Traditionally, freestyle was a race that gave competitors the freedom to swim in whichever way they preferred. Over time, the front crawl swimming technique became the dominant stroke in freestyle swimming – for this reason, the term freestyle replaced front crawl as the swimming stroke name.
In freestyle swimming, using the right technique is crucial for success. A good technique will allow you to either swim faster without getting tired too quickly or swim in a relaxed fashion at a moderate speed. In this article, we will focus on showing you how to swim freestyle.
How to Swim Freestyle: Everything You Need to Know
When learning how to swim freestyle, the first thing you should focus on is body positioning. The tips outlined below should help ensure that your body is always in the right position:
If you have worn your swim cap before and gotten in the underground or above the ground swimming pool, you probably already know that the “streamline” concept is an extremely important part of swimming. Streamline refers to when your body is as narrow as it can be when you are moving through water – this helps you reduce the amount of resistance or drag.
The head placement and where the eyes are looking are both critical. When swimming freestyle, try to look down and focus both eyes on the bottom of your pool. Both your head and neck are supposed to be in a neutral position, just straight above the shoulders.
Avoid lifting your eyes or head up in front of you. Keeping the eyes focused on the pool bottom will help keep the legs higher in the water, making it much easier for you to move in the pool.
If you adopt a neutral head position with the eyes focused down, the hips should lift naturally – this will give you an easier time when you are kicking. You can try focusing the upper body lower in the water, which should help move the hips higher in the water. Add some strong and short flutter kicks, and the legs should be right on the water surface.
In freestyle swimming, the term “catch” is used to refer to the arms pulling water as the body moves forward. To get the “catch” right, you will need to use the following tips:
Ensure that your hands are in a tight cupping position, with the fingers pressed against each other to make sure that water does not slide through. Cup the hands in a position that allows you to hold a bit of water in the palm. The hands should not be very curved, but also, they should not be perfectly flat, or else the hands will not have the ability to glide easily in the water.
After donning your swimming goggles and active swimsuit, let the fingertips enter the water around 12 to 18 inches in front of the shoulder at an angle of 45 degrees to the water. Ensure that the middle finger enters the water first, followed by the long-reaching extension through the arm and shoulder.
Once the shoulder is extended fully, the chest should open up to the side and you should keep the head looking down. This forms the beginning of the catch, where you will start pulling water with the full-arm.
EVF (Early Vertical Forearm)
After the arm is extended forward fully, reach toward the bottom of the swimming pool. Try to keep the forearm as vertical as you can so that it acts as a paddle, pulling as much water as possible behind you – this should help propel you on the surface.
After the arm bends down at your elbow, you will initiate the pull. You will need to pull down straight along the body side, ensuring that the hand stays cupped, as the elbow extends at the hips. Try to avoid crossing the arms along the center of the body – instead, focus on keeping your momentum straight.
Shoulders and Hips
Every time you take a freestyle swimming stroke, try to keep the head in place and use the hips to rotate to the left and right. The hips should initiate the movement and the shoulders should follow.
Focus on rotating your body using the core, instead of trying to lead with shoulder twists. By paring the hips and shoulders correctly while rotating, you should have the ability to stay in a streamlined position along the water surface.
Head Rotation and Position
The most crucial part of breathing while swimming in the freestyle stroke is to ensure that you maintain a neutral head position. You should avoid moving the head up or forward since it will ruin the body position and waste additional energy.
When breathing, take a stroke using one of your arms, and while reaching forward, the whole upper body will start rotating to the side. Your neck and head are supposed to follow this momentum and move at the same time as the chest opens up.
The neck and the head should move together to the side. Keep one eye under the water and open your mouth to inhale. Ensure that the water line stays in the middle of the face while turning.
Note: You can consider increasing your lung capacity for swimming if inhaling at specific intervals is too tough for you.
Be sure to put the focus on the opposite arm, as the arm should stay extended in front, toward the water surface. This extension should allow the body to stay streamlined and allow you to maintain the forward momentum. Pulling the arm down while breathing can stop you from moving forward.
Exhale Continuously in the Water
To develop an ideal and effective freestyle stroke, you will need to focus on exhaling in the water continuously. This is simply because, during the arm recovery, you won’t have enough time to inhale and exhale laterally.
Exhaling continuously allows you to be more relaxed than when you hold your breath. If you hold your breath, you may end up developing anxiety feelings – this can distract and slow you down.
Exhale 70% through your mouth and 30% via the nose. If, however, you are wearing some tight swimming nose clips, you can consider exhaling 100% through your mouth.
Keep It Simple
A common mistake that those who are just learning how to swim freestyle make is kicking too big and too much. While most swimming beginners may think that this is a good idea, it is not. Kicking too big and too much will end up ruining the body positioning – this can slow you down.
We recommend keeping everything simple and de-emphasizing the kick. If you are wearing your swimming earplugs and getting in the water for this first time, the body position, arm use, and breathing should be more important – the kick should be an afterthought focused on helping with body rotation.
Use Fast and Short Kicks from Your Hips
In the freestyle technique, you will focus on using the flutter kick. Try keeping your legs almost straight, with a slight kick that only moves from your knees to the toes. The strength and power should come from the hips.
While moving through the water, ensure that the legs are kicking in quick and short motions. Try to avoid bending the legs too much. Kicks featuring a height of 12+ inches will take more energy than necessary. Additionally, they will ruin your streamline position, creating a lot of drag.
Point the Toes When Kicking
Not keeping the toes pointed while kicking creates extra drag. To avoid creating the extra drag, ensure that the toes face inward. The big toes should come close to touching while you kick.
When you keep the toes pointed, you will be exercising ankle flexibility. If you are having issues with the ankle flexibility, consider practicing your kick with mid-length flippers.
At this point, you should be familiar with how to swim freestyle. The next thing you need to do is find an ideal time for swimming and put the steps and tips outlined in this article into practice.
When practicing freestyle stroke, be sure to focus on all your senses while moving through the water. Intense thoughtfulness and focus will help you refine the stroke and also pinpoint where you may not be very efficient.
The goal is to ensure that you are making the least noise while swimming. This means that you are gliding through the swimming pool in a smooth motion. If you are making a lot of noise, consider working on improving your stroke.
Q: How Do You Do Freestyle Swimming for Beginners?
A: If you have just purchased your swimming gear and accessories and you would like to try the freestyle stroke, the simplified steps below should help you get started:
Step 1: Starting the Stroke: Entry
The freestyle stroke will begin with the hand spearing the water – the shoulder blades are supposed to be rolled back and the elbow should be above the hand. As the arm extends forward, the body should roll to the side of the extended hand.
Step 2: Make the Catch
As noted earlier, the “catch” refers to the point where the swimmer “grabs hold” of the water and pushes it behind to move forward. Without pausing the hand in the front of your stroke, simply tilt it and bring the hand and forearm underneath to the side.
You will be aiming to feel the water-resistance and push it backward, not down. While doing this, the body should roll back the other way, so that the body faces the pool bottom.
Note: If you are having trouble with the “catch” donning swimming gloves can help you improve the technique.
Step 3: Recover and Inhale
Keep pulling with the hand right through each stroke, close to the body. With the elbow high, the hand should exit the water by the hip. As you do this, the body will roll to the arm’s side, allowing the head to turn so that you can inhale as the arm recovers over the water, waiting for the next stroke.
Step 4: Maintain a Good Kick
A good kick will help with propulsion while a bad kick will end up creating drag. Keep a constant rhythm while ensuring that your knees stay straight and your ankles stay relaxed. Remember to use the glutes to kick from your hip, allowing the toes to brush each other slightly.
Note: If you are an absolute beginner and the above steps are complicated for you, working with a swimming coach may help you perfect the freestyle stroke more quickly.
Q: How Can I Improve My Freestyle Swimming?
A: A huge part of effective freestyle is the body position. If you lack the right body position, you will end up wasting too much energy from the additional drag you create.
After donning your swim trunks, avoid trying to swim on top of the water surface – this will exhaust you too quickly. The most ideal body position is the horizontal alignment, right below the water surface, without sinking your legs and hips. Try to swim through the water, allowing the buoyancy to support your body.
In addition to improving the body position, consider using all the other tips we have outlined in this guide to become better at the freestyle stroke.
Q: How Long Does It Take to Learn Freestyle Swimming?
A: For adults capable of learning at an average pace and do not have any fear of water, approximately 20 hours of lessons, spread throughout a couple of months might be enough to gain the basic skills. For adults who need some extra time to become comfortable in the swimming pool, this process could take more hours.
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Freestyle is currently the most popular swimming stroke. It is an essential skill that every swimmer should focus on.
In this article, we have shown you how to swim freestyle. The tips outlined above are ideal for both beginners and those who have used the freestyle technique before. We believe that each swimmer has at least 1 element of the freestyle stroke that they can refine or improve on.
- Freestyle Swimming – Wikihow.com