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Side Balance Drills

You swim freestyle and backstroke mostly on your side. So you need to be totally comfortable in that position. You will do these drills or variations on them for as long as you swim.


Extended Side Balance Drill

Note: This video calls the drill "Side Body Balance." We call this drill "Extended Side Balance" because the lower arm is extended. We call the same drill with both arms at the sides just plain "Side Balance."

Begin with good posture (belly in, neck tall, chin back), and maintain good posture for the length of the pool.

  • Core: On your side: chest and hips are vertical.
  • Lower Arm: Extended palm down at shoulder depth
  • Upper Arm: Relaxed and resting on side and leg. Your entire upper arm - shoulder to fingertips - should be dry.
  • Head: Look STRAIGHT DOWN (except when breathing).
  • Breathing
    • Option 1: Rotate just your face to the air (regular freestyle breathing). Do NOT lift your chin. Keep the top of your head pointed forward.
    • Option 2: Roll onto your back to breathe (leaving that leading arm extended). Take two breaths and get totally rebalanced at the surface before rolling back onto your side.
  • Legs: Kick gently toward the wall (not the bottom). Do NOT bend your knees.
Side Balance - Same as above, but with both arms at your sides. This is more of a challenge, and an especially good way to learn breathing. Use fins initially.
Dynamic Side Balance - See the second clip on the Natalie Coughlin page - at about 1:30 into the clip she demonstrates this drill, calling it the Freestyle Rotational Kick.

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