How to Find Vertical Alignment in Synchronized Swimming

The mysterious vertical phenomenon: One day you think you’ve finally found the key to unlocking your perfect vertical position only to find that the magic correction has no effect the next, and you start your quest all over again.

Learning to execute a perfectly straight vertical position on demand can be a career long goal! Consistency and the ability to snap into your best vertical position mid-routine—just like every other skill—come with practice. Use the alignment drills below as a part of your regular warm up to improve your position:


1. Just Hang There

  1. Move into your upside-down vertical position and float at your natural floating point.
  2. Find your balancing point. You’ll know you’ve found the right position when you know longer need to use your hands.
  3. Hold this position for at least 20 seconds to teach your body how it feels to be straight in the water.

2. Hang on the Wall

Hot Tip: All in Your Head

How your head lines up with the rest of your body can have more of an impact on your vertical’s balance than you might think.

Swimmers tend to hold their heads forward from their bodies and tuck their chins. So when you’re doing the second drill, pay special attention to your head. Position it as flat against the wall—and in line with your body—as possible.

Surprisingly, the car is another good place to practice this. Press your head back against the head rest as you sit in the seat.

  1. Set up in a vertical with your back against the wall and hold on to the pool’s gutter with your hands. (Since many pools edges are different you might have to get creative with your grip).
  2. Try to make the back of your body—including the back of your head—as flat against the wall as possible.
  3. Hold the position for at least 15 seconds. Repeat the entire process a few times while getting corrections from a partner. Again, the idea is to teach your body how it feels to be straight up and down in the water.

3. Gradually Add Height

  1. Before you rise at all, start underwater in the straightest vertical alignment possible.
  2. Rise slowly as you gradually increase the strength of your sculling.
  3. When it becomes too difficult to hold your original body position, stop rising and hold your form.
  4. Repeat. Notice which parts of your body fall out of vertical alignment first and pay close attention to them during each repetition.

The third drill prioritizes alignment over height. Most of the time, a higher vertical position with minor alignment problems would be favored over a low, perfectly straight one—but one affects the other.

A very high, very crooked vertical is not only nearly impossible, but also not be rewarded by the judges. And the straighter you are the better chance you have at improving your height.

Hot Tip: Ask for Help

Part of being a member of a team is learning how to take criticism—not only from your coach, but from your teammates as well. When there aren’t enough coaches to give one-on-one time, athletes often step in to help coach each other.

Working with a partner is a great way to practice alignment. And, watching a teammate work on the same task will help you to better understand your own corrections. Also, having a teammate or coach watch and critique your performance provides feedback you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see or feel yourself.


Cross-Training Recommendations:

  1. Basic Strength Training: Any general strength training program should include exercises to strengthen your abdominals, shoulders and back which will help you hold a solid body position and increase the length of time you’ll be able to maintain good form.
  2. Pilates: Find a Pilates class or video. Many of exercises used focus on core strength and core stabilization. For a mat class, you don’t need any equipment—just a mat and a little floor space.
  3. Yoga: Yoga is a great way to increase your balance and body awareness.

Use to locate a gym, Pilates or yoga class near you with amenities that suit your needs!

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