How to Float for Synchronized Swimming

Everyone can — and should — learn how to float in water. For practical reasons, knowing how to float is a skill that can save your life. If you want to do more in the water than simply keep yourself from drowning (like, for example, synchronized swimming), floating should still be your first step. After all, a back layout position is really just a fancy way of floating.

If you struggle with it at first, floating may seem daunting or downright impossible. The first thing you have to do is believe that you can float. With some help from this guide and plenty of practice, you will be able to apply your floating abilities to upside down positions as well.

This guide will examine why the body floats, and also give you three ways you can improve your buoyancy.

Your Body’s Flotation Features

First, let’s get down to physics: Anything with a higher density than water will sink. The human body is, by weight, roughly two-thirds water. This means your density is similar to that of water. Thus, you shouldn’t have to do much work — if any — to float on top of the water.

Body Composition

Your body composition can affect your natural ability to float. People with who have greater muscle density, or very lean muscular builds tend to sink more in water. If you are young, male, or a very athletic female, you will likely need to focus more on good mechanics and technique. Young people and men tend to have less body fat. Body fat helps with buoyancy. But, regardless of your gender or physique, you should know that your body still tends to float more than sink.

Lung Capacity

Your lung capacity can also make a difference in how easy it is for you to stay on top of the water. People with a higher lung capacity will float more easily, for two reasons.

  1. They have a larger pocket of air in their chest.
  2. They tend to have more oxygen circulating throughout their bodies.

Oxygen is less dense than water, so the more oxygen you have in your body, the more buoyant you will be. Exercising regularly, especially swimming laps and practicing synchro, will increase your lung capacity.


The key to floating is often a major challenge for beginners: You have to relax. As soon as you master this, you will be able to do much more in the water.

Hot Tip: Controlled Relaxation

You must always have good extension. This means an out-stretched body, good posture, straight legs, and pointed toes. While you relax, you still have to use your muscles to extend.

If you can float, but are still tense, try to focus on your breathing patterns. Taking deep breaths is scientifically proven to help your body relax, and will also better oxygenate your blood. As stated previously, this will make you more buoyant.

While in the pool: Look upward, and breathe in deeply. Fill your lungs with oxygen on each breath. Feel the air travel all the way down to the lower part of your lungs (near the bottom of your rib cage). Hold your breath for a short moment and feel yourself essentially weightless atop the water. Exhale and repeat.

Improve Your Floating Position

Gently press your weight onto your shoulder blades and let your head relax into the water, as if you were resting it on a pillow. Tipping your upper body a little deeper in the water will help the rest of you come to the surface — kind of like a see-saw.

If your legs always sink, reach your hands above your head. Know that you won’t always have this option, but it’s a good place to start. By reaching your arms above your head, you create a longer lever above your waist. This will give you more leverage for lifting your legs up to the surface. At the very least, it will bring your legs higher in water.

Strengthen Your Technique

Engage your abdominal muscles. Use your core strength to lift your lower body toward the surface.

The link between your mind and your body is powerful. Imagine a string pulling your belly and your feet to the surface of the water. Focus on this, and your muscles will be able organize themselves to make it happen!

Use your arms. It’s kind of cheating, but eventually there will be no reason not to use them. Go ahead and give yourself a hand.

If your hands are above your head, push water toward the surface in order to tip your upper body slightly deeper and your lower body shallower. If your hands are by your hips, push water down toward the bottom to bring your hips shallower.

Floating is Believing

Floating is as much a skill as it is a frame of mind. Don’t underestimate your ability to will yourself to float. As you learn more and more synchro skills, you’ll find that you can still apply these basic floating methods. When you eventually combine your body’s natural floating ability with sculling techniques, you’ll rise higher and higher out of the water. Height out of the water is a key to finding success in synchronized swimming.

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