'Why are my legs sinking down when swimming freestyle?' might be the number one question we are asked here at Swim Smooth. The extra drag from a low body position slows you down dramatically but why does this happen? There's more than one possibility, here are the most common causes:
1) Holding onto your breath underwater. If you hold your breath and don't exhale into the water you have too much buoyancy in the chest - this lifts you up at the front. Since the body acts with a see-saw action when swimming, lift up at the front and your legs sink. If you have sinky legs, exhalation should be the very first thing you work on in your stroke. Find out more here.
2) Kicking from the knee and inflexible ankles. Both of these create a lot of drag and sink your legs, find out more here.
3) Flexing through the core. You don't need abs of steel to fix this but you do need co-ordination and engagement of the core muscles. Find out more here.
4) Pushing down at the front of the stroke. In swimming, we call the initiation of each stroke in front of your head 'the catch'. A good catch action bends early at the elbow and so presses the water backwards, to the wall behind you. This propels you in the opposite direction, forwards. A poor catch presses downwards on the water with a straight arm which does nothing for your propulsion but instead lifts your front end up. You guessed it, the see-saw action then sinks the legs down. Pressing down with a straight arm like this can also cause shoulder injury. Find out more here.
5) A high head position. We have to be a little careful with this as it is a very individual thing for swimmers. If you have a good body position then you can afford to look a little further forwards, so creating a higher head position. Doing so helps your proprioception and is beneficial for navigation in open water. However, if you do suffer badly from sinky legs you may have to look straight downwards to lift them up.
Which of these might you be suffering from? Shameless plug: we designed our Swim Type system to help swimmers diagnose their stroke issues (and provide you with a complete training guide to fix those issues).