Mastering Front Crawl

Deep Dive into Swimming Technique

2/28/20243 min read

person swimming on an olympic pool
person swimming on an olympic pool

The front crawl, also known as freestyle, is the most efficient and widely used swimming stroke. Mastering its mechanics can unlock a world of aquatic enjoyment, from recreational swimming to competitive racing. This comprehensive guide delves into the key components of a well-executed front crawl, providing a foundation for improving your stroke and achieving optimal performance.

Body Position:

  • Streamlining: Maintaining a streamlined body position is crucial for minimizing drag and maximizing efficiency. Imagine yourself gliding through the water as a single unit, keeping your core engaged and your hips high. A slight head tilt downwards with eyes focused slightly forward helps maintain proper alignment.exclamation (Schweizer, 2020)exclamation

  • Body Roll: A subtle body roll, initiated from the core, can enhance stability and rotational power during the stroke cycle. The roll should not be exaggerated, aiming for a natural and coordinated movement. (Miller et al., 2018)exclamation


  • Bilateral Breathing: Breathing bilaterally (to both sides) is essential for maintaining a balanced body position and preventing over-rotation. Rotate your head to the side, keeping just enough of your mouth above the water to inhale. Exhale fully and quickly underwater before turning your head back to the swimming position. (Maglischo, 2015)

  • Timing: Coordinate your breathing with your arm stroke. Inhale as your arm recovers on one side and exhale underwater as the opposite arm pulls through the water. Maintain a consistent breathing rhythm throughout your swim.


  • Small, High-Frequency Kicks: Utilize a small, high-frequency flutter kick, primarily for body position maintenance rather than propulsion. Focus on kicking from the hips, not the knees, ensuring your legs remain relatively straight with a slight bend at the ankle. (Touw et al., 2015)exclamation

  • Coordination: Coordinate your kick with your arm stroke for a smooth and efficient movement pattern. Aim for a 2-beat or 4-beat kick, meaning your legs kick twice or four times per arm cycle, depending on personal preference and swim speed.


  • Smooth and Streamlined: Enter the water with a smooth, streamlined motion, aiming for a point just in front of your shoulder, not directly overhead. Avoid slapping the water, which creates unnecessary drag. Keep your fingers together and slightly pointed downwards, entering the water palm-down first.exclamation (Schweizer, 2020)exclamation

Catch and Pull:

  • High Elbow Catch: Initiate the pull with a high elbow catch, close to the centerline of your body. This position allows for a powerful and efficient pull through the water.exclamation Avoid reaching too far forward or dropping your elbow underwater during the catch.

  • S-Shaped Pull: During the pull, imagine your hand and arm tracing an S-shaped trajectory underwater. Start with your hand close to your body, pulling outwards and slightly downwards, then finishing the pull at your hip. Engage your lats and core muscles throughout the pull for maximum power transfer. (Maglischo, 2015)


  • Relaxed and Efficient: Recover your arm by lifting it out of the water with a relaxed and efficient motion. Keep your elbow high and avoid crossing your body with your arm during the recovery phase. Aim for a smooth and controlled movement, minimizing splashing and wasted energy.


  • Glide and Streamline: As you complete your arm pull, extend your arm fully forward and glide for a brief moment before entering the water again. This allows you to capitalize on the momentum generated by your pull and maintain a streamlined body position.exclamation (Touw et al., 2015)exclamation

Dives and Turns:

  • Streamlined Entry: Dives and turns require a streamlined entry into the water, minimizing drag and maximizing efficiency. Push off the wall with your legs explosively, maintaining a straight body position with your arms extended overhead. Enter the water at a shallow angle (10-15 degrees) and glide underwater for a short distance before resurfacing and initiating your stroke.

  • Somersault Turns: When performing tumble turns, ensure a tight tuck during the somersault, keeping your chin to your chest and your core engaged. Rotate quickly and powerfully, pushing off the wall with your legs and extending your arms for momentum upon surfacing.

Putting It All Together:

Mastering the front crawl requires consistent practice, focusing on each element and gradually bringing them together for a smooth and coordinated stroke. Remember, technique is key! By paying close attention to your body position, breathing, kicking, entry, pull, recovery, and finish, you can significantly improve your swimming efficiency and enjoy a more fulfilling and rewarding aquatic experience.


Front Crawl (Freestyle in competition)