Freestyle is the most popular swimming stroke in the world, and is an essential skill that all swimmers should focus on. We truly believe that every single swimmer has at least one element of their freestyle stroke that can be refined and improved.
1 – Body Positioning
The most important part of swimming is the concept of streamline. This is when your body is as narrow as possible, moving through the water so that you reduce the amount of drag you have.
The placement of your head and where your eyes are looking is critical. When you swim freestyle, try to look down and focus your eyes on the bottom of the pool. Your neck and your head should be in a neutral position, straight above your shoulders. You should not lift your head or eyes up in front of you. Keeping your eyes focused on the bottom of the pool will keep your legs higher in the water, making it easier to move in the water.
If you have a neutral head position with your eyes focused down, your hips will naturally lift up, making it much easier to kick. Try to focus your upper body lower in the water, which will make your hips higher in the water. Add short and strong flutter kicks, and your legs will be right on the surface of the water.
2 – The Catch
The “catch” refers to your arms pulling water as your body moves forward.
Your hands should be relaxed with a few millimeters of space between each finger. This actually helps you swim faster and increases the power of your pull compared to swimming with your hands cupped tightly together!
Your fingertips should enter the water around 12-18 inches in front of your shoulder at a 45 degree angle to the water. Your middle finger should enter the water first, followed by a long reaching extension through your shoulder and arm. Once your shoulder is fully extended, your chest will open up to the side, and you will keep your head looking down. This is the beginning of your catch, where you will start to pull water with your full arm.
EVF stands for Early Vertical Forearm. After your arm is fully extended, you will reach your fingertips toward the bottom of the pool, trying to keep your forearm as vertical as possible so it acts as a paddle, pulling a lot of water behind you as you move forward.
After your arm bends down at the elbow, you will begin your pull. You will want to pull straight down along the side of your body, keeping your hand cupped, as your elbow extends at your hips. Try not to cross your arms along the center of your body, as this will cause you to not move in a straight line.
3 – Rotation
Hips & Shoulders
Every time you take a stroke, you will want to keep your head in place, and use your hips to rotate to the right and left. Your hips will initiate the movement, and your shoulders will follow. Try to focus on rotating your body with your core, instead of leading with shoulder twists. Pairing these two parts of your body will keep your body in a perfect, streamlined position along the surface of the water.
4 – Breathing
Head Position & Rotation
The most important part of breathing in your freestyle stroke is to keep a neutral head position. You do now want to move your head forward or up, as this will ruin your body position and waste more energy than you need to.
When breathing, you should take a stroke with one arm, and as you reach forward, you’ll notice your full upper body rotating to the side. Your head and neck should follow the same momentum, and move at the same time as your chest opening up. Your head and neck will move together to your side, you will keep one eye underwater, and open your mouth to breathe. The water line should be in the middle of your face as you turn.
Make sure to focus on your opposite arm, as it should still be extended straight in front of you toward the surface of the water. This extension will keep your body more streamlined, and will allow you to continue the momentum forward. If you pull your arm down while you breathe, it will stop you from moving forward.
5 – Kicking
Keep It Simple
The most common problem that beginners face, is kicking too much and too big. This is an easy way to ruin your body positioning and actually slow you down. We recommend keeping it simple, and de-emphasizing your kick. For beginners – your body positioning, breathing, and arms will be much more important, and the kick should be an afterthought focused on just rotating your body.
Short & Fast Kicks From The Hips
In freestyle, you will use a flutter kick. Try to keep your legs almost straight, with a slight kick that really only moves from the knees to your toes. The power and strength comes from your hips. As you move through the water, your legs should kick in a short and quick motion. Try not to bend your knees too much. Bigger kicks that are taller than 12 inches in height will take up too much energy, and will ruin your streamline position.
6 – Silent Swimming
Heading, Touching, Smelling, Tasting, and Seeing
Focus on all of your senses as you move through the water. This intense focus and thoughtfulness will help you refine your stroke and pinpoint where you might not be as efficient in the water. The goal is to make the least amount of noise as you swim, which means that you are gliding through the water in a smooth motion.
And most of all, being aware of your experience in the water will make your swimming much more enjoyable! This is a wonderful opportunity to connect with your body, mind and spirit and simple relax in the pool. We always recommend a couple laps of silent swimming to end every workout!