Tag: freestyle

How do you swim freestyle or front crawl?

MASTER YOUR SWIMMING TECHNIQUE (2): FRONT CRAWL

The Freestyle is not actually a stroke but a category in swimming competition. The most common and popular stroke in freestyle races is the front crawl as this style is the fastest. For this reason, the term freestyle is often used as a synonym for front crawl.

The front crawl requires you to flutter kick your feet while reaching forward with alternating strokes. Follow these 4 steps to learn how to swim and refine your front crawl swimming technique.

Step 1: Body Position

Keep your body flat, lie facing down in the water with your body kept in line with the water surface.

Step 2: Arm Movement

Your arm movement can be broken down to the simplest form consists just two actions – the Pull and Recovery.

  • Pull – With your palms facing down, pull in-line with your body with a slightly bent elbow all the way to the side of your upper thigh. Advanced swimmers can do a S-pull which maximizes the pulling phase.
  • Recovery – With your hand close to your upper thigh, lift one arm out of the water with a bent elbow. Reach forward over the water with a bent elbow and enter the water with your finger tips.

Both hands should alternate between these two movements and be moving simultaneously.

swimming freestyle arm movement

Step 3: Breathing Technique

Choosing a side to breathe will depend on being right or left handed. Whilst your hand is early in the recovery phase, turn your head sideways for a quick breath (one second). The trick is to time the roll of your head with your arm movement.

A very common mistake is to lift your head upwards instead of turning it sideways to avoid the water for breath. This is actually counter-productive as it disrupts your body positioning and causes you to dip further into the water.

Step 4: Leg Action

With ankles relaxed and flexible, point your toes behind you and kick up-and-down in a continuous motion from your thighs. Kicking from the calves is not as effective and a simple way to correct this is to make sure your legs are straightened out whilst kicking. For more details on this, refer to exercises you can do in the pool to improve your swimming.

Notes on Coordination

  • Your arms and legs should move simultaneously in cycles
  • A breath should be taken on one side with each stroke of that arm
  • A breath is taken when that arm is back. Exhale as the same arms enter the water

Helpful Tips

  • Stretch your arms as far as they can go to make a longer stroke. A large arm stroke is essential to speed and efficient swimming
  • Keep a straight body to reduce drag and make swimming easier
  • Take short quick breaths instead of long ones

Why Learn Several Different Swimming Strokes?

Are you wondering if learning all the different swimming strokes makes sense? Or if sticking to your favorite swim stroke is enough?

Three children practicing breaststroke movements on dry land
Learning several different swimming strokes requires patience but has its rewards.

For example, you may be a beginner triathlete being able to swim breaststroke. But you’d like to be able to swim much faster for an upcoming event next summer, and need to learn freestyle.

Or you may be a long-time swimmer that can swim the breaststroke or freestyle stroke well. But now you are wondering if being able to swim the butterfly stroke or the backstroke will bring any advantages?

The Benefits Of Swimming Several Strokes

Well, I think that besides a more significant time investment, there are only benefits to know several different swimming strokes.

  • When you swim several strokes, you use more muscles, and your body gets a better workout.
  • The risk of a swimming injury is decreased because you don’t always stress the body with the same movements, and the musculature is more balanced.
  • Your swimming fun is increased because your workouts are more varied when you can choose from several swim strokes.
  • The skills that you learn in one stroke can often be transferred to another swim stroke. For example, the balance skills that you learn for the front crawl are also needed in the backstroke. Or the body undulation that you need for the butterfly stroke is also an asset while swimming breaststroke.
  • Knowing several types of swimming strokes can also be a significant advantage in triathlons. Obviously, if you know freestyle, you will swim faster and tire less than if you only swim breaststroke during the event. Switching to breaststroke, in turn, can be interesting when you need orient yourself, as you have better visibility than when you are swimming front crawl. And if you know backstroke, you can roll on your back when you are tired and take a few strokes in that position to recover.

In conclusion

So my recommendation is that if you aren’t in a big hurry and need to learn how to swim one particular swim stroke as soon as possible, it pays off to learn how to swimthe four competitive strokes.

The Different Swimming Strokes / Styles

The most common swimming strokes or styles are the freestyle stroke, the breaststroke, the backstroke and the butterfly stroke. They are well-known because they are used in swimming competitions.

collage showing the four competitive swim strokes
The swim strokes used in competitions

Besides these common strokes, other styles of swim strokes exist like the sidestroke, the trudgen, the combat swimmer stroke, etc. They are used less often but can also be fun to learn.

Let’s have a quick overview of these popular swimming strokes now.

The Freestyle Stroke

The Freestyle Stroke or front crawl is often the preferred stroke of seasoned swimmers. It uses alternating arm movements with an above water recovery. The legs execute a flutter kick.

Freestyle is fast and efficient. In fact, it is the fastest of all swimming strokes. That’s why it is used in freestyle competitions and in the swimming leg of triathlons.

Breaststroke

Breaststroke is the most popular swim stroke of all. In breaststroke, both arms execute half-circular arm movements at the same time underwater in front of the swimmer. The arm recovery also occurs under water. The legs simultaneously perform a whip kick.

A young man swimming breaststroke
Breaststroke

Breaststroke is often the first swimming stroke taught to beginners. In fact, many casual swimmers can only swim this stroke.

The advantage of breaststroke is that beginners can keep their head above the water. This avoids breathing and orientation issues. More experienced swimmers, however, submerge their head during the stroke cycle to improve efficiency.

Breaststroke is the slowest of the competitive strokes.

Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly stroke stands out among the competitive strokes because of it’s unique and spectacular technique. It uses a symmetrical arm stroke with an above water recovery. It also uses a wave-like body undulation and a dolphin kick.

A man swimming the butterfly stroke
The Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly is the second fastest swim stroke after freestyle. It has a reputation of being hard to learn and is quickly exhausting. But once you have mastered it, swimming a few lengths of butterfly can be a lot of fun!

Backstroke

As its name suggests, backstroke is swum on the back. It uses alternating circular arm movements and an above water recovery. The legs execute a flutter kick similar to the one used in freestyle.

A woman swimming backstroke with arm extended overhead
Backstroke

In competition, backstroke is faster than breaststroke but slower than butterfly. Physicians often prescribe backstroke swimming to people experiencing back problems because it gives the back an excellent workout.

Sidestroke

The sidestroke is an old swim stroke swum on the side that uses a scissor kick and asymmetrical underwater arm movements.

A man swimming sidestroke
Sidestroke

Sidestroke is not used in swimming competitions and is therefore swum less often nowadays. Nevertheless, it is easy to learn and can be an interesting alternative to the popular swim strokes. It is also used by lifeguards to rescue victims.