Secrets of Buoyancy


When I try to swim, I sink like a rock.”  This is a standard resignation that can close the door to the possibility of effortless swimming for many people.  It simply does not have to be so.


First Secret: Balance


Balance?  On the water?”  Well, no… Balance in the water.  We start with Superman Glide, so our clients can relax into the water.  Regardless of body composition (proportion of lean muscle to fat), no body balances on top of the water.


In order to walk on “solid” ground, we must first learn to balance.  As toddlers, when we “lost” balance, we fell to the ground.  In other words, we were relegated by gravity to a lower stratum.


In order to swim, we must first learn to balance in water – a shifting, viscous liquid medium.  If we are successful, we remain near the water’s surface.  If we are not successful, we are relegated by gravity to a lower stratum.


Second Secret:  Balance in Stillness


Our first response when we feel out of balance is to move around until we regain balance.  This isn’t just a response – it’s a reaction.  It’s imprinted through countless generations of human existence into the cells of our bodies.  However, it’s pretty easy to dissolve that imprinting.


The first empowering step towards swimming with ease and mastery is to discover balance in stillness.  We use balancing drills like Superman Glide and Skate Position to refine this balance in stillness and relaxation, and to strengthen an emotional sense of ease and confidence.  (I prefer to call Skate Position “The Hammock”.  In my workshops, you get extra credit if you fall asleep in your Hammock!)


Move through the water – without moving around in the water.  The less disturbance you make, the easier it is to move forward.  Be still.  Be balanced.


Third Secret: Tense Muscles are Dense


When you tense up your muscles, they contract.  As anything contracts, it becomes more dense.  More density equals less buoyancy.  Relax!  Maximize your “hammock time!”


In every movement, the less tension required, the less energy expended.  That’s an element of efficiency – using less energy to accomplish your goal.


Fourth Secret: Tension versus Toning


However, you cannot accomplish anything if your body is like a noodle.  You must develop the discernment between tension and toning.  In any sport, correct posture, alignment and biomechanics require muscle toning with judicious cycled patterns of tension and relaxation.


A tense elbow, forearm, wrist, hand and fingers are deterrents to efficient swimming – in all phases of the stroke.  However, tone and align the same parts and you will create less drag and less disturbance.


Fifth Secret: Vibration


This secret is one I’ve just now started to consider.  I’ve often pondered why a lean body with little fat can still maintain reasonable buoyancy, while a body with more buoyant fat seems to sink.  This is the reasoning I’ve conjured up to explain it:


When you “activate” (read: “tense up”) a muscle, the result is that the muscle vibrates (resonates) more that when it is relaxed (or even toned).  This resonation is on cellular level.


All vibrations/resonations radiate outward.  So your tense muscle vibration resonates into water around you.  This resonation disturbs the water, creating more voids – more empty space – between the water molecules.


Consequently your body falls into those empty spaces.  Your tense muscles continue to vibrate and continue to disturb the water.  You keep falling into the empty space, and keep creating more of it.




When you minimize muscle vibration, you interface optimally with the water molecules around you.  The molecules maintain their optimal liquid structure, with fewer empty spaces.  You can enjoy more hammock time with each stroke!


And, as I say to the triathletes I work with, “In the swim, maximize hammock time, because when you get out of the water, hammock time is over.


Shane Eversfield is Founder and Head Coach of Zendurance Cycling (and a Total Immersion Master Coach).  Visit his website: