Learn the freestyle stroke step-by-step

July 29, 2015

Whether you're in an Olympic pool or heavy surf, the freestyle stoke is a fast and powerful addition to your swimming repertoire. We'll teach you how to develop the coordination to breathe, kick, and move your head and arms in perfect sync.

Learn the freestyle stroke step-by-step

Perfect the kick

In freestyle, swimmers use their arms to "crawl" through the water, but they also rely on leg movements to maintain stability and for propulsion. The "leg drive" is provided by a scissor movement of the legs generated at the hips and thighs. You can learn the correct kicking action by holding onto the edge of a pool and kicking in a fast and rhythmic scissors motion so that your heels gently churn the surface of the water. Your legs should be relaxed with the knees almost straight and the ankles flexible. Your feet should be turned slightly inwards and spaced 25 to 30 centimetres (10 to 12 inches) apart, with the toes pointed.Develop the kicking action further by using a kick board for flotation and moving through the water with only your legs. Do several laps every session to train the movement until it's automatic.

Learn the crawl stroke

The arm movements and correct breathing are complementary and need to be learned together. A swimming instructor can make the process a lot easier. Combining the movements of the arms and head in a continuous freestyle motion while breathing properly is best done in breast-deep water where you can stand.

The aim is smooth, synchronized movements, broken into the following parts:

  • The lifting of the "breathing" arm (the arm on the breathing side) accompanied by a turn of the head and an intake of breath.
  • The completion of the breathing arm stroke and the start of the top arm stroke accompanied by a turning of the head face-down into the water where the breath is fully expelled. The forward motion produces a trough in the water at the mouth so that it is not necessary to lift the face entirely out of the water to breathe.
  • The coordination of leg scissor movements, arm strokes and head movements, with well-controlled breathing, are the basis of freestyle swimming. Performed well, the swimmer should move forwards smoothly, the body flat in the water, with a modest "bow wave" breaking against the top of the forehead.
  • Breathe in through the mouth on the side that feels comfortable; breathe out through the mouth and nose slowly and continuously whenever your face is submerged.

When executed properly, the freestyle stroke looks effortless and graceful. And though it takes a bit of effort to learn, enjoying some extra time in the water certainly isn't a bad way to spend your time. Keep on practicing! You'll elevate your swim technique in no time.

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