Why Do I Sink When I Try To Swim

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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Watching others swim so gracefully can make it look easy, but the reality is that there is often a lot of work going on to keep a swimmer afloat.


The physical reason you sink is that human bodies are very close to the water in terms of density, but other reasons you might sink include poor swimming technique that leads to the legs dragging the rest of the body down.


Read on to learn why you might be sinking while you swim as well as ways to stop sinking and improve your swimming overall.

Air bubble coming out of a man underwater - Why Do I Sink When I Try To Swim

How Can You Stop Sinking?

Mastering every aspect of swimming is not necessary to prevent yourself from sinking in the water. There are several ways to stop sinking as you try to swim:


  • Learn to control your breathing and gently breathe out as you swim with your head under the water
  • Get into the habit of kicking from the hip and having flexible, loose knees and ankles for the best support in the water


If you’re not as interested in learning how to swim but don’t want to sink for fear of drowning, you can simply use flotation aids. However, it is well worth learning this essential life skill.


Air bubble coming out of a man underwater - Why Do I Sink When I Try To Swim

Does it Mean You’re Not a Good Swimmer?

Sinking does not necessarily mean you are a bad swimmer, but it can indicate that you are an inexperienced swimmer that doesn’t have the knowledge or technique to stay afloat while you swim.


You could say that learning how to swim is like learning how to ride a bike; without the proper knowledge, you will struggle to stay afloat or stay on your bicycle.


By taking the time and effort to practice your swimming technique (with or without a professional instructor), you should eventually be able to swim without unintentionally sinking.


How Can You Improve Your Swimming?

There are many resources available to those looking to improve their swimming and stop sinking. The best of these resources would be a swim instructor that can personalize lessons and exercises after a demonstration of your swimming ability.


If you don’t have the time or money for a swim instructor, swimming drills are another great way to improve your swimming.


Many of these drills focus on isolating a single motion from a swim stroke and practicing it alone at slow speeds until you are comfortable combining actions at a higher speed.


However, even simple tips like learning to breathe out while you swim or learning to glide are valuable tidbits.


Does This Happen Because You’re Too Heavy?

Contrary to what some people might think, heavier people do not sink more than lighter people because of their weight.


In fact, overweight people may have an easier time staying afloat while swimming because the excess body fat is less dense than water. They may also have a greater surface area for the buoyancy of water to affect at the same time and will float more easily as a result.


If a heavy person is still struggling to stay afloat, then it is highly likely that their swimming technique is doing more harm than good.


Will Breathing Properly Help You Float?

Yes, breathing properly can help you float, but you need to know when to breathe and when not to breathe to swim as efficiently as possible.


If you’re simply trying to float in place, taking a deep breath and filling the chest cavity with air will help you float because air is much less dense than water.


However, you may need to breathe out to swim properly without sinking if you’re trying to swim and make your way through the water. This is because when you have lots of air in the lungs, your chest will rise in the water and tilt your legs downwards. As a result, making it easier to sink.


Final Thoughts

Sinking while you swim often comes down to poor technique but can be a combination of body composition as well as improper form.


It may be difficult to identify your unique situation by yourself, so try and enlist the help of others, especially if they have swimming qualifications.


In the end, some products can help you float if you don’t feel like swimming, but simply learning how to breathe and kick your legs as you swim can go a long way towards mastering the basics of swimming without sinking.