Freestyle is the most popular swimming stroke in the world, and is an essential skill that all swimmers should focus on. We truly believe that every single swimmer has at least one element of their freestyle stroke that can be refined and improved.

In this episode of #WhiteboardWednesday, we’re teaching you how to swim freestyle with perfect technique.

To hear all our tips, listen to this episode on Soundcloud or watch the video above to see how it’s done!

1 – Body Positioning


The most important part of swimming is the concept of streamline. This is when your body is as narrow as possible, moving through the water so that you reduce the amount of drag you have.

Related: Learn to Float in Less Than 10 Minutes!

Head Position

The placement of your head and where your eyes are looking is critical. When you swim freestyle, try to look down and focus your eyes on the bottom of the pool. Your neck and your head should be in a neutral position, straight above your shoulders. You should not lift your head or eyes up in front of you. Keeping your eyes focused on the bottom of the pool will keep your legs higher in the water, making it easier to move in the water.

Hip Position

If you have a neutral head position with your eyes focused down, your hips will naturally lift up, making it much easier to kick. Try to focus your upper body lower in the water, which will make your hips higher in the water. Add short and strong flutter kicks, and your legs will be right on the surface of the water.

Related: 10 Steps to Smarter Freestyle

2 – The Catch

The “catch” refers to your arms pulling water as your body moves forward.


Your hands should be relaxed with a few millimeters of space between each finger. This actually helps you swim faster and increases the power of your pull compared to swimming with your hands cupped tightly together!

Related: How to Improve Your Catch with Open Finger Swim Training

Your fingertips should enter the water around 12-18 inches in front of your shoulder at a 45 degree angle to the water. Your middle finger should enter the water first, followed by a long reaching extension through your shoulder and arm. Once your shoulder is fully extended, your chest will open up to the side, and you will keep your head looking down. This is the beginning of your catch, where you will start to pull water with your full arm.

Related: Sculling Drills to Improve Your Feel of the Water


EVF stands for Early Vertical Forearm. After your arm is fully extended, you will reach your fingertips toward the bottom of the pool, trying to keep your forearm as vertical as possible so it acts as a paddle, pulling a lot of water behind you as you move forward.

Related: How To Do Perfect Early Vertical Forearm (EVF)

Pull Phase

After your arm bends down at the elbow, you will begin your pull. You will want to pull straight down along the side of your body, keeping your hand cupped, as your elbow extends at your hips. Try not to cross your arms along the center of your body, as this will cause you to not move in a straight line.

Related: Analyzing Katie Ledecky’s Freestyle Technique

3 – Rotation

Hips & Shoulders

Every time you take a stroke, you will want to keep your head in place, and use your hips to rotate to the right and left. Your hips will initiate the movement, and your shoulders will follow. Try to focus on rotating your body with your core, instead of leading with shoulder twists. Pairing these two parts of your body will keep your body in a perfect, streamlined position along the surface of the water.

Related: 4 Week Beginner Freestyle Training Plan 

4 – Breathing

Head Position & Rotation

The most important part of breathing in your freestyle stroke is to keep a neutral head position. You do now want to move your head forward or up, as this will ruin your body position and waste more energy than you need to.

When breathing, you should take a stroke with one arm, and as you reach forward, you’ll notice your full upper body rotating to the side. Your head and neck should follow the same momentum, and move at the same time as your chest opening up. Your head and neck will move together to your side, you will keep one eye underwater, and open your mouth to breathe. The water line should be in the middle of your face as you turn.

Make sure to focus on your opposite arm, as it should still be extended straight in front of you toward the surface of the water. This extension will keep your body more streamlined, and will allow you to continue the momentum forward. If you pull your arm down while you breathe, it will stop you from moving forward.

Related: The 5 Most Common Freestyle Mistakes

5 – Kicking

Keep It Simple

The most common problem that beginners face, is kicking too much and too big. This is an easy way to ruin your body positioning and actually slow you down. We recommend keeping it simple, and de-emphasizing your kick. For beginners – your body positioning, breathing, and arms will be much more important, and the kick should be an afterthought focused on just rotating your body.

Short & Fast Kicks From The Hips

In freestyle, you will use a flutter kick. Try to keep your legs almost straight, with a slight kick that really only moves from the knees to your toes. The power and strength comes from your hips. As you move through the water, your legs should kick in a short and quick motion. Try not to bend your knees too much. Bigger kicks that are taller than 12 inches in height will take up too much energy, and will ruin your streamline position.

6 – Silent Swimming

Heading, Touching, Smelling, Tasting, and Seeing

Focus on all of your senses as you move through the water. This intense focus and thoughtfulness will help you refine your stroke and pinpoint where you might not be as efficient in the water. The goal is to make the least amount of noise as you swim, which means that you are gliding through the water in a smooth motion.

And most of all, being aware of your experience in the water will make your swimming much more enjoyable! This is a wonderful opportunity to connect with your body, mind and spirit and simple relax in the pool. We always recommend a couple laps of silent swimming to end every workout!

Related: How to Write a Swim Workout for Beginners

How To Practice Your Freestyle Stroke

There are hundreds of swim workouts and drills that you can try in the water to practice your freestyle stroke. Check out our YouTube channel, this article, or download the MySwimPro app for more tips and workout ideas!

I hope this Whiteboard Wednesday was helpful in mastering the perfect freestyle. Have questions? Leave us a comment below! For more tips like this, follow our series on the MySwimPro YouTube Channel

Happy swimming!

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34 thoughts on “How To Swim Freestyle With Perfect Technique

  1. Muy interesante vuestra explicación. Tengo 70 años y aprendí a nadar de adulto, por lo que no se los estilos. Al ver el video me facilita la comprensión. Agradezco explicaciones en español. Gracias

  2. I am a 50 year old beginner swimmer. I’ve been swimming 1500 yards 5 days a week for the last 2 months. I’ve read a great deal on this and the arm position seems to be up for debate between straight and deep pull v. the high elbow pull. There doesn’t seem to be a right answer but certainly some options.

    What I have read though and seems conclusive is that fingers should NOT be cupped but flat with fingers spread 4-8mm apart to reduce drag. There is an enormous amount of info on this and its goes against your article suggestion.

    Again Im a beginner, and old, but read a ton so as to be as efficient as possible.

    1. You’re right about keeping your hands flat with fingers slightly spread (soft). A straight arm poll isn’t optimal though. Without an early vertical forearm the initial half of your stroke pushes down on the water as opposed to backwards. The EVF creates more forward propulsion in the early part of the stroke.

  3. Perfect break down- “how to” – TY
    My question is:
    How to convey “the hip-solders” to (7 & 9 yrs old)? – – – They are fast regardless the style perfection lol
    I tried to “manually” moved their bodies (moving their “Hip & Shoulder” phenomena)
    however – they practiced “their way” aka “speed” was their essential focus – who’ll be the 1st at the wall.
    Its laughable – but they love it lol -(so- — I let them & enjoy item
    any thoughts how to make them want to improve ?
    They have been swimming w/me since 2013th – (2 & 4) thanks for their parents taking the “no prisoners” attitude –
    The kids now swim 3x IM/ in 50m pool – & 1 IM kick legs while I’m “shouting @ them “strength up your legs or drag them”

  4. Great video and explanation. I agree with all just one thing I can not agree with… you mentioned about head positions, “cap should be half out”. Actually, head should be exactly between back and chest so not make any extra water resistance.
    You can see on example of this girl swimming how she have wave over her head, she crushing water surface with her head, should be a bit under the water.
    Great job, I love your videos. Keep good work. Is really good to have new ideas and more open mind.

    Thank you for your efforts.
    Gaga 🙂

  5. What a great summary of the fundamentals of the freestyle stoke. The body position seems so easy, yet can be so tricky. Great tips here.
    I just joined a masters swim class and they have really opened my eyes to better, more efficient swimming.
    I do see disagreement about how far out one reaches forward before entering the water with the arm, but it may be a matter of preference.
    Thank you.

  6. Hi, I’m 68 in June. This is my 5th year swimming 5 days per week 1.5 klm each day freestyle! I swim at McKeons swim centre Unanderra NSW. Even after swimming for this amount of time I’m still not the best at it! I swim with a snorkel and with dumbbells between my legs to support my neck and sciatic nerve in the hip area respectively. Thank you for the great feedback!

    Could you tell me the best flippers to use for freestyle and backstroke? And, the best strengthening exercises for someone my age and issues above?
    Thank you Rob

  7. Fabulous comprehensive lesson! Covers every bit from tips of head and fingers to toes. Ahhh-mazing. Can’t stand it. I gotta get in the pool.

  8. Thanks – what a clearly expressed and informative video. I am a veteran of 30 years – I learned my kick is too big! Thanks!!

  9. Yes I need help!
    Swimming for 5 years and haven’t gained any speed.
    I fishtail too much, think my kicking needs much work.

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