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How to Float for Swimming


Everyone can, and should, learn how to float in water. Knowing how to float can save your life, and it’s the first step in learning how to swim freestyle. It may seem daunting, or downright impossible, but the first thing you have to do is believe that you can float.

The next step is to find an instructor. If you're afraid of the water they will give you the confidence to overcome your initial fears and help you relax in the water, while in a safe environment.

Flotation Features of Your Body

Let’s start with a basic principle of physics: anything with a higher density than water will sink in water. The human body is, by weight, roughly two-thirds water. This means your density is similar to that of water. Therefore, you shouldn’t have to do much, if any, work to float on top of the water.

That said, your body composition can affect your natural ability to float. Very generally speaking, men tend to have greater muscle density than women. People with greater muscle density, or very lean muscle (a very low ratio of fat to muscle fiber), will have a greater tendency to sink. So, if you are young, a man, or a very athletic woman, good mechanics and technique will help you a lot. Nevertheless, your body still wants to float more than it wants to sink.

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 somewhat more easily, for two reasons. First, they have a larger pocket of air in their chest. And second, 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.

Now that you know why your body might be more or less inclined to float, here are three ways you can improve the way you float in water.

Relax

The key to floating is, ironically, a major challenge for beginners: You have to relax. As soon as you master this, you will be able to “swim.”

Practice in shallow water until you have confidence in your natural ability to float and get your face used to being in the water as this is another factor that can add to your fears.

If you can float, but you’re still tense, notice your breathing pattern. Deep breathing is not only scientifically proven to help your body relax, but it will also bring more oxygen into your body, which should make you more buoyant.

Look at the sky (or the ceiling if you're indoors), and breathe in deeply. Fill your lungs with oxygen on each breath – feel the air travel all the way down to the lower end 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 Float Mechanics

Slowly relax back into the water allowing your shoulders and head to recline as if lying down in bed. Small movements of your hands will allow you to stay face up with your mouth and nose out of the water, and continue to breathe naturally.

If your legs always sink, you can either reach your hands above your head or push off slightly from the bottom. 

By reaching your arms above your head, you are creating a longer support above your waist, which gives 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. You might think about a string attached to your belly button that is pulling your torso to the top of the water. The link between your mind and your body is powerful. If you can simply imagine the string pulling your belly and your feet to the surface of the water, your muscles will probably organize themselves and make it happen!

Kick very gently. Don’t kick so hard that you have forward momentum. But very light and gentle, alternating leg movements will help force them to the surface and keep you balanced. Of course, as you do this, stay relaxed. Mehtodical small movements with your hands and feet will help keep you stablilized and close to the surface of the water. You will notice if you do not move your legs they have the inclination to sink to the bottom.

Enjoy The Weightlessness

Once you have relaxed and are floating on your back take a moment to enjoy the feeling of the water holding up and the easing of pressure off joints and muscles. For extended periods of floating you can use a pool noodle to help support you under your shoulders or knees. These should be used as aides to float and not relied upon competely to keep you afloat.

 

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The one who wants to swim
6 months ago.
Ok... i tried moving my legs and arms gently as possible and im relax but i sitll kept going down and i cant swim so even if i tried to move im still in that space...
Scarletwitch
1 year ago.
I have been learning to float like 2 days everybody else in my batch is floating so nicely. First day I was all sinking and in the second day I somehow manage to float for few seconds. However i am not able to float and reach the other end of the pool... is it gliding issues??? Please do help me....
John
2 years ago.
I've never swam and were going on holiday do you this will help me for a hotel with pool
Swimoutlet.com
1 year ago.
Hello John!
Yes, this will help you for sure! Just remember to relax as much as you can.
Ali
2 years ago.
Hi thank you for your article,i have one question, i want to improve my floatation by my legs!!,my legs are so muscular unlike my trunk and arms! So i have to train about 5km not speedy so i dont need my legs like my hands and my core ,but in race is different i need them!! My question is that is it good for me to lose some weight of my muscles in my legs? Thank you for your attention
Phuc Kieu
2 years ago.
Hi there, im korean
I've been learning to float for close to ten years now!!! everytime i do i need to be rescued :(( me and the lifeguard have quite a strong bond by now as you can imagine ;) I need help. my mental state is deteriorating and i feel learning would be the first step towards recovery.

pls give me a like and friend on the facebook
swimoutlet.com
2 years ago.
Hello Phuc! I would suggest to practice your breathing to loosen any tension you may have and try to relax as much as possible ot be able to flaot. Also please follow the THREE STEPS listed above. These tips will really help!

We would be glad to give a LIKE on your facebook account.
Phuc Kieu Tu
1 year ago.
LOL @ your name (that's a Vietnamese name). Genius trolling!
Name
10 months ago.
Hi
Jay
2 years ago.
Hi, I have been doing a lot of water sessions however unable to initiate the floating position without a support. As soon as I wait for my legs to go up, my hands come down so I sink even before my body flats. I can float otherwise with no issues with a kickboard. Coming to vertical recovery has been a challenge as well but I am doing ok on that front. Can you please share some tips of getting into the floating position. Thanks a bunch...
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi Jay,

Here are few tips that could help you with your floating position.

1. Stay with your air in your lungs. Don’t release the bubbles and leave your air in your lungs, until you need to exhale before breathing again. What should help you float much better even if you won’t get 15% stronger for a strong pull, because when your legs sink, you’ll come to a stop not only with your legs but with your whole body.

2. The depth of your head. You should try to stay with the head very neutral – which means, even in life when we nod, we move our heads just a little bit up and down, so this is the range we can move our head in the water too, because when we drop the head too low, we can cause pressure on the neck. If you do see that you sink a little bit, drop the head just a little bit and you’ll see that the legs are floating better.

3. Palm. Try to be as loose and released as possible, even in an arched shape, which means we are very loose, especially above the water. When we are tense, and we close the palm above the water – we sink even more, so the looser we are, the easier it will be to float.

4. Glide Longer. The slower you glide, especially at the end of each stroke, when the shoulder touches the cheek or the chin, that’s the time you might feel a little pressure and that is the exact time you need to glide even longer, because a longer muscle floats better, needs less oxygen and lets you swim above the water and swim faster.

When you see you start floating, start changing the swimming technique more and more to elongate your core and your muscles.
Babs
2 years ago.
Help, I'm afraid of the water. I used to float when I was much younger but since I've gotten older, I'm 64, I sink. My butt and legs float but I can't keep my head above water. I have asthma and I don't breathe as well as when I was younger but I really want to at least float on my back.
Della
2 years ago.
One of my favorite things to do after water class. Just relaxing is the key!! I can float from one end of the pool to the next. People ask me how I do that. Well, just relax! And I am not what you would call a strong swimmer. Love to float tho lol
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hi Della,

Thank you for sharing your love for swimming. It indeed gave you a sensational and comfortable effect when floating.
Bright
2 years ago.
I Can Swim Effectively,,,, I Can Also Float But With The Use Of My Arms And Legs,,,,, How Can I Float Without Doing Anything,,,,, And Also How Can Learn To Go To The Bottom Of The Pool, Cause I Can't Sink Either
Jumar Skie
2 years ago.
hi, im 19 years old and i dont know how to swim, should i go for flutter kick first or floating ? what should i do and where do i start ?
Swimoutlet.com
2 years ago.
Hello,
You want to learn how to float first, this article should be helpful to you!
Jumar Skie
2 years ago.
i have problem in floating and breathing while trying the freestyle, how can i improve this?
SwimOutlet
2 years ago.
Hope this helps. - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UGSLcMxqSA
Varun sharma
2 years ago.
Hello I am Varun I want to ask that how can I extend time of floating I only float for 7to8 seconds i
swimoutlet.com
2 years ago.
The key to floating is, ironically, a major challenge for beginners: You have to relax. As soon as you master this, you will be able to “swim.” Slowly relax back into the water allowing your shoulders and head to recline as if lying down in bed. Small movements of your hands will allow you to stay face up with your mouth and nose out of the water, and continue to breathe naturally. If your legs always sink, you can either reach your hands above your head or push off slightly from the bottom.

Engage your abdominal muscles. Use your core strength to lift your lower body toward the surface. You might think about a string attached to your belly button that is pulling your torso to the top of the water. Kick very gently. Don’t kick so hard that you have forward momentum. But very light and gentle, alternating leg movements will help force them to the surface and keep you balanced.

Once you have relaxed and are floating on your back take a moment to enjoy the feeling of the water holding up and the easing of pressure off joints and muscles. For extended periods of floating you can use a pool noodle to help support you under your shoulders or knees.
preethi
2 years ago.
Hi, I am 18 yr old. I am attending swimming classes for the past 5 days. I can hold my breath and float for sometime in the water holding a support and with no support I am able to float but can't bring my legs down and as I am unable to bring my legs down I am drowning in the water and that's bringing a lot of fear. Please can you share a technique for my problem.
Swimoutlet.com
2 years ago.
Hello,
The key is to relax as much as possible. If you are trying to tread water, you want to move your legs in circular motions but in opposite directions. This will allow you to remain afloat in an upright position. We hope this helps.
Rohita
2 years ago.
Hey Preethi, is your problem solved now. Actually i m also facing same issue. 10 days passed but fear is there due to m not able to bring legs down
susannaylor@tiscali.co.uk
2 years ago.
I have the same problem can’t get my legs down
Lich
2 years ago.
Could you tell me why Relaxing make the body float and Tensing muscles make the body sink?
Swimoutlet.com
2 years ago.
Hello Lich,
When you relax your breathing slows and you tend to take in deeper breaths. This provides your body with more oxygen which helps make you more buoyant.
Renah
3 years ago.
How should I stay longer in water n floating
swimoutlet.com
3 years ago.
For extended periods of floating you can use a pool noodle to help support you under your shoulders or knees.
Eyram
3 years ago.
I am afraid of water . how to float . I can't n I want someone to train me. I only know how to walk in water
Mikemills
3 years ago.
Nice article its really helpful
John
3 years ago.
I'm am not usually relaxed in the water
Barb
3 years ago.
Very helpful and insightful information. Thank You! I'm teaching swimming and have been stuck with lots of sinking swimmers. I will introduce this info at the next lessons!
imani
3 years ago.
I can't float
swimoutlet.com
3 years ago.
The key is to relax your body, this will help you float! Remember to take your time and use flotation devices like a kickboard if needed.
Sbongile
3 years ago.
I'm 37yrs old, I once experienced neardrowning when I was 14yrs n woke up in hospital. Years later Im teaching myself to swim since I have a pool in my house. Wish I could send u the video of my 1st attempt. I want to learn swim on top of water (threading I guess) than under, as I have to hold my breath for a whole lap when under n it's not comfortable. Or at least learn to come up inhale go back exhale under etc. Please assist. Loved this article, gonna try tips given here.
ayoola
3 years ago.
i cant float a friend kept teaching me but just cant do it i think its because i am fat please help me
Swimoutlet.com
3 years ago.
Hello Ayoola,
As mentioned above, people with greater muscle density, or very lean muscle (a very low ratio of fat to muscle fiber), will have a greater tendency to sink. So we can assure that it doesn't play much into your body weight/fat. More than likely you are not relaxing since this is something new to you. Try to relax your muscles starting in the shallow end of a pool so you can feel a little more secure. We hope this helps.
Alexander
3 years ago.
am Alexander n I really wanna learn swimming the tutorials are really encouraging and I cnt wait to gv it a try on a practical form
hans updeskirt
3 years ago.
i am a 40 year old male, recently my wife DIED from drowning, so at her funeral, i promised myself that i would learn some fun tricks in the water!! i am having some troubles but thankfully, this article SAVED MY LIFE. thanks babe, pls give me a follow on Facebook, my user is mike hunt.
Robin
3 years ago.
Hi, I've already mastered (pretty much) floating on my back but how do you float in a vertical way? Ive seen people do it and i dont understand how, it would be nice if you explained it for me. Thanks for reading and i hope to hear from you soon!
Swimoutlet.com
3 years ago.
Hello Robin!
We have another guide that specifically goes into detail on how to tread water. You can view it here: https://www.swimoutlet.com/guides/how-to-tread-water
Rheem
3 years ago.
this is very helpful, i cant wait to try it, in my first lesson of swimming!
Jenna C
3 years ago.
Hello. My eleven year old daughter has a question.

Hi im Lucy im 11. I am very afraid of the water and I have tried for at least 7 hours to float but I cant. Ive tried steps all over the web. I cant relax in water, im very afraid of it. How do I become happy and not scared
SwimOutlet.com
3 years ago.
Hello Lucy,

You will want to take it really slow. I would recommend staying in the shallow end of the pool and slowly start to work on floating. Maybe even set some goals for each time in the pool. I would also recommend using a flotation device such as a life jacket to give you that extra comfort. Also, remember that it will take time to get over your fear of the water and for you to start relaxing when in it.
Jenna C
3 years ago.
Hi its Lucy again

Thank you for the tips so much, ill be sure to try them out :)
Mikala
3 years ago.
Add more pictures This is helpful
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