Front Crawl Swimming and Drills

Freestyle

Motion with support swimming drills

Freestyle

Movement without support

Freestyle

Movement without support independent practice

Introduction to Front Crawl

Front crawl among all the strokes is the fastest and most efficient strokes to learn. In order to swim well for the front crawl, you need to maintain a good streamlined position and continuous effective propulsion from the arms and legs. This streamlining positioning swimming techniques is the main reason why this is one fast and efficient swimming stroke.

For more details of the elements and front crawl, techniques do also check this article for more information on swimming faster with front crawl.

The alternating action of the arms and legs are generally easy on the joints; the whole stroke generally develop aerobic capacity faster than any other stroke. In competitive swimming terms, we most commonly referred it to as freestyle.

We usually encourage working from many simple and easy to understand bite-size swimming instruction. This is easy to perform swimming drills when broken down into parts. This system has been used and improvised throughout the years and had been proven effective for all students with different learning styles.

This stroke corrections will work on five fundamentals of any swimming strokes:


  • Body Position
  • Leg Action
  • Arm Action
  • Breathing
  • Timing

This article will address all the following fundamentals and what are the drills used to correct freestyle or front crawl swimming drills.

Front Crawl – Body Position

Always maintain a streamlined body position for front crawl swimming and try to remain as flat as possible on the water surface. The waterline focused on head position should be around the natural hairline with eyes looking forward and down.

Shoulders remain at water surface level and roll from side to side with the arm pull action. Hips should maintain close to the water surface rolling together with the arm strokes. Legs shall remain in line with the body and try to keep both knees closer together.

Front Crawl – Leg Action

The leg action of a freestyle or front crawl is taught after mastering body position. The kicking should originate from the hip and both of the legs should kick with the same amount of force.

The leg movement used during freestyle swimming is called the flutter kick. The action will move alternately with one leg kicking downward while the other leg moving upward.

The up and down kicking alternating action will create propulsion mainly coming from the down kick. While the leg provides only a small component to the overall speed. This propulsion from the legs create propulsion and stabilizes the body position for a more efficient swim.

The legs are bend very slightly at the knees during every kicking cycle. These slight knee bend help to produce propulsion needed on the down kick.

Frequent mistakes committed by beginners are that the legs might be bending too much or kick too high up causing the leg to come out of the water creating too many splashes.

Front Crawl – Arm Action

The leg action of a freestyle or front crawl is taught after mastering body position. The kicking should originate from the hip and both of the legs should kick with the same amount of force.

The leg movement used during freestyle swimming is called the flutter kick. The action will move alternately with one leg kicking downward while the other leg moving upward.

The up and down kicking alternating action will create propulsion mainly coming from the down kick. While the leg provides only a small component to the overall speed. This propulsion from the legs create propulsion and stabilizes the body position for a more efficient swim.

The legs are bend very slightly at the knees during every kicking cycle. These slight knee bend help to produce propulsion needed on the down kick.

Freestyle swimming requires a streamlined position, as well as a continuous alternating action, which provides the majority of the power and propulsion of the entire front crawl.

Front crawl arm action consists of four phases:

Arm action for front crawl consists of 4 phases, mainly the entry, catch, propulsive phase, and recovery phases.

Entry Phase: Hand enters the water at a 45-degree angle, fingertips first, thumb side down. Hand entry should be between shoulder and headline with a slight elbow bend.

Continuous and alternating action of the arm movement provides the majority of the power and propulsion of the entire stroke.

Catch phase: The hand reaches forward under the water without stretching too much.

Arm will fully extend under the water surface at all times, avoid shoulder impingement and overreaching as mentioned from the last pointer.

Propulsive phase: The hand will sweep through the water downward, inwards, and upwards.

Elbow maintains high at the end of the down sweep and remains high throughout the in sweep.

Hand pulls all the way through to the thigh and upwards with a high elbow to the water surface. Make sure arms are fully through so that it does not obstruct the way of the face later during breathing and timing.

Recovery phase

Swimming efficiency is affected greatly at this stage, and it is good to do it right every time. A great deal of forward propulsion will improve as well as the swim timing. A great arm recovery, in turn, will also lead to a greater deal of momentum and rhythm of the stroke; therefore, it is crucial to position your elbows and hands correctly.

Here are some steps to better correct your arm recovery phase:

  • Elbow bend to exit the water first
  • Hand and fingers fully exit the water and follow a straight line along the bodyline over the water surface.
  • Elbow is bent, high and the elbow is fully relaxed.

Frequent mistakes committed by beginners are that the legs might be bending too much or kick too high up causing the leg to come out of the water creating too many splashes.

Front Crawl – Breathing

Breathing the “right” way is crucial when it comes to swimming. If you breathe wrongly, it will lead to problems like:


  • Water phobia
  • Life-threatening issues
  • Incorrect swimming positions

Always make sure only to exhale when your face is inside the water, and be aware that the position of your breathing affects the efficiency of the whole stroke.

For freestyle swimming, you will inhale (breathing in) when your head turns to the side, with your mouth clearing the water surface. And exhale when your head faces forward and looking down.

Here are the steps and cues to look out for during breathing exercises and drills.


  • Head turns to the side on inhalation
  • Head start to turn at the end of the upward sweep.
  • The head turns enough for the mouth to clear the water and inhale.
  • The head turns back into water just as the arm comes over and hand returns to the water.
  • The breathing patterns can be bilateral or unilateral based on the stroke cycle and distances to swim.

Front Crawl – Timing

Timing is the last stage of mastering any swimming stroke. Your arms should provide continuous power and propulsive alternating action while leg kicks remain continuous and alternating.

Below I will illustrate the 3 kinds of leg kicks repetition drills commonly used for swimming freestyle


  • Six beat cycle – Kicking three-down kicks per leg per arm cycle. This cycle is usually taught to beginners and used for sprint swimming sessions.
  • Four beat cycle – Kicking down twice per leg per arm cycle
  • Two beat cycle – Each leg will kick down one beat per arm cycle. This timing cycle is not recommended for beginners and is normally used by long-distance swimmers. The leg kick over here for freestyle is used for counterbalancing instead of a source of propulsion.

Drills to Help You Learn Front Crawl Swimming: Body Position, Leg Action, Arm Action, Breathing and Timing

Front Crawl Body Position Drills

  • Poolside holding static drill
  • Static practice with floats
  • Star float prone position
  • Push and glide from standing position
  • Push off and glide from the side with hands holding the floats.
  • Push and glide from the poolside

Front Crawl Leg Action Drills

  • Sitting and kicking from the poolside
  • Leg kick with float held under each arm
  • One float held with both hands – flutter kicking action at legs
  • Push and gliding with freestyle flutter kicking action
  • Flutter kicking with float held in front vertically

Front Crawl Arm Action Drills

  • Poolside land drill on the poolside or shallow water
  • Single-arm practice with float held in one hand
  • Alternate arm pulls while holding a float out at the front
  • Alternate arm action with a pull buoy
  • Push and gliding with alternating arm cycles

Front Crawl Breathing Drills

  • Poolside holding and standing breathing practice
  • Holding a float in front with diagonal grip
  • Float held in one hand and arm action with breathing to the side
  • Float held in both hands, alternate the arm pull with breathing

Front Crawl Timing Drills

  • Catching up 3 seconds alternate pull
  • Full stroke drills

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