I have been trying to learn to swim for a while, but I cannot get my legs straight behind me. Can you help?
People find it hard to get their legs straight behind them because their head is too high.
Swimming with your face out of the water will make it very difficult to get your legs out behind you and into a good swimming position.
As a beginner, one of the most difficult parts of swimming to master is breathing and submerging. It is sometimes easier to swim without submerging, but this comes at a cost, and that cost is an incorrect body position.
Whatever swimming stroke you try to learn, your face must be submerged at some point.
For front crawl, your face must be submerged nearly all the time unless you roll it to the side to take a breath.
For breaststroke, your face needs to be submerged during the glide phase after the pull and kick phases. This momentarily gives you a near-horizontal body position and helps keep your legs behind you.
I am, of course, making lots of assumptions here. You may be swimming with your face in the water quite happily. Just be sure that your face is fully submerged so that only the top of your head it out of the water.
If you are doing all of this and still your legs are not straight behind you, it could be down to relaxation or lack thereof.
Try to swim slightly slower and kick your legs (for front crawl) from the hips with completely relaxed ankles and feet. Then your feet will act like fins, and you will find it easier to keep them out behind you kicking.
Remember, learning to swim is not all about kicking your legs and getting your legs straight out behind you. All parts of all swimming strokes come together to complete a swimming stroke and make it efficient and easy.
Take front crawl, for example. Movement through the water is caused mainly by the power of the arm pulls, and the stroke is made smooth by the long flat body position. The body position is made long and flat by the long arm action, the steady leg kick and rolling the head to the side to breathe.
Don’t kill yourself trying to focus on your legs! Work on your swimming strokes as a whole, concentrating on all parts. With practice, you will find your legs in the right place without focusing on them.
My best-selling book The Complete Beginners Guide To Swimming contains aspects of learning to swim plus over 80 separate swimming exercises to help all parts of basic swimming. You can download it, print out the parts you need and take them to your pool to try out. Click the link below for more information.