As a beginner swimmer, freestyle is a great place to start. Freestyle is the most popular stroke, and is typically used as the base for most swim workouts. The stroke strikes a balance between rotation, power and glide, challenging nearly all of the muscles in your body.

Whether you call it freestyle or front crawl, master these 5 fundamentals to swim with more efficiency and less drag.

1. Head Position

Head position is the foundation of good swimming. Your body takes cues from your head, meaning that if your head is in the wrong position, it could throw off your entire stroke and make you swim slower! 

Related: 10 Beginner Swim Tips for Adults

Ideally, you’ll look straight down at the bottom of the pool when swimming freestyle. This encourages your hips to stay high in the water, close to the surface. If you look forward too much, your hips will drop and create lots of extra resistance.

The waterline should be in the middle of the crown of your head. It should feel like you’re swimming downhill!

2. Breathing

Once you’ve got your head position down, it’s time to add in breathing. We know breathing can be really challenging when you’re new to swimming, and it can be tempting to lift your head straight up to catch your breath if you’re really tired. Remember: Lifting your head up will create more drag, making it even harder to keep moving forward.

Related: 5 Freestyle Drills for Beginners

Instead, turn your head to the side, keeping one eye and one ear in the water. It may feel like you’re going to inhale water, but your forward momentum will create a small air pocket that’s just big enough for you to take a quick breath! 

As you get comfortable with the rotational nature of freestyle, you’ll find that breathing gets easier. Keep practicing!

3. The Pull

Now for the pull. Your hand should enter the water fingertips first, slightly wider than your shoulders. Think 11 and 1 on a clock! 

Related: What is Early Vertical Forearm?

Reach and extend your arm forward, and initiate an Early Vertical Forearm (EVF). Bend at the elbow, and pull straight back toward your feet, keeping your elbow nice and high. EVF turns your forearm into a huge paddle, allowing you to pull more water than you would with a straight arm. It’s also easier on your shoulders, too.

When your hand exits the water, keep your elbow high as you recover and re-enter the water. A good rule of thumb is to keep your elbow above your hand both above and below the water!

4. The Kick

In freestyle kick, your legs should be relatively straight, with minimal knee bend. The kick should come from your hips, rather than your knees. Keep your toes pointed!

Your kick should be small and fast — try not to let the space between your feet exceed half a meter (about 18 inches). You may think taking large kicks will be more powerful, but when it comes to speed and efficiency, a compact kick is the way to go.

5. Rotational Momentum

And finally, your rotation puts each aspect of your stroke together. As you swim, your body should rotate from side to side to maximize your distance per stroke. When you rotate, think about initiating from the core and your hips, rather than your shoulders.

Related: How to Write a Swim Workout

As your hand enters the water and you stretch forward, you’ll start rotating (and maybe take a breath!). Then, as your other hand recovers and re-enters the water, you’ll rotate to the other side.

Put it all together and you have freestyle! Take time to focus on your technique, and you’ll soon be able to swim faster and longer.

Need more guidance with your swim training? Download the MySwimPro app and check out our beginner-specific swim training plans! Start a free, 30-day trial of ELITE to unlock all of our swim workouts, technique videos and coaching resources.

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