How to Do Freestyle Swimming


Mastering the freestyle swim stroke lets you compete in a variety of events, from sprints to distance races to open-water swims. Technically speaking, a freestyle swimmer can use any stroke he wishes, except during a medley relay. In reality, freestyle swimming is typically synonymous with the front crawl. Learn the fundamentals to improve your freestyle times.

  • Understand the overall freestyle technique before you begin work on individual elements. Keep your body as flat as possible in the water. Move your arms and legs at the same time -- kick your legs continuously while stroking with alternate arms.

  • Begin in a streamlined position with one arm extending forward above the water and the other arm extended backward at your side, below the surface. The forward hand should be in front of your head with your fingers pointed toward the water and your elbow higher than your hand. Face the bottom of the pool and exhale into the water in the middle of each arm stroke.

  • Reach your lead hand forward to enter the water past your head and directly in front of your shoulder. Your index and middle fingers should be the first parts of your hand to enter the water. Continue moving your hand forward and inhale when your hand goes into the water. When your right hand enters the water, for example, turn your head to the left, inhale and then return your head to a face-down position.

  • Perform the pull phase with your fingers pointed toward the bottom of the pool and your palm facing backward. Pull your hand straight back while you keep your elbow above the level of your hand. End the stroke with your palm facing the water's surface.

  • Remove your hand from the water when it's next to your hip.

  • Move your shoulders and hips together during each stroke. When your right arm reaches forward, for example, your left hip and shoulder should both point toward the water's surface at an angle of about 45 degrees. Angle your right hip and shoulder toward the surface when your left arm comes forward.

  • Use short, quick scissor kicks, moving your legs straight up and down at a consistent tempo. Keep your knees and ankles fairly straight but not locked as you move your legs primarily with your hips.

  • Keep the back of your head and neck aligned with your spine throughout the stroke. Your entire body should maintain the straightest possible line from the fingertips of your lead hand to your toes.

  • Press your chest down into the water and tilt your hips toward the spine to help keep your body in alignment.

Tips & Warnings

  • Swim when a coach or lifeguard is present if you're learning the freestyle.

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