Freestyle Head Position: Tilted Forward vs Down?

by SwimSwam Partner Content 17

August 22nd, 2018 Training

Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder. 

Which way is right? The controversy over this subject has been ongoing for a long time. In elite competition we see both heads tilted forward and heads down in freestyle…yet they both can’t be right. So which one is better?

Finally, a study we did with Olympic champion Jimmy Feigen sheds some significant light on the answer to this ongoing controversy. Jimmy was tested with a velocity meter while swimming at 100-meter race pace for about 20 meters distance, first with the head down. Then again, with the head tilted slightly forward. Here is what we found.

The head down position resulted in an average velocity of .02 m/sec faster than with the head tilted forward. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but over a 50 second hundred-meter race, that is one meter further behind with the head tilted forward than with the head down. That is enough to win or lose a race.

There is more to the story, however. There is a significant amount of additional work involved with one of these techniques. To find out, you will need to go to Lanes 2, 3 or 4 on our new subscription service and check out the video which was just released. There you will find out which technique generates more propulsion and which technique causes more frontal drag.

As far as I am concerned, the debate is over. I hope you will enjoy this new webisode featuring Olympian Jimmy Feigen.

Gary Hall, Sr., Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.

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Courtesy of The Race Club, a SwimSwam partner.

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25 free champ

Testing one person doesn’t end the debate. Especially considering Jimmy probably prefers one way over the other. I’m not saying there isn’t a best way but in many of these situations there are better ways for different swimmers. Not sure if that applies for head position but it certainly applies to things like straight arm freestyle, breaststroke kick variations, butterfly breathing, etc.


Does Jimmy usually swim head-down or head-forward? How many times did you have him swim 20m? The article makes it seem like once each?

gary hall sr

Jimmy swam with his head tilted forward slightly. Swimming with his head down was a new experience for him. So was hyperstreamlining. Jimmy swam the 20 meters on the VM twice with each head position.


WOW! With the amount of people and trial-runs you did this study with, you definitely should be trying to get this published somewhere. What a relief every swimmer in the world is a 6’5 215lb man that swims in one particular manner or else we’d had to try this more than once. I mean this really proves the debate is over!

(Yes, I see that they say there is additional work added that you have to pay for, but after watching a lot of the videos this guy posts I don’t have much interest in hearing what he has to say)

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