What Counts as Good Form for Swimming?

What separates the novice swimmer from the advanced swimmer? Truth be told, there are probably a lot of things. Strength, knowledge, and training all have a role to play. All of that starts at the beginning with good form. While the specifics of good form will vary depending on the stroke you’re using, there are still some basic principles of positioning that are important to have good swimming form.


Your body should be horizontal in the water. The more parallel you are to the surface of the water, the better. That can be easier said than done sometimes. It requires awareness of your body and control over your core. Practice by working your core as you float face down in the water. As you float, lengthen your neck and spine by pulling your ears away from your shoulders. Engage your core by pulling your belly button in towards your spine and squeezing your glutes and hamstrings. Raise your arms to bring them in line with the rest of your body, which should be floating fairly parallel at this point.


As you might expect, your legs will be behind you when you swim. The tricky thing about legs is keeping them in line with the rest of your body. This is in large part dependent on your body composition. If you have a relatively larger amount of muscle mass in your legs, they’ll be more prone to sinking towards the floor of the pool. That’s a problem because it increases your frontal drag, decreasing the efficiency with which you can move through the water. Fortunately, as you work on developing your body awareness and control, you should be able to keep your legs raised so they are even with the rest of your body.


Obviously, as you’re swimming and practicing different strokes, your arms will go through different movement patterns. What counts as good form for any given stroke will depend on the specific stroke. When you’re just working on good form and positioning, however, the starting position for your arms is to have them floating in front of you. That means controlling their level with the muscles in your shoulders and upper back. Aim to have them lifted so that your ears are between your biceps.

Good form is not something that comes naturally to most people. It takes time, effort, and a lot of practice. It’s definitely worth it though. The better your form, the faster you’ll get better at swimming. Considering how beneficial swimming can be as a form of exercise, getting better is only going to be a good thing.

Good positioning is just one thing we teach our swimmers at SwimJim. Learn what else we teach here.