Technique Drills to Improve the Front Crawl in Swimming

Be sure that your arms fully reach out in front of you before you start your underwater pull.
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The front crawl, or freestyle stroke, is an efficient, popular stroke that swimmers use for racing, fitness and recreation. USA Swimming defines this stroke as "alternate stroking of the arms over the surface of the water surface and an alternating (up-and-down) flutter kick." This stroke is challenging to master, but technique drills will help you develop a smoother, more comfortable stroke.

Kicking Drill

The kicking drill will help you develop a strong, steady kick to keep your body horizontal in the water and provide you with steady propulsion. While swimming on your side, extend the arm facing the bottom of the pool straight out in front of you and hold it there. Place your other arm at your side; this arm should be out of the water and your body should remain on its side throughout the drill. Kick one length of the pool, then repeat using your opposite arm to lead. Keep your face in the water, with your eyes looking toward the bottom of the pool. Move your head only when you need to get a breath, then return it to its neutral position in the water.

Zipper Drill

The zipper drill focuses on your out-of-water arm recovery and can be done at a slow or medium swimming pace. Don't forget to continue to kick. Imagine there are zippers running up each side of your body, from your hips to your armpits. As your arm finishes its freestyle stroke and exits the water, drag your thumb along your side as if you are pulling up the imaginary zipper. Once you reach your armpit, continue with your recovery and reach your hand out in front of you and place it in the water. Then repeat the process with the other arm. Focus on keeping your elbow high out of the water and roll your body as you go from one arm stroke to the other.

Fist Drill

The fist drill helps you focus on using your forearms to pull you through the water. Perform this drill while you're swimming the crawl stroke. Simply close your hands to make fists and swim your crawl stroke as you normally would. As your arm pulls underwater, reach your closed fist deep below you with a slight bend in the elbow. Your pull should finish near your thigh; then recover your arm as you normally would.

4-6-8 Kick Switch Drill

While swimming the crawl stroke, kick on your side for 4, 6 or 8 kicks. Then take 3 full arm strokes and switch to the other side. While kicking on your side, extend the arm facing the bottom of the pool in front of you while the other arm rests on your side. Focus on proper body and head positioning; your body should be long and horizontal in the water while your head remains in the water with your eyes looking toward the bottom of the pool. Your shoulders and hips roll together as you roll and switch from one side to the other.