So you traded in kiddie goggles for sunglasses years ago. Still, it’s never too late to learn how to swim or improve your form. You might be interested in perfecting the freestyle swim technique because you’ve entered a triathlon, or perhaps you want to learn for your own enjoyment and physical fitness. No matter the reason, using the proper beginner freestyle technique will boost your speed in the water, lessen workout fatigue and reduce the risk of injury. You'll also get a more toned and trim physique in the process, which may just make you wonder why you didn't hit the pool sooner.
Swim as high in the water as possible when freestyle swimming. This helps to minimize drag -- moving through air creates less resistance than moving through the water. Keep your hips and legs from sinking into the water by concentrating on driving your chest toward the bottom of the pool with each stroke. This will naturally raise your lower body closer to the surface.
You need to breathe while you are swimming but the act of inhaling and exhaling takes you out of your natural swimming rhythm. One freestyle swimming technique for breathing is to inhale with your mouth when your face is out of the water and turned to the side, and exhale with your mouth or nose when your face turns back into the water. Inhale on your leading arm side when that arm hits full extension in front of you. Your face and mouth should be relaxed when you breathe and you should exhale twice as long as you inhale. Alternating breaths so each one is on a different side allows you to avoid being off-balance with your stroke and developing shoulder problems. Getting into this breathing rhythm may take a bit of practice.
Trying to kick too hard creates drag that limits your propulsion. Using short, flicking kicks while freestyle swimming provides power while reducing drag. Trainer Roch Frey says in “Runner’s World” that swimmers should imagine they are using the top of their feet to lightly kick a soccer ball. Olympian Emily Silver recommends in “Stack Magazine” that you point toes as straight as possible when kicking and try to kick six times for each arm stroke. A kicking motion that is driven from the hips with the knees kept straight reduces drag by keeping a straight line throughout the leg. However, over-kicking from the hips can also cause drag, so try to strike a balance.
Freestyle swimming uses a pulling motion with the upper arms. Your arms move in a circular, windmill motion opposite each other so that when one arm is extended in front of you the other arm is back. Your hand should chop through the water with your fingers together. Let your hands enter the water near eye level and push them through the water until they are fully extended. Pull your lead arm all the way through and continue to pull until your hand reaches your hip.
- Runner’s World: Why Not Tri?
- STACK: Olympian Swimming Skills - Five Ways to Improve Your Freestyle Form
- Human Kinetics: Five Tips for Better Breathing While Swimming
- STACK: Get Instantly Faster by Improving Your Freestyle Swim Kick Technique
- Fit Fins Swim School, Inc.: Beginner’s Guide to Freestyle Swimming – Pulling
- BeginnerTriathlete.com: 10 Steps to Improving Your Swim
Richard Manfredi has more than a decade of professional writing experience, both in the media and at a corporate level. Since 2003, he has worked in the public relations industry, creating and executing campaigns for technology and entertainment companies. Manfredi is also a journalist who has worked for the "Orange County Register," as well as several online publications.