Freestyle Swimming

Swimming, Swimming Progression, swimming technique, Triathlon, triathlon swimming -

Freestyle Swimming

In Triathlon the most efficient swimming style to use is the freestyle swimming stroke.  This technique is also referred to the 'front crawl' in some parts of the world.      As compared to other swimming strokes this stroke is:
  1. The fastest stroke
  2. The stroke that best uses our largest muscles in the most effective way
  3. Gives athletes the ability to ‘sight’ and see where they are going in Triathlon

The freestyle swim stroke has 8 key components

The kick -  This is often a forgotten part of the freestyle swimming stroke and in the Tri Edge training philosophy a very key component.  I am yet to find any top-level swimmer who does not posses a great kick.   Of all aspects of the freestyle stroke, the kick is the easiest to develop and will give the fastest returns.

The underwater pull – For most Triathletes, they focus 99% of their attention on developing their underwater pull.  This is the most technical part of a swimming stroke and will take many years to develop.   The biggest fault I have seen in most swimming squads are athletes racing the drill sessions.  Drill sessions should be done at a speed where you can get as close to your own perfection as possible.  Over time the drill sessions can speed up as your able to control your stroke at ever increasing speeds.

The reach and glide – Behind the kick, in my opinion the front catch is the second easiest aspect of a freestyle swimming technique to develop.  Freestyle swimming is forever a balance between minimizing your drag in the water (becoming slippery through the water) and increasing your forward drive (as combination of kick, mid catch and push.   Once again, in order to really glide through the water, you definitely need a certain level of kicking ability, if you disagree feel free to put on a band and see how far you glide with no kick.

The front catch – starting directly after your reach phase you will enter the front catch phase of the freestyle stroke.  The front catch is essential as it sets the platform for the remainder of your freestyle pull. This is perhaps the most talked about phase of a swimming stroke as it is very easy to identify if a swimmer ‘drops their elbows’.  The truth of the matter is that almost all swimmers from beginners to elites drop their elbows to certain degrees.  Olympic swimmers of course are measuring this in tiny iterations whereas the first timer will be trying to ‘rip back’ the water.  Overall this is the most difficult part of a stroke to develop however it is fundamental to taking yourself from an average swimmer up to an elite level.

The push – once the stroke has moved past your belly button you will now be entering the push phase of your freestyle stroke.  This is the phase where the power is generated. Your ability to have a full push back past your hip and down to the top of the leg, maintaining correct angles against the water and simultaneously gliding with the other arm in the most streamline position possible whilst maintaining your kick is where the magic happens.   Once again, the ability to maximize your push phase is directly set up by your front catch and mid-stroke.

Three final parts of the freestyle swimming stroke that are not often discussed however also very important are:

Body position in the water – this component starts with having the head in the correct position and travelling down the body through your sternum and down to the hips and feet.  Ideally good swimmers want to be as ‘high’ in the water as possible through their hips, without compromising any angles.  For example your body should almost be in a flat line from the crown of the head down to the feet.  Pushing your butt up high does not achieve this result.

Finger and hand position – we mentioned it briefly in the push back phase of freestyle swimming, however the hand position provides you the angles at which you meet with the water and exercise your force against the water.  Slight changes to the angle of your hands or how far apart your fingers are, will have an impact on your freestyle swimming

The recovery phase of the stroke – from when your hand exits at the push phase through to when it re-enters the water again, you are in the recovery phase of the stroke. Essentially this is dead time in a stroke, so increasing your arm speed through this phase is important.  Timing is critical through, and you do not want to de-stabilize your body as the front hand is in the critical glide phase and moving to the front catch.  Most often your recovery phase of the stroke will develop naturally as your swimming speed improves.

We hope this article gives you some insight into freestyle swimming.  Tri Edge has expert coaches at the pool every week if you want to develop this further and get some pointers.  Find out more about our training schedule and fees 

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