Swimming is an amazing total body workout that you can participate in for your entire life. If you’re just getting started, it can be intimidating to take the leap and make swimming part of your regular routine. Fortunately, we’re here to help!

Below are 10 of the most common mistakes that beginner swimmers make when they’re just starting out. Over time you’ll be able to quickly master Freestyle and move onto the other strokes!

Also checkout 10 steps to swimming smarter freestyle!


1) Not Having A Plan

They saying goes, a goal without a plan is just a wish. This couldn’t be truer with a new workout routine and especially with swimming. It’s important to have a game plan so you know what you’re going to do before you get to the pool. Just saying you’ll swim until you get tired is not a good goal for a swim workout.

Expert Tip:

Follow a structured swim training program that guides you through workouts. Ideally you swim at least 2x/week to develop a feel for the water and improve technique. A structured workout is more efficient than just swimming back and forth until you fatigue. Download the MySwimPro app to get started with a personalized swim workout routine.


2) Swimming With Your Head Up

Proper body position is one of the most important skills to develop as a new swimmer. Body position is the way your body sits (floats) in the water. It starts with your head position, and if you swim with your head up, your hips will sink. If you can see the other end of the pool, your head position is too high.

Expert Tip:

Swim with your head down, looking at the bottom of the pool. You should be looking at the black line on the bottom of your lane for a majority of the swim workout except when you breathe. The water line should be in the middle of your head and you should focus on keeping your body as high in the water as possible from your fingertips to your toes.


3) Lifting Your Head to Breathe

When you take a breath, it’s tempting to lift your head straight out of the water and take in as much air as possible. It can be counter intuitive to control your breathing so you only take in a controlled portion.

Lifting your head to breath (and looking forward in the process) will cause your hips to sink and make you move much slower through the water from this added resistance.

Expert Tip:

Breathe to the side and try to keep one eye in the water. The natural forward movement of your body and head will create a draft if it’s in-line with the water level and you’ll be able to sneak a breath in while maintaining a proper body position. Keeping your head in-line with your body during the breath will allow you to maintain speed during the breathing phase of the stroke.


4) Short Strokes

Taking more strokes means you’re less efficient. It’s tempting to take as many strokes as you can to get to the other end and finish! Many beginner swimmers begin the catch phase of the stroke before they full extend in front of their shoulder.

Expert Tip:

Focus on increasing your Distance Per Stroke (DPS) every time you swim. As your fingertips enter the water to initiate the catch, make sure you’re extending forward on the same line as your shoulder to maximize your DPS. By doing this, you’ll catch more water, take less strokes, and swim more efficiently.


5) Swimming Flat

Similar to taking short strokes, swimming flat is where you fail to rotate your hips and shoulders to increase your distance per stroke. It’s swimming as if you’re a freighter – flat, slow and with a lot of resistance.

Expert Tip:

Rotation and increasing your distance per stroke go hand in hand. As your fingertips enter the water after the recovery, focus on driving rotation with your hips and shoulders to increase your distance per stroke and extend your fingertips forward in front of your shoulder. By rotating your body to its side (not completely) you can maximize your freestyle efficiency.


6) Swimming Too Fast

This is counter intuitive to swim training, but most swimmers when starting out swim way too fast and burn themselves out before they’re even warmed up. If your goal is to complete a fully structured swim workout, it’s important that you have energy throughout the entirety of the training session.

Expert Tip:

Try to stay patient at the start of the workout. It’s easy to feel a false sense of speed when you’re starting out because you have a lot of energy. The more you swim, the easier it will become to control this initial speed and regulate your energy expenditure across the entirety of a swim workout.


7) Holding Your Breath

While you may be in the water face down staring at the black line on the bottom, it’s important that you don’t hold your breath. Many swimmers exhaust themselves by not regulating their breath when their face is in the water. Holding your breath when you swim can be dangerous as well because you can quickly become gassed under fatigue.

Expert Tip:

Focus on regulating your breath when you swim easy by slowly exhaling while your face is in the water. If this is difficult for you, try humming underwater and blowing bubbles. The largest point of exhale when swimming is actually right before your face clears the water for a breath. Other than that, it should be a very slow controlled exhale while you’re swimming.


8) Kicking Too Much

Similar to swimming too fast, kicking too much sounds counter-intuitive to improving swimming performance. Because the legs are the largest muscles in the body, they require a lot of oxygen and therefore placing a large emphasise on your kick when you’re just starting out is a big mistake that will cost you a lot of energy.

Expert Tip:

Don’t worry about kicking! Your legs can slow you down more than help; so instead focus on your head position (to make sure your body and legs stay high in the water) and pull. As you become more regular with your swimming routine, you can start to focus on incorporating more kicking into your stroke.


9) Bending Knees When Kicking

Because the legs are such a large muscle group in your body, it’s easy to feel a false sense of speed with improper kicking mechanics. This inefficiency can eat a lot of valuable energy that would be better served elsewhere. Improper kicking technique means you’re kicking with your knees rather than your hips. If your knees bend a lot when you’re kicking, you’re potentially creating more resistance than propulsion.

Expert Tip:

Kick with your hips rather than your knees. Your legs should be relatively straight with toes pointed in the freestyle and dolphin kick. The amplitude of your toes at their widest point should be less than .5 meters or about 12”. Any larger than this and you’re creating resistance as your kick is larger than your body-line. A useful tip is to think about kicking inside a bucket of water to keep your kick small.


10) Swimming Alone

Training by yourself can be a huge struggle if you’re just getting started. Swimming with a team is great, but if you don’t have a swim buddy or team, it’s important to find the right support system. Even if you enjoy swimming alone, it’s helpful to have a digital community that can support you.

Expert Tip:

Join the MySwimPro global community! You’ll join swimmers all over the world who are committed to improving their swimming with the help of MySwimPro. Join our Facebook community group and share your goals and experiences training with MySwimPro.

Join MySwimPro Community Group on Facebook.

These are a few of the most common freestyle mistakes we see made by beginner swimmers. With the right guidance, structure, and community you’ll be swimming faster in no time. Remember, no matter how fast (or slow) you swim, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.

Keep us posted and let me know if you have any questions swimming or MySwimPro app related. Email me at fares@myswimpro.com.

30 day trial

4 thoughts on “The Most Common Freestyle Mistakes Made by Beginner Swimmers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *