Learn To Swim With The 4 B’s

In the science of swimming, right technique matters more than speed. Once the basics are strong there is no looking back. Here are the fundamental principles of swimming at Michael Phelps Swimming School.

The 4 B’s

Michael Phelps Swimming bases all swim instruction on the 4 B’s: breath control, buoyancy, balance, and body position.


1. Breath control


Breath control refers to the timing of breaths and the gentle purging of air immediately prior to a head turn. A breath should be taken before it is needed and should be inhaled quickly into the lungs.


2. Buoyancy


Buoyancy is a physical principle that keeps objects in water afloat. It gives the swimmer the power to float and rise in the water. Because of the air they contain, lungs, head (face and ear region), and the sternum (breastbone) are the especially buoyant parts of our body. As humans, we are capable of positive, neutral and negative buoyancy. Buoyancy differs from person to person and is affected by body type and the amount of air in the lungs. We use lung buoyancy as a fulcrum to keep the body afloat as we kick legs up and stretch the head and arms forward.


3. Balance


A state of equilibrium; equal distribution of weight. v. To be or to come into equilibrium; to bring to or to hold in equilibrium; to adjust, arrange, or proportion the parts symmetrically. (From

It is important to understand why a person is buoyant and how the body makes its subtle adjustments.

By adding appropriate body position and relaxed rhythmic breathing to the formula, a swimmer can become streamlined and reduce drag.

Pressing buoyant spots into the water in different planes helps stabilize the swimmer in any balance plane: front, back, or side. Exploring how to make these adjustments, swimmers can discover principles of water that hold them up so that no effort is wasted.

Throughout a day, we constantly adjust ourselves to maintain balance. Practicing a few easy floor exercises helps a person understand the subtleties of balance adjustments.

The gentle flexions and relaxations of specific muscles of the core become obvious.

What to watch our for in swimmers:

  • Are ears submerged?
  • In front float, are the eyes and nose pointing to the pool bottom?
  • Does swimmer lift or turn head to roll?
  • In back float, are the ears submerged and is the nose pointing to the ceiling?


4. Body position


This is important to move the body through the water in the most efficient way, possible with the least amount of resistance. The main concepts are streamlining and floating.

  • Streamlining

–Arms extended overhead, squeezing ears

–Hands on top of each other, palms down

–Legs extended behind, straight and together

–Head in water, face down, ears submerged

  • Floating

–Front float: same as streamline but arms and legs much looser and relaxed

–Back float: arms off to sides with legs loose

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