How to execute the perfect front crawl

The front crawl, or freestyle, is regarded as the fastest of the four primary swimming strokes.

It is also considered the most popular – so popular, in fact, that historians have dated it back as far as the stone age! The front crawl takes effort to perfect. But mastered correctly you’ll find yourself flying past your fellow swimmers.

Abbeycroft Leisure’s local swimming centres in Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Mildenhall and Newmarket are the perfect places to polish up your freestyle techniques. Come on down and practise the following techniques:

Body movement and positioning
  • Your body should remain flat, lying parallel to the water.
    • Tip: one of the biggest barriers to this is drag from feet and legs. Try keeping your head low and your legs should follow suit.
  • Keep your head still (unless breathing), whilst rolling your torso from side to side. This reduces resistance in the water. The work needs to come from your hips and shoulders, with assistance from your strong back muscles to support your weaker shoulder muscles.
Breathing technique
  • Choose a breathing side. This will normally depend on whether you’re left or right-handed.
  • Whilst your arm is above your head, turn your head to the side and take a quick breath.
    • Tip: time your head movement with the rising of your arm for optimum manoeuvrability.
  • Be sure not to lift your head too far out of the water as it will cause your legs to sink. Aim to keep one side of your face in the water. The water line should sit between your eyebrows and your hairline.
Arm movement

There are two areas to consider with arm technique: pull and recovery.

  • Pull: keep your palms facing down and your elbow slightly bent. Pull towards, and exit the water at your hip, ensuring that you accelerate throughout the stroke.
    • Tip: many liken this increase in acceleration to rolling your hand over a beach ball and flinging it behind you.
  • Recovery: keeping your elbow bent, lift your arm out of the water. Keep your hand close to the body throughout the sweep, with your elbow high, and enter the water again with your fingertips.
Leg movement
  • Keep your legs close together with your ankles relaxed.
  • Point your toes outwards and kick up and down using your thighs for power. Remember to keep your legs straight
    • Tip: it’s easy to think that large and heavy up and downbeats are necessary, but they’re not. Keep your motions small. This way you won’t tire yourself before a length is out.
Practise your front crawl technique at one of Abbeycroft Leisure’s many centres. Take a look at our swim timetables here. Our Lifestyle Aqua membership offers unlimited swimming across all Abbeycroft centres with no commitment period. Learn more here.
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