Learning To Swim On Your Side

Learning Objectives: Swimming freestyle on your side may seem like a foreign concept at first. But with consistent practice, you will be able to swim more efficiently, resulting in faster swim times and greater energy conservation.


  • Belly button pointed to the side wall
  • Hand extended
  • Head down, back of the head at the surface


  • Go onto your stomach
  • Lift your head/look straight forward
  • Sink your head/push it down too far

How To Do It:

Here is a drill to begin practicing (you may use Zoomers or fins if you have them):

1. Start with simply kicking on your back, arms at your sides. Lean on your upper back/shoulders and make sure the water is surrounding your face (top of forehead, chin, and sides of your goggles).

2. Next, kick on your side with your left hand extended out and your right hand by your side. Keep your head down and locked to your shoulder. Note: Head position in freestyle should be eyes looking at the bottom of the pool, back of head slightly above the water surface. Your head should not move from side to side at all when you kick or swim. We’ll cover this more later, but it is important for now when you are bringing your head down to get the proper position.

3. On the second length, switch sides and extend your right hand, with your left hand by your side. When looking down, you should be at about a 90-degree angle in the water.

4. When you need air, roll your hips into more of a 45-degree angle with your eyes looking straight up and water surrounding your face, take a few breaths, and repeat. Continue to practice this kicking drill and notice your balance in the water improving.

If you are new to being on your side in the water, practice these drills with fins on! Zoomers work best. The reason for this is that it allows you to take your mind off your kick and focus strictly on doing the drill properly. Once you start to feel more balanced in the water, do this without your fins. Just make sure you are not spending your energy kicking just to keep from sinking!