Freestyle Swim Tips

The world best freestyle swimmers have the following characteristics.

  1. A high head & body and a very still head.
  2. High elbows flexible shoulders and hands that travel close to the body.
  3. Smooth relaxed stroke during the catch pull press and recovery phase.
  4. Able to make good use of each breath they take.
  5. Relaxed yet powerful kicking.
  6. Low stroke count because they are super efficient.
  7. Constant movement not pull then glide then pull then glide, always feeling the water never coasting/freewheeling like in cycling.
Learn through imitation.
The information below is designed to give you what you require.

Look at other swimmers not triathletes to improve your swim stroke.

With long smooth strokes try to imitate them.

Aim for progressive practice, make changes, always practice warm up warm down until your new improve stroke becomes permanent.Lack of time swimming even more important to ingrain a good feel for the water.

Feel the water.

What is feeling the water?
Not slipping through but slowing down the stroke against resistance.
Hands and feet.

When you improve your kick expect to move faster thru the water.


This is a great skill.
Either laying flat on the water or as though you are trying to stand on the bottom.

You will soon learn how to improve catching the water with your hands or kicking. Stop kicking and sculling and your head goes below the water. The better your sculling technique the higher you will out of the water in a stand up position. Sculling lying down can move you along.

Single arm pulling develops good breathing technique.Learn to exhale when you arm that is pulling thru is below the shoulder.

You can improve your kicking by holding onto the side or rail with legs out stretched behind you. Think what you need to do from the tips of your toes to your hips.Pointed toes.
Loose floppy ankles
Heels should be under the water.
Keep your legs together.
Long streamlined legs.
Swing from the hips.
Tiny Splash.
Kicking superman position without a float.
Legs close together almost rubbing ankles.
Loose floppy ankles.
Thumbs linked
Kicking with float.
Front crawl hold a float in front squashing your ears and staying streamlined.

Good learning practices

Bad technique (wasteful energy)

For every action there is a reaction.
Lifting the head to breathe.
Incorrect - So every fault we have with swimming our body will compensate.
Reaction - Poor breathing technique or weight or position of head will cause the hands to push downward to support the sinking body. Reduce the number of strokes you take, just like golf. Count the number of strokes you take per length, aim to reduce and check again during main set and warm down. Remember it’s what you do under the water not over the water that propels you along!

********PLEASE NOTE SAFETY WARNING************
Always practise these drills close to the edge, where you can stand up or grab hold of the side and in sight of a life guard.

The surface of the water should be between your hairline and the eyes.

It is good to roll smoothly.

1. Allows for better position to catch the water.
2. Reduces strain with each arm recovery.
3. Improves the ability to breathe and smooth stroke.
4. Reduces your frontal resistance and lengthens the stroke.

Used for propulsion and balance.
The best swimmers in the world who swim front crawl have a high elbow and relaxed almost lazy hand entry with thumb first.

Work on powerful exhaling and relaxed inhaling.
1. Practise blowing out slowly under the water building up the power so when you mouth exits the water you can spend all of this time breathing in.
2. Expel all you air quickly and you will lose some of your ability to float. Hold onto the air you have just inhaled and fix your chest muscles as you get in the catch phase.
3. Inhale via the mouth exhale thru the mouth and nose.
4. For a more balanced stroke breathe on both sides (bi-lateral breathing). This is important when swimming in open water in training or during a triathlon. Needed for sighting and to breathe away from the waves.
5. Hold your breath until the pulling arm is below your shoulder before starting to blow out.

Avoid looking down at the bottom as this will cause you to roll too much. Keep your eyes looking forward? Roll your body not your neck, we once knew a swimmer who improved their times when they had a sore neck because this caused them to improve their body roll!!

Look across the surface when you breathe in avoid looking back.
A good drill for learning to roll when breathing is using fins and a half board. Swim in front crawl position right hand holding board left hand by your side after three kicks turn and breathe by rotating the shoulder holding the board and breathe to the left (always breathe to the side that that your arm is by your side. After one length change arms holding the board now in your left hand repeat now roll & breathe to the right.
You are learning to breathe on your side and reduce your head turning.

Needed for balancing your arm action and improve streamlining the body.
1. First needed to push away from the side
2. Aim to keep legs relaxed long and kick from hips.
3. Keep ankles loose and if possible inwards to give more surface area and propulsion.
4. Hips need to be in time with the shoulders otherwise you create extra resistance. Both in time is more streamlined and looks more natural.
5. Find a kick pattern that suits you, lazy kick but avoid a sudden deep kick or fast shallow kicking.
6. Avoid lots of swimming with a buoy. The better you are able to kick without a wetsuit the faster you will swim and have more energy for the rest of the triathlon.

SINGLE ARM PULLSEither after half or full length recover think about drill and repeat with other arm.
Skill - Improve entry thumb first. Watch your entry and pull under the water.

1. Using a single arm you can isolate your good stroke technique any fault is magnified.
Equipment required – Fins and a half board. Left hand holds the board, Start the drill with the right hand under the left hand. Make sure with each full stroke your right had passes your left hand before the catch phase.

1. Use a pull buoy between the legs and work just on good arm technique. Aim to keep a long stroke. Avoid kicking use total arm muscles.

1. Left arm stays in front like superman right arm moves forward and hand enters the water and moves over left hand before it starts to pull through.
Skill – Improves hand position and full stoke before pulling back and the catch phase. Improves good kick emphasis.
Avoids looking back to breath therefore reduces extra drag.

1. Swim normally with clenched fists. Count your normal strokes then complete this drill. See if your stroke count is reduced by this fists drill.
Skill – improves feel for water from forearm.

Use hand paddles to improve feel for the water and generate more power.
Skill – improve total pressure during the full under water phase.
1. Left arm stays in front like superman and keep right elbow high and use thumb to touch arm pit as it moves forward stretch forward to enter the water.
Skill – Elbow High and arm close to the body. Finger tips trail along the surface of the water. Avoid wide arm recovery as this unbalances the body and wastes energy.
Also a good drill if you have a wide stroke. You can also swim next to the wall and trail fingers along the rope or next to the wall, you will soon hit the wall if you forget or have a wide stroke.
1. To develop correct timing and co-ordination.
Skill – Use fins so you just concentrate on two arm front crawl. Left arm stays in front like superman head looking forward, right arm high above the water. Don’t forget to blow bubbles under the water. Count 1&2&3 repeat other side also counting 1&2&3. Remember to breath on once after you have uses both arms.
Skill – Keep head and eyes high and focus on what you are doing.One shoulder should be up high when your other arm is at full stretch.
Aim to be slow and smooth
Avoid - Do not quicken your stroke because you have fins on.

Learn what slows you down and creates more resistance to help you improve and become more streamlined when swimming.
Skill – Keep legs close together, long powerful pulling.Avoid deep scissor kicking wide arm entry or pulling across the body.
Count to 2 with left arm before pulling through, this allows for the right arm to push back.
Over roll and see how much harder it is to swim. Count your strokes and compare with normal swimming the extra rolling resistance will increase the time and strokes taken to swim a length.
Not rolling at all shortens your stroke to find the right amount of roll required.
Push off from side of swimming pool. Streamline and see how far you travel by noting a tile or mark on the bottom.
Repeat again and again with different arm & leg positions, if you can travel just another 10 cam from a push off imagine how much energy you could save with each streamlined stroke? Be aware of any body roll and how much it causes resistance?

If you suffer from wide arms from lack of flexibility or chronic shoulder problems then this swimming drill will help you.
Swim with fins and a kick board.
Hold the half board with the right hand and swim with the left hand.
Imagine you have a zip along the side of your body. On the recovery phase try and UN zip yourself from below the hip along the thigh under your arm and shoulder.
Key points to remember.
Slow down the stroke and keep your fingers close to your body.Focus on high shoulder position.
Keep your elbow as high as possible
Maintain a good kick.
Good high head position.