Freestyle, or front crawl, is the most efficient and fastest of the four competitive swimming strokes. It also is popular with recreational and fitness swimmers because it's easy to do and builds muscular strength and endurance in the full body. Swimming crawl also improves muscle flexibility and coordination, because arm and leg movements have to be synchronized. It is low-impact exercise and can benefit any age, from youngsters to senior citizens.
Work leg muscles for the crawl with kick drills, with or without a kickboard. Kick laps with your arms outstretched in front and your body in the same position as a full crawl stroke. Vary this with kicks while on your side, your bottom arm extended in front and your top arm out of the water on your hip. Alternate with a kickboard to support your upper body, held at arm's length in front of you. Put swim fins on your feet to increase resistance and build strength.
Arm pulls build strength and help with form. Support your legs with a flotation device and pull laps using only arm strokes. Incorporate a kick, but swim a lap using only one arm, turn around and swim back using only the other arm, focusing on hand entry into the water. Vary this by taking two strokes with one arm, then two with the other for the length of the pool.
Arm, Kick Rotations
Another type of arm drill is the six-count. Kick on your side for six counts, then take a full arm stroke to rotate your body to the other side, kick another six counts, then stroke with the other arm. A variation is to take three strokes on each side before rotating. Take three strokes and pause on one side for six kicks, take three more strokes and roll to the other side for six kicks for a full pool length, then turn around and go back.
Work your hands with sculls, sweeping your hands through the water with your elbows still. Scull upright while treading water with your legs or extend your arms down toward the pool bottom to scull forward. Swim laps with your fists balled up and concentrate on using your forearm to start the downward stroke motion.
Put Exercises Together
Incorporate body drills into workouts. A good freestyle workout starts with warmup laps of slow crawl and moves to alternating laps of kick or arm pull exercises with laps of regular crawl. Vary the intensity of the regular crawl laps from easy to sprint. You can vary the length of drills, from 50 to 100 meters each and also can include underwater swims and kicks. Allow for rests between laps.
Bob Haring has been a news writer and editor for more than 50 years, mostly with the Associated Press and then as executive editor of the Tulsa, Okla. "World." Since retiring he has written freelance stories and a weekly computer security column. Haring holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.