If you are comfortable in a swimming pool, can hold your breath underwater, and you want to learn how to swim freestyle (you might also call it front crawl) you have come to the right place. This is a step-by-step guide to help you teach yourself how to swim basic freestyle. Work on each step until you are comfortable, then move to the next step.
Once you have that next step figured out, go back to the beginning and work through each step as quickly as you need to in order to review. Once you have completed all of the steps, you will have taught yourself how to swim freestyle and may be ready to do some swim workouts!
1. Freestyle Body Position
The first step is to learn the body position. Stand on the bottom of the pool, straight up, good posture, and hold your arms up parallel to each other, biceps next to your ears. You will look like a football referee signaling a touchdown, your arms will look like the number 11. This is the start position, and this is the position you will always go back to at the start of each stroke.
Now get in that same position laying flat in the water. It is OK to push off of the wall in that position. It is is hard to hold it for a long time, do the best you can. Look straight down at the bottom of the pool, align your arms in the touchdown position, fingers pointing toward your destination. When you have to stop to breath, stop, stand up, and breath!
2. Freestyle Kick - The Legs
Now we will add the freestyle or flutter kick. Start by holding on to the wall. The kick should be from your hips with long, straight legs and relaxed ankles. If you can, point your toes (like a balerina). Kick up and down, imagine you are pushing water with the tops and bottoms of your feet, alternate one leg up, one leg down, then reverse.
Next, you will turn around and push off the wall in the touchdown position, then add in the kick. Remember arms point toward the destination, eyes looking down at the bottom of the pool. Kick as far as you can, holding your breath. When you have to stop to breath, stop, stand up, and breath! Then do it all again.
You could practice just the kick using a kickboard.
3. Freestyle Pulling - The Arms
Now we add in pull - arms! Start in the touchdown position, push off of the wall, kick (from the hips, point the toes), eyes looking straight down, and sweep one arm down toward the bottom of the pool, then back toward for feet, then up toward your hip, then out of the water and back around to where it started. Imagine you are drawing a giant circle with your fingertips. This is not the exact way a high-level freestyle swimmer does it, but it is great way to start to learn the stroke.
Do that big circle with one arm. When it gets to where it started, do the stroke with the other arm. Repeat (no rush, no need to do it fast) two or three times. Do as many as you can in a row. Stop, get your breath, then resume the position and go at it again.
4. Freestyle Breathing - You Need Air!
If you are going to swim for any distance you will need to learn to breathe while swimming. Start by holding the wall, put your face in the water and look at the bottom of the pool. Blow small bubbles while your face is in the water, then rotate your head and look sideways, turning your head just enough to get your mouth out of the water so you can inhale. Once you have a breath, rotate your face back into the water, eyes down, and blow little bubbles again.
Practice bubbles, rotate, breath in, rotate, bubbles until it is comfortable. An advanced step is to do a big exhale just prior to completing the rotation of your face out of the water for the inhale. Little bubbles, start to rotate eyes sideways, big bubble, breath in, rotate eyes down.
5. Fitting Breathing Into the Stroke
Now that you have the breathing part down, you need to do it while you are swimming. The rotation for the inhale happens when one arm is moving back toward your hip. When that arm is going back, you rotate toward that side and take a breath, completing the breath and rotating to eyes down again before that arm gets back to the touchdown position.
Push off the wall in the touchdown position, eyes down, kick, blow little bubbles, do an arm pull, and as that arm moves toward the hip rotate for the breath - eyes sideways, inhale, rotate eyes down as the arm moves through the air back to where it started in the touchdown position. Do a pull with the other arm. Do a pull with the first arm again and take a breath. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
6. You Are Swimming Freestyle
You are doing it! That is the basics of how to teach yourself to swim freestyle. There are many advanced freestyle stroke technique drills you could learn - and I hope you do - but this is a great start! Keep it up, and if you feel the desire, start doing some swimming workouts. You may be surprised at all the benifits swimming of swimming.