My Legs Sink When Swimming

Why do my legs sink when swimming? I am a 75-year-old male who has gone back to swimming after 60+ years because arthritis doesn't allow me to do much else. I am doing ok, but it seems I have to kick excessively hard to keep my body level. A friend suggested I use a float or body buoy just above my knees to lean what it feels like to keep the body level. I do that, but it hasn't seemed to do much to teach me how to kick. In fact, my times are better with the buoy using only my arms (about 2 minutes for 100 meters) than they are when I am doing the regular freestyle stroke with my arms and legs.

Could it be that my legs are unusually dense? When I try to float on my back or stomach, my legs sink to where I am almost in a vertical position.

What do you think? Is it something about my physique or am I doing something very wrong? Do you have any suggestions for me? I kick with straight, but not rigid, legs.

Hi, thanks for contacting me.

Your problem could be related to a combination of technique and your relative density. First and foremost, you must relax when you swim. The golden rule is to feel your way through the water, not fight through it. More often than not, the harder you try, the more you are likely to sink.

Not everyone is naturally buoyant in the water and in fact most males sink. This does not mean you will never be able to swim properly. You just have to adjust your technique accordingly.

The leg kick for freestyle is required to provide balance to the whole stroke and is not required for propulsion, especially over longer distances. Freestyle arms provide the power and drive for the overall stroke.

Pointing your toes and kicking with a relaxed ankle is essential, firstly to keep the legs streamlined, but also the relaxed ankle gives a fin-like kick. You could maybe try some fins as they will force your toes to point and give you a feel for kicking in a slower more relaxed way. Do not become dependent on them though!

My best-selling book How To Swim Front Crawl contains 22 separate exercises for improving your whole freestyle swimming technique from body position to leg kick to breathing. Click the link below for more information.

Swim front crawl stroke with enhanced and effective technique.


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Lack Buoyancy When Swimming

I think I lack buoyancy when swimming. I am 88 and swim for 3hrs each week breaststroke. I would dearly like to be able to swim front crawl and can coordinate breathing and arms but my legs fail after a few strokes. Any advice? Are there any buoyancy aids that would help?

This is a very common problem in swimmers that regularly swim breaststroke and then attempt front crawl.

The leg kick for front crawl must be relaxed, with a slight knee bend and a loose ankle. The foot can then act like a flipper and provide a small amount of propulsion.

The majority of propulsion during front crawl comes from the arm action and the legs are required more for balance and stability, particularly over long distances.

You can help your leg kick technique slightly by wearing some fins on your feet when you swim. This will force you to point your toes and also help generate some propulsion and balance. At the same time you will be able to practice and perfect the rest of your front crawl technique.

You asked about buoyancy aids. You could use a pull buoy to help keep your legs afloat. You will not be able to kick, but only use your arms.

My best-selling book How To Swim Front Crawl contains over 20 separate swimming exercises to help all parts of freestyle, including the leg kick. 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.

The Simple Front Crawl Book

Swim front crawl stroke with enhanced and effective technique.


Buy a PRINTED copy from: 

You can also download from: