- Freestyle Swimming – 10 Tips to Improve Your Technique
- 1. Use a Neutral Head Position
- 2. Press Your Buoy
- 3. Do Not Lift Your Head to Breathe
- 4. Swim on Your Sides
- 5. Exhale in the Water
- 6. Use a High-Elbow Position
- 7. Do Not Reach Too Far with Your Recovering Arm
- 8. Use a Two-Beat Kick for Long-Distance Swimming
- 9. Do not Push Water Forward
- 10. Using a Nose Clip is Fine
- Related Pages
- Two Insanely Helpful Swimming Technique Tips That’ll Make You Enjoy Front Crawl Again
- 1. Body Position
- 2. Breathing
- Mastering Front Crawl
- Breathe easy
- Keep it simple
- Back to basics
- Raise your sights
- Breathing lessons
- Making progress
- Facing the fear – Jill Parker
Freestyle Swimming – 10 Tips to Improve Your Technique
In freestyle swimming, the proper technique is crucial for success. A good swimming technique allows you to either swim at a moderate pace in a relaxed way or to swim at a fast pace without becoming exhausted too quickly.
With these considerations in mind, we have listed below some swimming tips that will help you become a better swimmer.
1. Use a Neutral Head Position
Keep your head in line with the rest of your body, and look directly at the bottom of the pool.
A swimmer with a neutral head position
When swimming freestyle, many people tend to look forward rather than down. The problem with this approach is that it can cause the legs and hips to sink.
As a result, you have to kick harder to keep your legs up,which causes you to get tired and breath faster.
In addition, continuously looking forward in this positioncan strain the neck in the long run.
2. Press Your Buoy
The key to maintaining a good balance in freestyle, in which your body is horizontal and your legs do not sink, is to learn how to press your buoy.
By saying, “press the buoy,” we mean that in the water, you push your chest down a little at all times
Note how this freestyle swimmer has a good horizontal balance. Her hips and legs do not sink but instead remain close to the water’s surface.
Imagine your body is a seesaw. The fulcrum is between thenavel and the groin.
Your upper body represents one end of the seesaw, with the air-filled lungs acting as a buoy. Your legs represent the other end of the seesaw.
If you push your chest down a little bit, your body turns atthe pivot point, and your hips and legs move upwards.
Learning this swimming technique is often a major breakthrough because it allows you to keep your legs up without effort. This allows you to concentrate on other aspects of your stroke.
I know triathletes who are good at running and cycling but are weak swimmers because they have not learned this technique.
3. Do Not Lift Your Head to Breathe
Do not lift your head forward before turning to the side to breathe. This common mistake causes your hips and legs to drop.
Raising your head to breathe disrupts your balance.
Instead, roll to the side and simultaneously turn your head a bit further so that your mouth leaves the water.
This should feel your head is resting on the surface ofthe water, and then you turn it to the side to breathe.
Ideally, you should have one eye above and one eye below the water surface when you breathe. However, being able to do this requires time and practice.
4. Swim on Your Sides
Roll your body from side to side over the stroke cycle.
Rolling from side to side provides additional power.
If you roll from one side to the other in this way, instead of swimming “flat,” you can activate the larger back muscles in addition to the shoulder muscles, which provides additional power to your arm stroke.
5. Exhale in the Water
To develop an effective freestyle stroke, you need to exhale continuously while your face is in the water so that your lungs are almost empty when you turn to the side to inhale.
Exhale in the water
The reason for this is that the amount of time the mouth is above water is too short for you to inhale and exhale.
By exhaling continuously, you also remain more relaxed thanwhen you hold your breath.
6. Use a High-Elbow Position
Use a high-elbow position at the beginning of the arm stroke.
A high-elbow position allows you to keep your forearm vertical for a longer time.
The high elbow position consists of keeping the elbow high in the water at the beginning of the arm stroke, bending it, and bringing it outward so that the forearm moves into a vertical position.
The forearm and the palm are then facing backward, and theswimmer can push back against the water with maximum efficiency.
7. Do Not Reach Too Far with Your Recovering Arm
As you recover your arm above the water, do not extend it all the way forward, only to drop it into the water at once.
Do not reach too far forward with your recovering arm.
Doing this is a bad idea for two reasons:
- First, it creates turbulence in the water andadditional drag.
- Second, it can cause shoulder impingement andtendonitis after a while, a condition known as swimmer’s shoulder.
You should, therefore, slide your hand into the water earlier, for example, at half the distance of a fully extended arm. Then extend your arm further underwater.
8. Use a Two-Beat Kick for Long-Distance Swimming
The use of a relaxed two-beat kick is ideal for long-distance swimming, as it saves energy.
A two-beat kick is well suited for long-distance swimming in freestyle.
It also makes sense to use a two-beat kick to learn the front crawl stroke, because as you need less oxygen, breathing is easier, and therefore, you can be more relaxed than if you were using a six-beat kick.
On the other hand, a six-beat kick is better for short sprint races because it provides more propulsion and allows you to swim faster. The downside is that your large leg muscles use a lot of oxygen, and you will be breath more quickly.
With a two-beat kick, you kick once with each leg during the entire stroke cycle for a total of two kicks. This means that your arm strokes and kicks are executed in the same rhythm.
On the other hand, with a six-beat kick, you kick three times with each leg during the entire stroke cycle for a total of six kicks. As a consequence, your kicking movements are executed much faster than those of your arms.
9. Do not Push Water Forward
When extending your arm forward underwater during recovery, make sure to keep your hand flat and parallel to the water surface with your palm facing down.
Pay attention to how you position your hands.
A common mistake of freestyle swimmers is to bend their hands upwards in the water at the end of the arm recovery. When they do this, they push water forward and thereby slow themselves down.
This mistake is sometimes called Putting on the Brakes.
10. Using a Nose Clip is Fine
When learning the freestyle, using a nose clip can help keep water your nose.
A nose clip makes it easier to breathe when learning to swim.
If you don’t have to worry about getting water up your nose,you can be more relaxed when doing swimming exercises. This, in turn,accelerates your progress.
After a few months, once you have mastered the basics of freestyle,you can wean yourself off the nose clip.
For example, I used a nose clip for a year when I learned toswim freestyle, which helped a lot.
I hope that the swimming tips mentioned above will help you improve your freestyle swimming technique.
While some of these suggestions can be implementedimmediately, for others, it may take some time before they can be put intopractice. But it doesn’t hurt to give them a try.
Good luck, and have fun!
Two Insanely Helpful Swimming Technique Tips That’ll Make You Enjoy Front Crawl Again
It’s been a long time since we had a swimming lesson, something in the region of 20 years, so we’ve forgotten pretty much everything we learned. And despite knowing the many benefits of swimming, we make only the occasional foray to our local pool. When we do, we default to breaststroke since our flailing front crawl leaves us gasping for breath after one length.
So we jumped at the chance to get some expert tuition from Keri-Anne Payne, who’s a two-time world champion and Olympic silver medallist in the open-water swimming 10K, the marathon of the swimming world.
Payne’s supporting the Great Swim, an annual summer series of open-water swimming events across the country.
Coach is still a long way from getting the skills needed to take to the great outdoors (sighting, the art of looking where you’re going while swimming, remains beyond us for the time being), but we did pick up some easy-to-follow advice that’s got us back in the pool and cranking out lengths using the freestyle stroke.
Here’s what made the difference. Bad news first: you’re going to have to overcome some fundamental human impulses.
1. Body Position
Keeping your body arrow-straight and perfectly horizontal is crucial to making the freestyle stroke efficient – and efficient means easy (well, easier). Unfortunately there’s a crucial survival impulse that royally mucks this up: wanting to see where you’re going. That means your head goes up, which causes your legs to go down, which increases the drag of your body through the water.
Payne once got an engineer friend to do some calculations and they worked out that swimming through the water with sinking legs is equivalent to pulling along an additional third of a ton.
There are two things you can do to overcome this problem. The first is to get familiar with the feeling of being straight. Payne describes it as being similar to cheating on a height test. You’ll have done this – standing back to back with a friend and straining to be as tall as possible (think “giraffe neck”, says Payne). That’s the feeling you’re aiming to replicate – just horizontally.
To get there when you’re in the pool, look straight down at the bottom – the water should break somewhere around your crown. There’s a sweet spot that takes a bit of experimentation to discover, but once you’ve found it you’ll be amazed at how quickly a length flies by.
Body position is crucial, but right now your body is probably trying to point out that breathing is the most crucial thing.
There’s nothing being under water to induce the desire to get as much of that sweet, sweet air in your lungs as soon possible the next time you surface.
Anyone who’s ever learnt how to scuba dive will know that controlling your breathing under water is one of the hardest things to master.
But as Payne points out, you wouldn’t take a huge breath, hold it, then blow everything out when you run, so this shouldn’t be how you breathe when you swim. Instead you’re looking to breathe calmly – Payne recommends breathing out through the nose, because it’s harder to empty your lungs through your beak.
The more we worked on keeping to relaxed, steady, regular breathing, the more we found our stroke becoming smoother as a byproduct, and we didn’t have to stop to catch our breath every time we touched the side.
There are, of course, many more ways to improve your swimming, but we found these two things made such a big difference to our swimming (and took a fair bit of practice to master) that they provided the perfect motivation to get back in the pool.
RECOMMENDED: An Olympic Triathlete’s Guide To Front Crawl Swimming Technique
If you fancy dipping your toe into the open water visit greatswim.org for more information or to enter an event this summer. The Suunto Great London Swim is staged on Saturday 1st July 2017 at Royal Victoria Dock, entry is open through Wednesday 28th June
Mastering Front Crawl
There were 43 world records set at this year's controversial World Swimming Championships in Rome. One of them came courtesy of Australian Christian Sprenger, who swam the men's 200m breaststroke semi-final in a staggering 2:07.31.
Swift it may have been, but it still leaves Sprenger more than 25 seconds slower than the world record for the men's 200m freestyle – or front crawl – set by Germany's Paul Biedermann at the same championships. He finished in 1:42 flat. That means front crawl is roughly 20 per cent faster than breaststroke and this difference becomes more pronounced over longer distances.
What holds true for the world's greatest swimmers also holds true for amateurs: breaststroke is the slowest of all swim strokes. Jodi Cossor, the Lead Bio-mechanist for British Swimming, explains: “With breaststroke, there is lots of acceleration and deceleration.
It covers a much wider area of water than other strokes. With front crawl you are in a much more streamlined position, which helps to overcome drag, a swimmer's worst enemy.
There is also greater wave drag in breaststroke; with front crawl there is more air time, with one arm always the water, meaning you can move a lot faster.”
Despite this, breaststroke remains the stroke of choice for many triathletes. Most ly, this is down to a greater feeling of safety offered by the stroke.
Un front crawl, breaststroke offers plenty of surface vision and easier breathing opportunities.
Many triathletes fear front crawl because it forces you to be face down in the water during the stroke, and this feeling of being submerged can lead to anxiety when you're new to the sport.
Morgan Williams is National Development Manager for the British Triathlon Federation and a level three triathlon coach. He stresses the importance of feeling at ease in the water before you tackle front crawl.
“Water can be one of the most relaxed environments we experience,” he says.
“We all enjoy a soak in the bath, but increase the size to a pool, put in lane ropes, and it becomes far more intimidating, especially with an audience present.”
Keep it simple
If you're afraid of the water, Williams says some simple exercises will help you overcome the fear of being face down in the pool. You should be aiming for complete relaxation and a flat position in the water, which is essential for reducing drag once you start swimming.
1. Start by floating on your back in the pool by forming a star shape and looking directly up.
Step two is to float on your front – again in a star-shape position – with your face in the water until you need to come up for air.
Once you're comfortable having your face in the water, move on to the second phase of this exercise, which is to blow bubbles into the water to become used to exhaling underwater.
3. Of course, we're all different shapes and sizes so some may find floating easier than others. If you're struggling, use a leg float; most swimming pools have them.
4. Next, Williams suggests performing some push-and-glide exercises from the side of the pool. Place your hands and arms straight out in front of you, with your face in the water, and push out into the pool as far as possible until you need to breathe again.
5. Finally, try to supplement this push-and-glide exercise with four to six relaxed strokes, maintaining a flat position, again face down in the water.
Back to basics
You could spend hours reading the many weighty volumes written about swimming the perfect front crawl – optimum body position, use of arms, use of legs and breathing during the execution of the stroke – but if you're keen to get started now, there are a few a basics you should know.
6. Letting your arms slip through the easiest path in the water is a mistake many swimmers make, according to Williams. Instead you should “feel the water with your hand and arm and apply pressure to the water. This pressure should increase as you pull and then push the arm through to the end of the stroke at the hip.”
Steve Cox, Head Coach at Middlesbrough Swimming Club, suggests the following drill to practise arm stroking. “Place a leg float between your legs and practise single-arm strokes,” he says. “Extend one arm straight out and use the other to push through the water. Try to maintain only a slight bend in the arm as you swim.
The arm and hand should be deep but should not cross the imaginary centre line of the body.”
8. Williams says that another common error is incorrect leg movement.
“All too often, triathletes develop a 'panic kick', where they kick their legs rapidly, often bending the knee in a similar motion to cycling,” he says.
“This results in an increase in drag and an increase in oxygen consumption by the leg muscles – the biggest muscles in the body – with the result that you'll rapidly feel breath and fatigued.”
You can practise a more controlled kick by placing both your arms on a float and kicking slowly from the hip rather than the knee. “The kick should have minimal knee bend and your ankles should be relaxed,” says Williams. “Over time your leg strength will improve.”
Body position is critical when it comes to developing an efficient leg kick. Looking straight down in the pool should help you to develop a flat, streamlined position. If your hips and legs sag, they will create further drag, which in turn will make kicking more difficult. The result is an exhausted swimmer.
Raise your sights
Triathletes also need to perfect their sighting skills. Cox says that getting into the habit of raising the head every five or six strokes is good practice for racing, particularly in open-water races, where it is all too easy to lose your bearings.
“Raise the chin just above the surface to sight during one stroke. Sighting can be done during a breathing or a non-breathing stroke, depending on the swimmer. To maintain a healthy rhythm a swimmer might, for example, take three strokes, breathing on the third, take another three strokes, breathing, then taking a sight stroke and repeating the cycle.”
Morgan Williams says: “For some it might be wiser to master basic front crawl before moving on to open-water skills such as sighting.
In an open-water situation it is easier to sight on a large object or reference point beyond the buoys used for the race, for example a group of trees or an electricity pylon, as it will require less searching and can be spotted and remembered before the race.” Be sure to make your reference point an object that will not move.
The art of breathing when swimming front crawl is the area that holds most fear for newcomers. “Lots of people panic when their face is in the water; they forget you can breathe out in the water,” says Cox. “Many people try to breathe in and out when their head is the water, which means they don't take in quality breaths.”
Swimmers performing the front crawl can breathe every second stroke on the same side or every third stroke on alternating sides.
Purists might argue that breathing every third stroke creates a more balanced stroke, as it uses the left and right sides equally.
But Williams says not to worry about this when you're learning: “Triathletes can breathe to one side every other stroke to start with. It ensures a regular flow of oxygen and reduces the tension associated with breathing.”
9. Breathing needs to be in coordination with your arm stroke and body rotation. As you begin your stroke you should breathe out underwater, then rotate as part of your stroke and bring your mouth out to take in a nice relaxed breath. The non-breathing stroke should also include the body rotation.
By rotating, you will achieve a longer reach and become more streamlined. (To appreciate the movement, imagine you were standing in front of a brick wall and reached out just with your arm, but couldn't quite touch it. But if you rotated at the hip, you could reach it.
) Streamlining helps you achieve a better shape in the water and create less drag. To demonstrate this, push yourself out in the pool flat in the water and see how far you glide, then repeat this but push and glide on your side (rotated).
You should feel less resistance from the water and you will travel further with the same effort.
These tips should equip breaststrokers with the confidence and ability to progress to front crawl. “After about 600 metres of breaststroke, tiredness can really kick in,” says Cox. “Once you've mastered front-crawl technique, you will find swimming so much easier. It's better to learn sooner rather than later. It's easier and significantly faster.”
As for increasing the distance when you feel comfortable with the basic techniques of front crawl, he says: “You can only become swim-fit by swimming. Swimming can help your running or cycling, but the only way to be a fitter swimmer is to swim.
Build your skill gradually by increasing the time and distance you swim each session.
Once you have become confident over 200m of front crawl, start thinking about trying an open-water session if you're targeting a race that features an open-water swim.”
One of the best – and easiest – ways to improve your front crawl is to seek a second opinion. “It's always good to get some advice from a trained eye,” says Williams.
“Go along to your local triathlon club and ask the swimming coach to assess your technique.” You may find it tough in the beginning, but if you switch from breaststroke to front crawl, you should easily knock seconds from your swim time.
You can find your nearest tri club at www.britishtriathlon.org/clubs.
Facing the fear – Jill Parker
If you’re struggling to make the transition from breaststroke to front crawl, you’re not alone. In fact, plenty of elite triathletes have been in the same position.
Jill Parker was third in the 2009 British Triathlon Super Series, but just four years earlier, she was a nervous wreck on the swim. “I entered my first triathlon in London in 2004 as a bet with a friend,” says Parker.
“I thought beforehand that I should do a dress-rehearsal race in open water, so I entered a low-key triathlon at Leybourne Lake. I thought it would be just swimming in the pool and that I’d have no problems.“The gun went off, and I started my swim by putting my head in the water.
I’d never swum in open water before so was surprised to find it felt so claustrophobic. I panicked and began to hyperventilate.
I then swam the whole 750 metres doing breaststroke, with my head the water for the entire time.
“I was living in north London at the time, so, not wanting to be defeated by one bad experience, I went to the open-air ponds on Hampstead Heath. I said to myself ‘I am not going to leave this pond until I can swim a full lap with my head underwater.’
“I started off by doing one or two strokes with my head underwater, then built that up to five, then 10. It really was that basic, but it helped me to overcome my fear of open water.”