How to Correct 3 Common Freestyle Mistakes

March 19, 2021

The freestyle, also known as the front crawl, is the most popular stroke in the world.

Because it’s the fastest and most efficient stroke, it can take you farther than other strokes with less effort. The front crawl also provides a great workout for the entire body and is thought to have the greatest impact on toning the back muscles.

Below, we break down three common mistakes to help you master the freestyle and move with greater ease and speed in the water.


#1 – Swimming With Your Head Up

Proper body position is essential to the efficiency of your stroke. For the freestyle, your body position should be horizontal, with your face parallel to the bottom of the pool. Make sure your hairline is aligned with the water’s surface. If you can see the other end of the pool, it’s a good indicator your head position is too high.

Keeping your body flat and level will help you move faster through the water. According to CA swim instructor Carl Barr, it’s also essential to keep your head in line with your body, so that your hips stay high.


#2 – Lifting Your Head to Breathe

Lifting your head to breathe will slow you down significantly. The solution? Bilateral breathing, which means breathing to both sides to create smooth, even strokes and keep your body balanced.

“In freestyle, we breathe by turning our head to the side in which the arm has pulled down,” said Lord. “For example, if your right arm has pulled down to your right side, then you’ll turn your head to the right side to breathe.”

You’ll want to inhale when you turn your head to the side, and exhale as your face and arm enter back into the water. When turning your head to the side, one eye should be above the water and one eye submerged. It’s important to turn to the side 90 degrees — anything more requires more effort, which will throw off your balance and efficiency.

“Becoming a bilateral breather takes time, but will only strengthen your freestyle,” said Lord. “Start by breathing to your dominant side, and as you become more comfortable, you can practice breathing to a pattern such as every three or every five strokes.”

Beyond breathing purposes, it’s important to let your head rotate with your body and face for proper body positioning, since lifting the head tends to sink the legs and hips.


#3 – Kicking Too Wide

While your arms pull you forward during this stroke, your kick is like the engine to the car. It needs to be strong and consistent during the entire pull, catch and recovery. One common mistake is kicking too wide, which creates a lot of your drag.

You’ll want to keep your feet and ankles relaxed, with your toes pointed. Kick up and down in a continuous alternating motion starting from your thighs. You can think of this movement as a tight, scissor-like movement beneath the water.

“Kicks that are too wide will not keep a long body line, which is helpful for floating. Smaller and faster kicks will make it much easier to keep your body in line with the surface of the water,” said Lord.


Want Expert Help Mastering The Freestyle?

CA offers one-on-one swim lessons for all ages and skill levels. Our coaches and swim lesson instructors are passionate about helping you work on your technique and become a stronger, more confident swimmer. Learn more here.

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