Watch Your Buddy


3 Drills – Watching Your Buddy

Well  – – you don’t HAVE to have a buddy but it helps!

Drill 1 – Arms by your side

  1. Discuss with your instructor whether you should wear fins.  Check with your pool lifeguard whether they are allowed.

  2. Stand facing your buddy 2 to 3 feet apart.  Decide which of you is going face down and which of you is watching.

  3. Bend your knees so that your shoulders are almost under the water and lean into the water at an angle letting your legs rise.

  4. From the position in the diagram, one person will now lean into the water a little more (from the shoulder) and look straight down.  Once in the correct position the top arm from shoulder to elbow will be out of the water and feeling the air.

  5. The ‘watcher’ will also lean into the water so that the face submerges but the head should not rotate downwards.  Note:  You may prefer to wear a nose clip or hold your nose for this.  If you hold your nose, keep the arm from the shoulder to the elbow in place and bend from the elbow keeping the elbow to wrist close to the body.  Use the lower arm so the top arm will help check your balance.

  6. The watcher should ‘follow’ their buddy.  In other words if your buddy goes off at an angle, the watcher should too.  Keep the distance between you the same.  Note:  Lone swimmers can buddy up to the wall!

  7. If your buddy doesn’t swim straight watch them both from the top and while swimming and help them correct the problem.  Get them to do the same for you.

Points to Watch

The watcher should use this as an exercise in relaxation.  The swimmer should check their balance:

  • Am I looking straight down at the bottom of the pool?

  • Are my hands on my thighs?

  • Is my top arm to the air from shoulder to finger tips?

  • Is my kick appropriate, leisurely but fast enough for progression?

  • Is my whole body, head excepted, facing my buddy? (Watch for twisting at the waist!)

The swimmer will adjust as appropriate, bearing in mind they may not be doing exactly what they FEEL they are doing.  It’s the watcher job to help them out here!

DON’T run out of breath and push on!

Make sure you practice on both sides.  If you have a ‘bad’ side, grit your teeth and make sure you practice twice as much on the bad side as the good!

Decide in advance how many times you will practice before you swap over, and stick to it.  DON’T get over focused on your mistakes.  Relaxation is VERY important.  If in doubt, ask your instructor.

If you feel you have a reasonable degree of control, spend 20 minutes to half an hour on this and then move on to drill 2.  If you feel you haven’t mastered it, do NOT move on!  Switch to earlier drills and other water skills to ring the changes then come back to it another time.

Drill 2 – Extending the Lower Arm

  1. Watcher swims as drill1.

  2. Swimmer begins as in drill 1 – check all 5 balance points as above!

  3. Once happy, slowly extend the arm keeping it close contact with the body until past the head.

  4. Repeat the balance checks.

  5. Keep the shoulder of the extended arm as close to the head as is comfortable.

Note:  If at any time, you find yourself beginning to lean on your arm, or in any way use it to balance, go back to drill 1.  Rely on your buddy to help you watch for this.

If you feel you have a reasonable degree of control, spend 20 minutes to half an hour on this and then move on to drill 3.  If you feel you haven’t mastered it, do NOT move on!  Switch to earlier drills and other water skills to ring the changes then start back at drill 1.

Drill 3 – Hand Lead

If you really feel you’re not relying on that lead hand at all for your balance, then you can begin to go straight into the drill with you hand extended.

Get into position properly before you start and get your buddy, the watcher, to correct any  imperfections before you begin.  Make sure you check your 5 balance points every step of the way!

Progression for the Swimmer

If you really feel that these drills have been mastered, you are comfortable with all aspects AND your buddy agrees, then try incorporating Coming up to Breathe.




Help Me – I’m a Sinker


The world is full of people that think they are sinkers.

Two people of the same sex that appear to be the same in size, build, etc.  may find their bodies behave in a totally different way in the water.  In certain positions, you may feel that you are a ‘sinker’.  Some people, especially some men,  are often more muscled, have denser bone etc., and this makes floating and swimming in certain positions a little more difficult –  no big deal – just needs a bit of thought.

Now here is something you maybe not believe to begin with.

Trust me when I say you’re not a sinker.

Before I say more I’m going to truthful and say that over the years I have seen one man, and only one, that was a true sinker.  Of course there are more but I’d stake my life on the fact that 99 out of a 100 people that think they are sinkers, aren’t!


The Mushroom Float will soon show you that you are not a sinker!  If you are confident enough, you can try it on it’s own otherwise you can try it as part of the drill to Find Your Pivot Point, with your instructor or a buddy.


Consider this

If you were to keep perfectly still deep water in an upright position as shown, you would no doubt find yourself in one of the positions shown.  Don’t try this at home folks!  (Well not without your instructor)


If you’ve tried the mushroom by now, you might just believe me when I say if you’re in 12 feet of water, a 6 foot man will stay at the top 6 feet and not sink towards the bottom.

Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, your nose will probably be under the water by 1 or 2  inches, maybe 3 if you’re really unlucky.  So it follows that if you relax it won’t take much in the way of arm and/or leg motion to keep you afloat (oh and good balance which we will soon teach you!)

Back to why you think you are a sinker.

  • Tension makes a big difference to buoyancy. I know it’s almost impossible for a non-swimmer to relax but please just bear this in mind before you cry ‘I’m a sinker’ and give up.

  • To varying degrees, everyone will ‘sink’  in that part of the body will go down and part will stay up. How much of your body is above the water depends on many things including position.  Look at these examples above and you’ll see what I mean.  Now we don’t swim in that position of course so here’s the most important bit.

  • Competent swimmers instinctively know when to shift their balance in the water,  beginners don’t.  With a small amount of momentum and good balance, even a true sinker can swim with very little effort.  Balance is something that most swimmers achieve occasionally by instinct but mostly by accident.  They spend enough time in the water that when the body ‘accidentally’ finds the right balance, the cell memory says ‘that was good – must remember that’.

  • When you struggle or are fearful, the minute you feel off-balance, the mind says ‘that’s it – I’m sinking – stop’!  In traditional lessons, at this point you’ll probably be given a float or a sponge noodle, or even water-wings, and what a disaster that will be.  Now you’ll learn how to move through the water out of balance, using the float as a crutch,  instead of correcting the problem.

  • Traditional swimming lessons seem to think that balance can’t be taught.  Not only can it be taught but it should be taught as the very first thing after learning to get your face wet.

Now you might well be saying at this point, ‘BUT my legs sink when I float‘.  So what?  You know by now that won’t go down to the bottom and apart from looking good on your holidays,  does it really matter if you float at 45%?

Fair enough – it bothers you.  It’s not a major problem but let’s look at why it happens.

Here’s our swimmer from the Find Your Pivot drill.

Imagine her on a pivot a bit like a see-saw.  Without the water  the pivot might be placed as we have it in the clip in order for her to balance evenly. 

Now let’s take her sister who is a little heavier round the hips and we would have to move the pivot point to the right for her to be able to balance.

And now let’s take her brother, who’s quite a muscular chap, and we have to move the pivot to the left.

OK, that’s very simplistic.  Bone density, muscle mass, weight, height, build and lord knows what else comes into the equation.  But you get the point?  Everyone has a different pivot point because we’re all different.  We can adjust our pivot point in the water but we need a little momentum to facilitate it.

First let’s see what we can do while we’re floating to experiment with our pivot point. 

Have a look at this.

See what’s happening?  As the arms move and the body shape changes so does the pivot point.  For people who’s legs sink (and I’m one of them) as the arms move the legs will usually begin to rise.  So maybe when we’re swimming, if we keep the weight forward, our sinking legs won’t be such a problem?  mmm  Food for thought.

You’re probably getting the idea by now, that I’m not a big fan of the school of thought that suggests you thrash up and down the width with a float and if you kick fast enough – you can move on to holding it with one hand and see if you can swing the other over and make it look as if you’re are close to swimming.

It will take you years to swim 4 lengths freestyle by learning that way, if indeed you ever learn at all.  So what I am saying is the alternative?  Learn to balance and compensate for  your internal ‘pivot point’.

Just one last thing before you decide you’ve got enough to think about.  How do we shift our balance/pivot point?  Well very simplistically we ‘push’ down into the water somewhere around the back of our shoulders (or chest when we’re on our front).


It’s not an easy thing to do when you’re stationary, but add a little momentum, a good instructor and a little patience  ……..

Got it?  Now you’re in with a real chance.  No more sinking!






Fitness Swimming


 About Emmett Hines 

Emmett was one of the people that was instrumental in my conquering my fear of of the water and going on to become a swimming instructor.  His patience and the time he took to advise me resulted in some major changes in my life.  His book was the first I bought and I can heartily recommend it.

H2Ouston Swims are offering to their website visitors only an autographed copy of Emmett Hines book Fitness Swimming! 

See what other have to say about Fitness Swimming

Troy Dalbey Head Masters Coach The Phoenix Swim Club Double Gold Medalist 1988 Olympics Former World Record Holder

Phillip Whitten PhD Editor-in-Chief Swimming World and SWIM Author The Complete Book of Swimming

Mo Chambers Head Coach Mountain View Masters US Masters Swimming Coach of the Year (1996)

Terry Laughlin Director Total Immersion Swimming Author Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way to Swim Better Faster and Easier                                               

You can get a copy of Fitness Swimming (autographed if you like) direct from the author  



Fitness Swimming – Emmett Hines


Author of Fitness Swimming – Emmett Hines

                        Coach Emmett his wife Peggy and sons Kalen and Nolan.

Coach Emmett Hines

Emmett Hines is Director and Head Coach of H2Ouston Swims. He has coached competitive Masters swimming in Houston since 1982 was selected as United States Masters Swimmings Coach of the Year in 1993 became a Senior Coach for Total Immersion Swim Camps in 1995 and received the MACA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. He has been coaching adult swimming for over 20 years and is one of only 13 coaches to hold the ASCA Level 5 Masters Certification.

His articles have been featured in Swim Magazine and he writes a monthly column for Runner Triathlete News. He has had over 150 articles published in swimming and triathlon magazines and newsletters. Much of his stuff has been purloined and illegally posted on the Internet. There are even a couple places where his words have been stolen and presented as the work of another and that makes him mad (and his lawyer giddy).

You can purchase an autographed copy of his book Fitness Swimming which is in its third English language printing. It is also available in French (entitled Natation published by Vigot) Spanish (entitled Natacion published by Hispano Europea) and Chinese (entitled Jianshenyouyong).

Coach Hines has repeatedly been a featured speaker at the American Swim Coaches Assn. World Clinic and at the Pacific Swimming Coaches Clinic–two of the largest swim coaching clinics in the world.

In addition to coaching the H2O Masters group he works privately with many clients (some travelling from as far away as Switzerland and Australia) and serves on several USMS committees at the national level.

Coming up to Breathe

4 Drills – Coming up to Breathe

Please practice and perfect  Watching your Buddy before attempting this drill


Note:  These pictures were taken on dry land – see comments below!

Drill 1 – Coming up but Not Breathing

Stage 1

  • First please note the angle of this shoulder in the dry land photo.

  • With the support of the water you should maintain this angle through stages 2-5.

  • As you complete the 3rd drill from Watching Your Buddy check you balance:

  1. Am I looking straight down at the bottom of the pool?

  2. Are my hands on my thighs?

  3. Is my top arm to the air from shoulder to finger tips?

  4. Is my kick appropriate, leisurely but fast enough for progression?

  5. Is my whole body, head excepted, facing my buddy?

Stage 2

  • Begin gently breathing out through your nose as you begin to rotate you head.

  • Imagine a sweatband around your forehead and keep this close to your extended arm.

Stage 3

  • Do not think at all about breathing

  • Continue blowing gently out

Stage 4

  • Be aware of you head position – remember that sweatband!

  • Maintain your kick (easy to forget when concentrating)

  • Keep the pressure on that lower shoulder (to keep you upper hip at the surface)

  • Keep blowing out

Stage 5

  • As your face breaks the surface of the water, exhale strongly.

  • For this drill DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BREATHE at this point

  • Hold this position for a second or two and make yourself aware of your body balance.

  1. Where is your head in relationship to the surface of the water?

  2. Where is the back of your head in relationship to the extended arm?

  3. Where is your chin in relationship to your shoulder?

  4. Where is upper hip in relationship to the surface of the water?

  • Now come slowly onto your back, bringing your arm to your side.

  • Check  and correct your balance if needed.  Now BREATHE!

  • Continue for a few seconds or more to reinforce good balance.

Discuss your progress with your buddy.  Please note that in the water, your shoulder will probably be close to your chin than is shown in the later photos.

Discuss with your instructor whether should roll slightly onto your back as you come up to the air.  This will depend on your physical make-up, your age and/or flexibility and your current ability.  Do not be in any rush to assume you need to roll onto your back to breathe,  Far better to persevere until you get this right than take the easy way out!

Once you can comfortably complete this drill and your face is clear of the water EVERY time then you can move on to drill2.

Drill 2 – Coming up to Breathe

Complete as drill 1 but as the face begins to clear the water continue as follows:

  • Blow out strongly through your mouth and nose as you clear the surface of the water.

  • Once your lungs are empty, the in breathe, through the mouth, should take care of itself.

  • Continue in this position, checking your balance and breathing normally to the end of the lap

Drill 3 – Extending the Drill

Complete as drill 1 but as the face begins to clear the water continue as follows:

  • Blow out strongly through your mouth and nose as you clear the surface of the water.

  • Once your lungs are empty, the in breathe, through the mouth, should take care of itself.

  • Continue in this position, checking your balance and breathing normally for 10-15 seconds

  • Now turn your head down to the bottom of the pool and begin the whole cycle again



Take time to balance with each movement.

If at any time you struggle to clear the water or your hips start sinking etc., go back to drill1.

Begin with 15 seconds up, 15 seconds down.

As you perfect this, shorten the time to 10 seconds up, 10 seconds down, and so on.

Drill 4 – Extending the Drill

As drill 3 but do not extend the arm.

You may have a tendency to rely on the arm for balance and this drill will ensure that you don’t get into bad habits.

Your balance in this drill will be critical and small imperfections will be magnified!