This is part two in a three-part series on common mistakes in freestyle. This installment will focus on over rolling the neck to breathe.
Many swimmers over roll from the neck to look towards the ceiling when they breathe. This extra roll from the neck often can create timing issues as the neck takes too long to return and the stroke speed slows down to wait. Even when the swimmer maintains appropriate timing the habit creates increased strain on the neck. Additionally, when you tip the neck to raise the head you actually bring your mouth lower to the water, making it harder to get a breath without taking in water.
Ideally, we want to keep one eye underwater, while only one eye clears the surface. This can feel wrong, Our instinct is to clear both eyes, especially when breathing to the nondominant side. We want to see, but there is no need to see what is going on above the water line. There is often an unconscious driver that relates seeing to getting a clear breath. I teach swimmers to focus on the lane lines while taking a breath or an item I have placed on the bottom of the pool instead of looking above the water.
Just like in the body alignment of the head from last week’s post, the problem comes from muscle memory. I can get a swimmer to make the correction while they are in the lesson setting, but what happens when they get back into the workout setting? They quickly revert back. Once again, I turn to the Body Alignment Tool. The tool’s rod extends from the back, up the neck to be seated on the back of the head. The presence of the rod allows for only minimal rotation of the neck, helping to develop the correct habit.
Up Next: Why Too Little Body Roll is a slow way to swim