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Freestyle Swimming Basics

Thoughts on Basic Swimming Technique


Updated November 11, 2010
What is your mental picture of a freestyle swimmer's technique? This is one result from a swim coach doing an exercise to quickly describe different elements of freestlye swimming technique.
  • Head - In-line with spine
  • Eyes - Looking at bottom of pool when not breathing, looking sideways, one eye directly over/above the other when breathing.
  • Shoulders and chest - Rotate around central axis of spine in same plane as hips. High shoulder is on recovery arm side, low shoulder on pulling arm side.
  • Arms - One arm tends to be leading at all times, other arm is pulling or recovering; more of a catch-up with hands overlapping in the area from the shoulders forward - sometimes called the front end or front quadrant. Shorter max-effort or sprint-efforts may have less front-end overlap, even no front-end overlap, but that is a function of the timing, not an effort to remove the overlap.
  • Forearm and hand pull - Propulsive surface, line from fingertips up through wrist and elbow should be pointing at the bottom of the pool as much of the time as possible - as early a catch as can be achieved, with the maximum possible catch held until the hand passes below the waist
  • Forearm and hand recovery - Relaxed, hanging from the elbow, swung forward rather than pushed forward, thumb leading
  • Forearm and hand entry - Fingertip first, rotated towards thumb up, pinky first entry, then a gentle slide forward to a natural extension as the body rotates
  • Trunk - Must maintain the connection between the shoulders and the hips
  • Hips - Rotate around central axis of spine in same plane as shoulders. Attempt to initiate body rotation from the hips.
  • Legs - Kick is secondary to the pull, not overpowering it. It should be natural, not forced. A variety of kick rhythms are acceptable, from 2-beat through 6-beat, with cross-over variations.
  • Feet - Faster feet = faster pull = faster swim if same kick pattern is maintained (2-beat, 6-beat, etc.). Switching form a lower beat kick to a higher beat kick will also result in faster arms and a faster swim, but possibly at a higher cost if not practiced often. Splashing is not only OK but encouraged to facilitate better follow-through on the kick.
  • Breathing - Every two or three pulls - every 1 to 1.5 cycles. Swimmers must be equally comfortable breathing to either side. May breath less often for shorter events.

Swim On!

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