Powerful Tips to Master Freestyle Swimming

Many overload their minds with too much information without filtering effective ones.

(a common problem for almost anyone trying to pick up learning freestyle swimming techniques and drills or stroke corrections.)

Do not try to effectively experiment with everything all at once, focus on the essential.

This article will help you master every different basic elements within several months with our detailed and yet simple illustrations.

The right way to learn freestyle swimming strokes.

10 Elements to take note for perfecting freestyle strokes

Figure 1 – Head position during front crawl:

freestyle swimming head position
Freestyle swimming head position

Head position

Body position in the water and good positioning of the head is most important when it comes to swimming efficiently in water.

Looking forward to your hairline culminating on the surface of the water in front of you (always make sure that your forehead is just below the surface of the water).

The neck and the upper back muscle should always be relaxed. Assuming your body is maintained parallel to the pool with the hips up, your forehead should be cocked forward in about 45 degrees angle.

Do you “bury” your head during the swim, this self-sabotaging behavior will serve as 25 pounds of resistance.

This will change your body position in the water. It will force the upper body to dive down and the hips to sink deeper

This is detrimental to swimming instead as it breaks the streamline swimming position.

Looking forward too far will create resistance, the neck and the upper muscle may experience fatigue faster and discomfort easily.

Figure 2

freestyle swimming
Freestyle swimming – arm action

Figure 3 as illustrated a,b.c,d,e,f sequence

freestyle swimming sequence
Freestyle swimming practice arm action sequence

Reaching forward And Arm Action

Every stroke makes sure to extend your arms and as forward as possible, extending your arm to its fullest length. Most of the swimmers will focus on placing their hands in water in front of them and then starting the underwater pull.

Instead, you should slowly extend your hand with 35 cm first and then slowly extend and reach forward an additional 15 cm by extending your arm from your shoulder.

The movement with your shoulder involving a shoulder (imagine standing and trying to reach for a ceiling that is beyond your reach) can help to increase the length and maximize the efficiency with more smooth strokes and increased efficiency.

How To Swim Freestyle – Arm Action

In front crawl, the arms provide the main propulsive force. The complete action is an alternating and continuous one.

  • The hand is entered in front of the head, ideally in line with the shoulders.
  • In this position, the arm is slightly flexed at the elbow to allow a downward slant from the elbow to the wrist.
  • The fingertips enter first followed by the wrist and then the elbow until the catch position is reached.
    This is the point, approximately 15 cm below the surface, at which purchase is made on the water (Figure 3b).
  • The arm then pulls in a mainly downward and backward direction, with the elbow high (Figure 3c).
  • When the hand and arm are in line with the shoulders (Figure 3d) the action changes from pulling to pushing.
  • The hand is pressed backward to brush the thigh, at which point propulsion is complete (Figures 3e & 3f).
  • The recovery of the arm over the water should be smooth and continuous.
  • The arm is first lifted from the water, elbow leading (Figure 3e).
  • The elbow is kept high and the arm relaxed as it is moved forward in a fairly straight line (Figure 3a) to the entry position once again.

Body Rotation

Body rotation, also one of the common mistake which takes the swimmer a long time before mastering the freestyle strokes. this is related to reaching forward pivoting your body with each stroke.

And in the performance of pivoting your body with each stroke, you will help to facilitate the shoulders extending forward at the end of each stroke.

When your right arm is fully extended in front of you, and your left hand is about to exit the water behind you for the recovery, your body should be pivoted on the right.

This also means that the entire right side of the body is submerged in the water and facing the bottom of the pool, while the entire left side of the body is breaching towards the sky or the ceilings.

Following the next stroke, your body will move slightly to the left pivoting your body to about 120 degrees. Picture yourself like a rotisserie lamb being pivoted on the axis of the spit, this will also be how your body should rotate with every stroke for freestyle.

“Hourglass” pulling in the water

When you are doing the pull in the water, you have to make sure that you maximize the amount of water that is pulled and pushed to the back. The shortest distance between the starting and ending point before your hand exit the water will be a straight line.

This explains the more that the last thing you want to do in the water is pulling your hand inside the water in the straight line. Instead try to practice every stroke in the water by doing an ‘S’ shape pull, a long way to complete every freestyle stroke.

And looking from the top, if you were pulling both arms together simultaneously it will look like an hourglass. This simultaneous outline will also be the shape or diagram to prepare yourself for a butterfly stroke.

Finishing the stroke and recovery

Even the best swimmers will end up shortening some of their strokes and reach only the waistline when they are tired. They will pull their hands out of the water prematurely from the waist area rather than the upper thigh area.

As your arms complete the hourglass underwater pull, they should be fully extended behind you. The hands should be by your side so that the thumbs will graze the side of your thighs below the suit line.

Many swimmers begin bending their elbows toward the end of the stroke and start pulling their arms out of the water before allowing them to finish their paths longer.

Shortening of strokes will result in the swimmers losing efficiency while also actually utilizing more energy as they are taking more strokes every single lap to complete.

Sprinting and flutter kicking

Kicking is one of the actions in the water that takes up tons of energy, which is also why it’s often relegated to the last lap of any event especially distance event.

Sprinters usually rely more heavily on the kicking, regardless of what specialty, it is always important to practice and master a kicking style that works for you.

Unfortunately, too many times often, most of the swimmers ended up creating unwanted and added resistance with an incorrect kick which usually serves to slow them down!

A good sprint flutter kick in freestyle swimming should be a fast underwater up and down undulating motion, with both feet alternating.

Create as little white water as possible and keep the feet submerged, As your body rotates to each side, your feet should also rotate along with it. Be careful and do not spread your feet out apart horizontally for the good balance as you rotate your body from side to side.

Rather remember to keep your feet in alignment with the rest of the body and avoid breaking out of the narrow path your head and shoulders cut through in the water.

Train yourself with a hoola hoop first and then imagine swimming through a tire when you are more advanced, keeping your feet as close to each other as possible as you do a slide through so as not to hit the edges.

Distance crossing over kick

Distance kicking is a different kick overall from the sprint flutter kicking. In front crawl swimming, this swimming technique is not meant to propel you forward.

The kicking action is meant to keep your rhythm while also assisting to help you keep afloat.

In long distances races, attempting to do a sprint flutter kick will lead to high energy consumption. It eventually crash and burn your body and your mental self with oxygen depletion.

In long races such as those participating by the triathlon, it is best practicing and maintaining a crossover kick. This exercise is done when you do a crossing of ankles with each and every other kick.

Crossover kicks require a lot of practice initially and saves you tons of energy. The kicking actions may come naturally to some swimmers and seeming extremely unnatural to others.

Most of the sprinter swimmers will be more prone, gravitated to perform sprint flutter kicks due to normal instincts. While distance swimmers will always find themselves crossing over during freestyles.

In any way, practice and concentrate on what comes naturally to you first. After that, then try the different techniques and see how it all fares and feels for you.

Keep in mind that the crossover kicking techniques are less taxing on your energy bank and less physically exerting for long events, so usually not as effective when using it as a means to propulsion.

However, it does keep you going longer with the effects of conserving more energy during long endurance events and useful to keep your lower body afloat.

Breathing head position

When doing a turn for your head to breathe.

Always make sure to turn the head 90 degrees to the side.

Many of the swimmers will commit mistakes of turning their heads. Usually, more than 90 degrees and more common at 100 degrees to take a breath.

This action itself will cause their entire face and both eyes to go up above the water’s surface.

You have to try to keep your head parallel to the surface with one eye above and the other eye submerged.

Turning your head more than it is necessary will requires more effort. This results in an increased resistance as the body balance goes out of control every single pivoted turning.

Also always take note of not lifting your head too much forward to breathe.

Most novice swimmers commit mistakes like lifting their heads up and over rather than just staying to the side.

Always remember lifting your head is like using your face to put on brakes and break the momentum. You create more resistance while also put more strains on the neck muscles.

Always practice right breathing pattern

In freestyle swimming, it is good to practice breathing on both sides. This breathing from both sides need to follow good timing and is also known as the bilateral breathing.  This breathing pattern will serve to even out your strokes and keep the body balanced in the water.

Swimmers who tend to only breathe to one side during swims tend to have an uneven turnover. They miss out on a lot of views on what their competitions are doing on their blindsides.

This will also decrease their tendency to swim in an arc shape rather than a straight line in the open water.

Extreme cases of breathing from one side causes swimmers with slight curvature of the spine (scoliosis) over time. Teach yourselves to become a bilateral breather, there are no cons in learning to do so.

Freestyle Swimming Breathing Technique

Figure 4

freestyle swimming breathing techniques
Freestyle swimming breathing techniques unilateral sequence front and back.
  • To allow a breath to be taken, the head is turned so that the mouth clears the water.
  • This movement needs to be as smooth as possible and carried out with the minimum of rotation in order to maintain a balanced and streamlined position.
  • Though swimmers may inhale on either side, they usually have a preferred side to which they turn.
  • The timing of the in-breath is very important and normally occurs as one arm is starting to pull and the other arm is about to recover (Figure 4).
  • The type of breathing used by most swimmers is called trickle breathing. After a quick but full inhalation through the mouth, the breath is held briefly and is exhaled slowly through the mouth and nose into the water when the head has been returned to its normal position (Figure 5).
  • Breathing may be unilateral on one side only or bilateral on alternate sides.

Freestyle Swimming – Starting and Finishing is important

Figure 5

freestyle swimming rolling arm action
Freestyle swimming alternate arm pull, hip rolling sequence

During casual swimming, most people will disregard the taking off and the finishing. Always remember and keep that in mind that when pushing off the wall for a set of repetitions. Take the time to streamline your arms clasped behind your head in a v shape with your hands together.

Finishes each of the repeat with stroke to the wall. Do not slow down and coast in with your heads raised like what we usually do.

Keep in mind that the more you maintain streamline, the less you have to swim on the given lap. Always try to ensure that you are swimming near the water surface instead of underwater.


The timing of leg and arm actions usually occurs quite naturally.

The most common pattern in the front crawl is that of six leg kicks to each arm cycle. (Example: the complete actions of both left and right arms.)

As one arm is pulling, the opposite leg should be kicking downward.

If you wish to learn and read more about learning freestyle swimming and it’s origin.

Read more: Freestyle Swimming

If still after practicing ownself and find no progressions. And wish to take up corrections on better learning how to swim freestyle the right way through guided instruction. You can check also check us out via swimming lessons to learn more.

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