

As you learn to swim you will become confident in all aspects of swimming and I don’t just mean swimming the four basic strokes. I mean learning even more basic stuff like gliding, stopping and standing up and changing direction whilst swimming.

All these elements will boost your confidence and your ability to keep yourself afloat. They will also eventually wipe out any fears you have of the water and your swimming will go from strength to strength.

Which Swimming Stroke Do You Need Help With?


Click on a stroke for more information

front crawlbreaststroke techniquebackstroke techniquebutterfly stroke technique


Our eBook How To Float contains tips, tricks and exercises to help keep your body at the surface as you swim. Click the link below for more information.

How To Float

how to float

Myths, Tips and Tricks to Help Anyone Learn How To Stay Afloat As They Swim

$4.99 

Click here for more details and information

Comments for Why Does My Body Sink?

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Oct 30, 2014
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I'm a sinker unfortunately!
by: Debbie

Elizabeth you are right on the money because I am not a lean, fit woman. I am 59 yrs old overweight and I don't even want to know what my BMI is so having said that...I am not a floater by any means. I go to deep water aquafit twice a week and love it. We wear floating belts of course and from what I can tell it seems that I'm pretty much the only one who's shoulders are underwater. I find all the other women have their heads and shoulders above water whereas the water comes to just slightly under my chin. I've tried using different floaties but to no avail. I'm a good swimmer and always have been from very young, I always loved the water! I had no idea there was such a thing as floaters and sinkers till I started these aquafit classes and noticed how I seem to be floating deeper in the water than others. That's when I got talking to people and came to realize there is such a thing. It doesn't really bother me that much although I would prefer to be a floater but as I said earlier I am a good swimmer and that's good enough for me!

Oct 30, 2014
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starstarstarstarstar
I'm a sinker unfortunately!
by: Debbie

Elizabeth you are right on the money because I am not a lean, fit woman. I am 59 yrs old overweight and I don't even want to know what my BMI is so having said that...I am not a floater by any means. I go to deep water aquafit twice a week and love it. We wear floating belts of course and from what I can tell it seems that I'm pretty much the only one who's shoulders are underwater. I find all the other women have their heads and shoulders above water whereas the water comes to just slightly under my chin. I've tried using different floaties but to no avail. I'm a good swimmer and always have been from very young, I always loved the water! I had no idea there was such a thing as floaters and sinkers till I started these aquafit classes and noticed how I seem to be floating deeper in the water than others. That's when I got talking to people and came to realize there is such a thing. It doesn't really bother me that much although I would prefer to be a floater but as I said earlier I am a good swimmer and that's good enough for me!

Aug 13, 2014
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Body density
by: Mike

I don't agree with the comments below, I think this article is correct. Body density is dictated by our muscle to fat ratio along with our bone density (which this article doesn't mention).

Everyone knows that most fat people float and most muscular people sink, generally speaking. But there are always exceptions.

I guess it depends if you are referring to floating in a stationary position or remaining afloat as you swim along, which are two very different situations.

A person with higher body density will sink, legs first, when stationary and remain at the surface when swimming along, assuming they have some swimming ability.

So a 'true floater' and a 'true sinker' are determined by their body density, that being their ratio of muscle to fat, their bone density and their ability to swim.

Jul 28, 2014
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Truth about "Sinkers."
by: Elizabeth

I'm sorry, but this article is wrong. Floating (or swimming) has absolutely ZERO to do with how lean or fat you are. My son is is probably the leanest person you will ever met (and very fit) is a natural floater. My daughter, who is also lean and very fit is a sinker. I found this article trying to find information on "Sinkers" because I'm having a great deal of trouble teaching her how to swim. I use to give swimming lessons when I lifeguard-ed in high school and college and I've never seen a true sinker before now. It turns out my husband is also a true sinker (I have tried to teach him as well) and I'm guessing he passed this trait down. We are all very healthy, lean, fit, vegan diet bodies and my two sons and I automatically float (couldn't sink if we wanted to), but my husband and daughter sink -no matter what. What I've found so far is there are few "true sinkers" and there's really nothing you can do for them. They can learn to swim, but floating is another story. But it has nothing to do with body weight, how fit or lean you are or anything like that. It is body density from what I understand, but no dependent on fat or muscle.

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