Teaching the Freestyle/Front Crawl
In order for the athlete to achieve an almost horizontal and streamlined body position, the athlete should be confident enough to have his/her face in the water. Breathing is best left until the stroke basics are mastered.
Practice full stroke without breathing
- Hold head so that the athlete can see forward and slightly downward.
- Stabilize kickboard or pull swimmer through the water as they kick, if necessary.
- Demonstrate to the swimmer a streamlined body position.
- Swimmer stands out of water in a streamlined position.
- Encourage the swimmer to be as streamlined as possible with hips high in water.
Practice push and glide
- Push from the wall with strong legs.
- Stretch long and thin.
- Ears between the arms.
Practice legs only at side of pool
- Up and down movements of the legs.
- Kick from the hips.
- Long straight legs.
Practice legs only with a flotation device under each arm
- Keep legs close together.
- Up and down action.
Practice legs only, holding one float, arms fully extended
- Long straight legs.
- Feet turned slightly inward.
Practice push and glide without float; add leg action at end of glide
- Long straight body.
- Kick when reaching the surface.
- In the pool, assist the swimmer's legs in a kicking motion. Repeat often, gradually eliminating assistance.
- Stabilize kickboard as necessary for one pool length.
- Swimmer kicks alone, keeping legs straight, kicking from the hips with toes pointed slightly inward (pigeon-toed).
- Keep toes under the water during kick.
- Encourage swimmer to kick with face in the water.
Practice freestyle kick in the water
- Hold onto wall or similar stationary support in prone position.
- Bend knees slightly, keeping feet together with toes pointed slightly inward (pigeon-toed).
- Repeat kicking action, and encourage swimmer to put face in water to help raise hips.
- Hold onto kickboard or similar flotation device with arms extended in front of the body and repeat kicking action.
- Extend arms out in front of the body without the kickboard, assuming streamlined body position for balance, and repeat kicking action.
- Encourage swimmer to put face in water and keep hips high.
- Flutter kick for one length of the pool without stopping, with or without a kickboard, maintaining a good streamlined body position.
- Keep legs relaxed, toes pointed slightly inward (pigeon-toed).
- Kick more from the hips than the knee.
- Encourage swimmer to put face in water and keep hips high.
Practice freestyle kick with assistance
- Sit on edge of pool with legs in the water.
- Keep legs together, toes slightly pigeon-toed.
- Kick so that the feet are just below the surface of the water.
Freestyle Kicking, Assisted (Dartfish)
- Swimmer sits on edge of pool with the coach standing in the water facing athlete.
- Hold the swimmer's feet, toes pointed slightly inward (pigeon-toed).
- Swimmer kicks from hips with toes under water. Assist swimmer in keeping legs straight.
- Encourage the swimmer to make a little splash with the feet.
- Good for warm-ups.
Practice deck drills for flutter kick
- Athlete stands on a step or side of the pool, if possible, so one leg can swing back and forth without hitting the ground. Swing the leg from the hip with the knee and foot relaxed. Notice when the knee bends naturally.
- Athlete stands on the deck with one foot slightly forward and the other back. Feet are no more than one foot apart. Athlete jumps slightly and switches feet — forward to back — back to forward. Repeat this movement. In water aerobics, it is called a cross-country leg action.
- Sit on the edge of the pool with the legs overhanging the water. This works best when the water level is lower than the deck. Lean back and with legs straight, imitate the flutter kick from the hips.
Practice water drills for flutter kick
- Once this is learned in slow motion, the athlete can increase the speed until they feel like they are "whipping" their lower leg back and forth.
- Flutter kick while holding onto the pool side. Works best if one hand is on the top of the wall and the other is directly below it approximately one-half-meter deep for support.
- Kick while gliding away from the wall. These drills can be done with or without kickboards.
These drills are meant to help athletes feel their kick better and to help them to correct their own mistakes. You can ask the athlete to do it incorrectly so that they can feel the correct form better.
- Kick as fast as you can.
- Kick as slow as you can.
- Kick with lots of splash.
- Kick with no splash.
- Kick with no leg bend at all.
- Kick as if riding a bicycle.
- Flutter kick on your side. Use a kickboard or some other flotation device. This assists the athlete to feel the kick both forward and backward.
- Kick with fins.
- Kick across pool with head up. If swimmer can do this and keep their mouth above water for breathing, they know they have a very strong kick.
- Do not point toes. This will cause a cramp in the arch of the foot. Relax the ankle and let the force of the water move the ankle joint for maximum force from the foot.
- Pull the knee back. Do not pull the foot backward. Pulling the foot back often causes a cramp in the calf.
All of the preceding practices can be achieved with the head above water. This enables the swimmer to breathe without any head movements. Once the preceding skills have been mastered, it is now possible to introduce breathing and the movement of the head. All of the following practices can be done with the face in the water. The athlete is looking forward and slightly down.
Practice leg action with one arm bent, the other arm fully extended with the thumb on top of the nearest corner of the float
- One arm is fully extended and holding the leading edge of the float.
- Look toward bent arm and breathe.
- Breathe out under water.
- Smooth head movements.
- Change sides
Practice leg action with a floatation device held by one hand; the other hand is out in front
- Head in water, breathe and pull arm through to thighs.
- Turn head to side when hand passes thighs.
- Long straight legs, up and down movements.
Practice the push and glide, add leg kick. Breathe as required and pull through to hips
- Turn head to side for breath.
- Turn head as hand is near to the hip.
- Continuous leg kick.
Do not hold breath
If athletes are not inhaling, they are constantly exhaling slowly through both their noses and mouths. Holding one's breath can cause water to go up the nose.
Exhale into the water
If the athletes do not exhale, they cannot inhale. They do not have time to both exhale and inhale above water, so it is better to exhale when their faces are in the water and inhale when their faces are above water.
Do not lift the head when breathing
This is one of the major mistakes, as it causes the feet to sink and water to go up the nose. Keep the forehead down, and the chin slightly tucked while turning both the head and the body to get a breath.
Open mouth to inhale
Do not attempt to breathe in through a small opening. This increases pressure and the chance that athletes will swallow water. If their mouths are open wide and some water gets in, have them spit it back out after getting air. This is normal. Try not to panic.
Inhale quickly and exhale slower. Inhale quickly when the head is turned and the arm is in the correct position. Exhale much slower so that it continues until the next inhalation.
Open mouth when exhaling
Do not attempt to exhale through the nose. Some air will come out of the nose anyway. Forcing all of the air out of the nose can disturb sensitive membranes and create pain. If an athlete's nose drains or he/she gets headaches after swimming, check the way the athlete exhales.
Turn head to breathe with the arm pull
Timing the head turn to the arm pull is crucial to breathing correctly. Athletes cannot wait until their arms get back before turning their heads. Swimmers must perform these motions at the same time. Attempt to get the athlete's head turned just prior to the hand coming out of the water.
Practice arm action in shallow water
- Athlete leans forward with one foot in front of the other.
- Shoulders are on the water surface.
- Hands enter between the head and shoulders.
- Thumb enters the water first.
- Elbow high.
Practice freestyle stroke on land
- Standing on pool deck, bend over at waist, keeping back straight.
- Extend both arms fully in front of head, hands in line with shoulders.
- Move one hand under the body with elbow at a 45-degree angle at midstroke.
- Push hand past hips toward feet, finishing at thigh.
- Pull arm back, relax forearm below elbow on recovery.
- Recover hand to starting position in line with shoulders.
- Repeat with other hand.
Freestyle Arm Stroke Drill (Dartfish)
Practice arm action while walking forward in shallow water
- Sweep outward, downward and inward toward the body's center line.
- Sweep past hips.
- Smooth action.
- Alternate arm action.
Practice the push and glide and add arm action
- Strong kick.
- Smooth arm action.
- High elbow.
- On land/pool deck, stand behind the swimmer and hold his/her arms. Move one arm up and forward through the stroke motion. Alternate arms.
- On pool deck, have the swimmer practice arm action.
- In the water, using kickboard and fins, have the swimmer hold the kickboard outstretched and thumbs up. Practice arm action for a short distance, using fins to keep body high in water.
- Provide assistance if necessary, with hand moving through the water under the body.
- Encourage swimmer to place face in water.
Practice freestyle stroke without assistance
- Stand in chest-deep water, assume the prone float position.
- Place a flotation device between the legs; encourage kicking or use fins to help with movement of upper body/arm action.
- Have swimmer take a breath. Swimmer is encouraged to breathe to one side.
- Demonstrate the correct arm stroke for two complete arm strokes.
Freestyle Arm Stroke_PB (Dartfish)
- Assist swimmer into prone float.
- Move with swimmer through two arm strokes, keeping hand just under body for reassurance.
- Have swimmer take a breath and put face in the water.
- Have swimmer take two complete arm strokes without breathing.
- Practice freestyle arm-pull drills.
- Practice pulling while standing in the water.
- Practice the pull, one arm at a time while the other holds onto a kickboard. This is a good drill to practice breathing.
- Practice the pull, one arm at a time without a floatation device.
- Swim with a closed fist for a distance and then with hands open. This can increase the "feel" for the water.
- Swim with hand paddles. Again, this increases the feel for the pull.
- Swim with pull buoys between the legs. This reduces the effect of the kick on the body.
- At the end of each pull, touch the thumb to the leg. This makes sure the swimmer is pulling all the way back.
Practice complete freestyle stroke, using the arm stroke and kick, for a distance of 15 meters
- Have the swimmer stand in chest-deep water.
- Assume the prone float position.
- Combine the freestyle kick with freestyle pull.
- Keep face in the water.
- Turn head to breathe every other arm stroke for recovery.
- Turn head to side after two strokes or one full cycle.
- Breathe on the side opposite the stroking arm. Turn head to preferred side, keeping ear in water, after two arm strokes or one full cycle.
- Have athlete swim three to five arm pulls while kicking legs and moving arms opposite each other.
- Head follows hand on the finish.
- Maintain smooth, steady kicking action.
- Shoulders and hips turn slightly when taking a breath. Swimmer is in lateral position.
- Inhale gently; the swimmer's head will turn to the side as the hand recovers past the head.
- Allow swimmer to use buoyancy belt or fins to maintain a streamlined, balanced body position.
- Allow the swimmer to use fins to help maintain a good arm action.
Practice freestyle arm recovery drills
- Practice shoulder shrugs forward while standing on deck or in the water and arms hanging relaxed at sides. Start with both shoulders moving forward at the same time and then alternate the shrugs. Add a high elbow move and then add the rest of the arm recovery motion.
- Stand on deck or in the water. Elevate the shoulders and raise elbows high. If possible, the elbows are as close to shoulder high as possible. Move the hands forward and back as if swinging the arms like a huge crane. This helps the athlete feel the arm movement at the shoulder joint.
- Stand in the water and have the swimmers imitate the arm recovery movement while dragging their fingertips across the surface. This helps them build kinesthetic awareness of what they are doing.
- Swim with one hand holding onto a floatation device such as a kickboard. Pull with the other arm and recover with the fingertips dragging across the surface.
- Swim with one hand holding onto a floatation device and focus on high elbows with hands below the elbow. Do not let swimmers bring the hand inside like a chicken wing.
- Swim catch-up style (hands touch between pulls),and concentrate on both the pull and the recovery.
- Swim with a kickboard in one hand. Pull, and, when you enter, aim the hand for the corner of the board and reach out under the side of the board instead of for the center. This can correct some of the common mistakes of moving the hands across the body on the reach after entry.
- Watch the hand enter the water and make sure the elbow is high and the palm is facing away.
||Correction — Drill/Test Reference|
|Lack of squeeze on the recovery phase of the pull.
||Tell the swimmer to clap hands together as he/she squeezes the arms together.|
|Kicking too wide.
||Have the swimmer kick with a pull buoy on. If it falls, the knees are too wide.|
|Knees coming under the stomach.
||Have the swimmer kick on his/her back and keep the knees at or below the water surface.|
|Swimmer does not get hands under the body on the pull.
||Have the hands scull outward and then inward until they almost touch under the stomach. The hands now form a triangle.|
|Swimmer is not pushing hands past hips.
||Put adhesive tape on the legs below the suit line, and tell the swimmer to touch the tape.|
|Swimmer can not feel the stroke pattern in the water.
||Have the swimmer swim only two or three strokes at a time. Review the proper pattern.|
Practice freestyle stroke with rhythmic breathing for one full pool length, 25 meters
- Push off from the side of the pool in a streamlined, balanced position.
- Swim a coordinated freestyle for one pool length.
- Demonstrate correct rhythmic breathing while swimming.
- Have the swimmer swim a coordinated freestyle stroke as far as possible. When the swimmer becomes tired or the stroke becomes uncoordinated, stop and support the swimmer under the trunk. Encourage the swimmer to swim at least four more strokes while being supported.
- Record the swimmer's daily progress. Place a cone on the deck to indicate the distance swum during the last practice.
- Have the swimmer swim between lane lines. If the swimmer is swimming into one rope,he/she is probably pulling too hard with the opposite arm. Have the swimmer swim on top of the black line. If the line appears to be moving, then there is a possible over-rotation of the body caused by the swimmer's arms crossing over his/her center line, or the swimmer's legs are not kicking evenly.