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Freestyle Swimming – 10 Tips to Improve your Technique

In freestyle swimming, good technique is crucial for success. Having good technique allows you to either swim at a moderate pace in a relaxed fashion or to swim at a fast pace without getting exhausted too quickly.

With these considerations in mind, we have listed a few swimming tips below to help you achieve these goals.

1. Use a Neutral Head Position

Keep your head in line with the rest of your body and look directly at the bottom of the pool.

A swimmer with a neutral head position

When swimming in freestyle, many people tend to look forward rather than down. The problem with this approach is that it can cause the legs and hips to drop.

As a result, you have to kick harder to keep your legs up, and you get tired faster, and you also get out of breath faster.

In addition, looking forward constantly in this position can put a strain on your neck in the long run.

2. Press Your Buoy

The key to maintaining a good balance in freestyle, so that your body is horizontal and your legs do not drop, is to learn how to press your buoy.

Note how this freestyle swimmer has a good horizontal balance. Her hips and legs do not drop but remain close to the water surface.

By pressing the buoy, we mean that in the water, you are pushing your chest down a little all the time.

Imagine your body being a seesaw. The fulcrum is located between the navel and the groin.

Your upper body is on one side of the seesaw, where your air-filled lungs act like a buoy. Your legs are on the other side of the seesaw.

When you push your chest down a little, your body pivots at the fulcrum, and your hips and legs move up to the water surface.

Learning this swimming technique is often a crucial step because it allows you to keep your legs up without effort and focus on other aspects of your stroke.

I know people who have been triathletes for years and are good at running and cycling, but have a weakness in swimming because they don’t know this technique.

3. Do Not Lift Your Head to Breathe

Do not lift your head forward before turning sideways to breathe. This common mistake also causes your hips and legs to drop.

Lifting your head to breathe disrupts your balance

Instead, roll to the side and at the same time turn your head a bit further so that your mouth leaves the water.

This should feel like turning your head on a pillow lying on the surface of the water.

Ideally, you should have one eye above the water surface and one eye under the water surface. Being able to do this takes time and practice.

4. Swim on Your Side

Rolling from side to side provides additional strength

If you roll from one side to the other in this way, instead of swimming “flat”, you can activate the larger back muscles in addition to the shoulder muscles, which gives additional strength to your arm stroke.

5. Breathe Out in the Water

To develop an effective freestyle stroke, you need to breathe out continuously in the water while your face is underwater.

Breathe out in the water

The reason for this is that during the arm recovery there is not enough time to both inhale and exhale laterally.

Breathing out continuously also allows you to be more relaxed than when holding your breath.

6. Use a High-Elbow Position

Use a high elbow position while pulling your arm back in the water.

A high elbow position allows you to hold a vertical forearm for a longer period of time.

The technique of the high elbow is to bend the elbow and bring the forearm into a vertical position as quickly as possible during the underwater phase of the arm stroke.

To keep the forearm vertical, you must keep the bent elbow as high as possible for as long as possible during the active pulling phase.

By holding your forearm vertically, you increase your grip on the water and thus improve the propulsion.

7. Do not Overreach with Your Recovering Arm

Do not overreach with your recovering arm.

Doing this is a bad idea as it creates turbulence in the water and additional drag.

In addition, the full extension of the recovering arm above water increases shoulder strain, and can lead to swimmer’s shoulder over time.

It is best to cut the water with your hand halfway between the top of your head and the span of the fully extended arm and pass the arm through at the same spot.

8. Use a Two-Beat Kick for Long-Distance Swimming

The use of a relaxed two-beat kick is ideal for long-distance swimming, as it saves energy.

A two-beat kick is well suited for long-distance freestyle swimming.

Similarly, you can be more relaxed learning the front crawl with the two-beat kick as you consume less oxygen and therefore need to breathe less often than with the six-beat kick.

With the two-beat kick, you kick once with each leg over the entire stroke cycle, or a total of two times with both legs. This means arm strokes and leg kicks are in sync.

With the six-beat kick, on the other hand, you kick three times with each leg over the entire stroke cycle, or a total of six times with both legs. The arm strokes are therefore executed more slowly than the leg kicks.

The six-beat kick is better for short sprint races because it allows you to swim faster, but on the other hand, you can also get out of breath more quickly as the big leg muscles consume a lot of oxygen.

9. Do not Put On the Brakes

When extending your arm forward under water during the recovery, make sure to keep your hand flat and parallel to the water surface with your palm facing down.

Pay attention to your hand positioning.

When they do this, they push water forward and thereby slow themselves down.

10. The Use of a Nose Clip is Fine

When you learn freestyle, a nose clip can be useful as it keeps water out of your nose.

A nose clip makes breathing easier when learning to swim

If you don’t have to worry about getting water in your nose, you can be more relaxed, which speeds up your progress.

Once you’ve learned the basics of the freestyle technique after a few months, you can wean yourself off the nose clip.

For example, I used a nose clip for a year when I started swimming freestyle, and that helped me a lot.


I hope the above swimming tips will help you improve your freestyle swimming technique.

Some of these suggestions can be applied immediately, while others can take some time to be put into practice, but there is no harm in trying them out.

Good luck and have fun!


This article by Christophe Keller originally appeared here:

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