A good technique is important in freestyle swimming; therefore, you should devote more time to improving freestyle stroke. The freestyle stroke is popular, efficient, and it is an important skill for every swimmer to know.
Although the freestyle technique appears simple, it can be challenging to do without adequate knowledge. Every part of the body is utilized in freestyle swimming – from the arms to the legs, and it requires proper body coordination.
Your level of efficiency solely depends on your understanding of how the freestyle stroke works. If you are looking for how to improve your freestyle stroke (even as a beginner), you are at the right article.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Eight Ways to Improve your Freestyle Stroke
Freestyle swimming requires regular practice; however, it would be best if it is practiced correctly. I have highlighted eight ways to improve your freestyle stroke.
1. Positioning Your Head Correctly
A number of swimmers often make mistakes when it comes to positioning their head. Some swimmers may even raise their heads, while some might position their heads to see ahead. If your head is too low, your trunk will be at the water surface.
Often, this disrupts the balance and the hydrodynamics of the body. You are more likely to get slowed down, become exhausted, or sink this way. In the long, you may also experience neck strain and become stressed out.
While swimming, the head plays a crucial role in one’s performance. The head basically spearheads your movement; hence, you need to keep a streamlined body. Keeping a streamlined body starts with positioning your head correctly.
For optimum hydrodynamics, you should focus on the bottom of the pool. You should not worry about hitting your head on the wall. Simply focus on the track guides and the painting at the pool’s bottom.
2. Body Positioning
Besides your head, you also need to position your body correctly. When swimming in the water, your body already has some level of resistance (drag). However, this drag depends on how well you can minimize it.
If your body is well-streamlined, you will enjoy excellent hydrodynamics, meaning less drag while swimming. Since you have maintained a neutral head position, you should also ensure that your trunk balances with it.
Ideally, your hips should be aligned with your head. It should not go excessively lower than your body; else, you will sink. Also, it should not float on the water surface; else, your kicking will be less efficient.
3. Utilizing Your Arms Properly
This is the most important part of freestyle swimming. Your arms (stroke) plays a crucial role in your performance. If you are going to improve distance per stroke, you should be ready to engage in quality swimming workouts.
There are two important phases in the freestyle stroke – the catch and the pull. Nevertheless, how your arms enter and exit the water in an alternating and synchronized manner is equally important. You should attempt to follow the cycle below.
Let’s take our starting position when you have extended your arm forward and ready to go into the water. You should gently move your forearm down while you maintain a high elbow. This will get you prepared for a powerful catch phase.
The catch phase aims to help you catch a large mass of water. Therefore, if the catch phase is well-executed, your chances of getting a big thrust are high. It is important if you want to swim freestyle faster.
The early vertical forearm technique comes to play here. You need to place your forearm in an almost vertical position. You should utilize your fingers to increase the amount of pull you’ll get.
In this phase, your hands should resemble a cup such that your fingers are closed into each other. This way, water will get trapped in the “cup.” You should feel resistance in your hand as you do this.
Now it’s time to turn your catch into a powerful thrust. To ensure a powerful thrust, you must understand the pull aspect properly. Gradually, pull your hand along your body towards your hip while extending your arm.
Here (this stage), your forearm is simply a paddle. Moving too quickly when you are just starting or spreading your fingers will let you lose grip of the water.
Exit and recovery
As your forearm gradually approaches your hip, you should rotate such that your hip doesn’t get in its way. You can also utilize some “left-over” power in the dying out pull phase.
At this stage, the pull transitions into a push. You should simply continue the pathway till that arm exits the water at your hip region and prepares to enter the water again.
When performing the freestyle stroke, you should make sure that your arms are correctly synchronized with each other. You should also ensure that you do not overstretch your arm during recovery. It can cause water turbulence, strain your shoulder, or lead to swimmer’s shoulder.
Take a look at the video below for more details.
4. Body Rotation
During every stroke, you are expected to rotate your body from one side to another according to your arm in action. Performing body rotations offers additional power and protects your shoulders from the strain.
While maintaining a neutral head position, your body should rotate in the opposite direction of the pull arm as it approaches your hip. As you swim and alternate your arms, your body core (especially the hips) should also alternate.
This helps to keep you as streamlined as possible, and it should take some swimming workouts to perfect it.
5. Breathing the Right Way
A lot of swimmers make the error of raising their head to breathe, and that where everything starts to go wrong. Raising your head out of the water will affect your balance, causing dragging and likely sinking you.
So how do you breathe? There’s always room to inhale in freestyle swimming, and this is synchronized with your body rotation. As you roll your body from side to side, you should rotate your head alongside.
Rotating your head gives you an opportunity that you need to utilize to the fullest. You should have one eye underwater and the other above the water surface. Your mouth should also leave the water as well.
You should feel like your head is on a “water pillow.” The water line should be in the middle of your face. This is just the right time to inhale with your mouth before you rotate your body (and head) again.
You should not attempt to exhale when your head is partially above the water. Instead, you should exhale in the water until your lungs are near empty before turning to inhale again. You should get better with regular practice.
6. Kicking and Kick Timing
If you want to swim freestyle faster, you should take your kicking very seriously. The timing of your kick largely influences how efficient your kick will be. You may have a two-beat, four-beat, or six-beat kick.
The two-beat kick is best suited for swimming long distances and triathlons, allowing more speed and energy conservation. If you want powerful, short sprints, you should opt for the six-beat kick.
For most beginners, the problem is kicking too big or even dragging down themselves. The ideal kick should be smooth and streamlined. You should always kick from the hips and not your knees.
Your ankle should be flexible enough while your knee is slightly bent. You should also push downward and exit your legs properly. It may take a while to improve freestyle kick, but it is beneficial in the long run.
Take a look at the video below for more details.
7. Improving Your Turns
If you are in a freestyle swimming competition, your turns (and finishes) can give you an advantage over other swimmers. Learning how to do a flip turn in swimming requires more effort and patience.
During flip turns, you need to maintain your speed and worry less about crashing into the pool’s wall. In fact, increasing your speed as you approach the wall will help you generate a powerful return speed.
For better performance, you should hold your breath while making flip turns to avoid losing balance. You can exhale a little if the water is entering your nostrils. Do not raise your head or chin to avoid over-rotating.
Simply extend your arms outwards as you reach the “T” mark on the pool floor. Take a powerful stroke and do a smooth somersault. Tuck your head in and put your arms to your sides.
Better curling will allow you to flip turn faster. Afterward, plant your feet on the wall and launch yourself into the next lap by pushing your feet into the wall.
8. Use Some Accessories
Some accessories may also help you in improving freestyle stroke. As a beginner, nose clips can help you breathe easily while you swim. A good pair of swimming earplugs will help keep water out of your ears, preventing the swimmer’s ear.
You should also consider swimming goggles for every training session and competition to protect your eyes. Swim fins can help you improve ankle flexibility and strength, while swim gloves or swim paddles will aid your catch (arm stroke).
Do you have questions related to freestyle stroke? Did you miss some essential information? You should take a look at some of the frequently asked questions I answered below.
What Is a Good Freestyle Stroke Rate?
In truth, there isn’t any perfect stroke rate. The ideal stroke is what works best for you. However, you should attempt to get better. Instead, we should call it a safe stroke rate. A stroke rate of 48 to 70 in a minute is best, i.e., 24 to 35 strokes each for both arms in a minute.
How Can I Swim Freestyle Without Getting Tired?
You should have a good understanding of the freestyle swimming technique, including the dos and don’ts. Also, you should create more time for regular practice, adequate sleep, and a balanced diet.
How Can I Improve My Freestyle Time?
With the proper technique, you can better your previous freestyle swimming record. You may also consider maintaining a streamlined body position, keeping your head in a neutral position, and attempting flip turns. You should consider exhaling in water and also hold your breath during flip turns.
Freestyle is quite popular in swimming; hence, every swimmer must understand how it works. When improving freestyle stroke, I recommended that you take it slowly. Regular and quality training sessions should be your priority.
You should create a schedule on how to handle each component of freestyle swimming. In freestyle swimming, the emphasis is on accurate timing, excellent body coordination, and proper body posture. By now, you should have a good grasp of how you can improve your freestyle stroke.
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