For anyone who has never properly learned to swim, swimming freestyle can seem like a daunting thing to do. Without any coaching, some seem to be able to get themselves going, but it always stays a struggle. 'How do they make it look so easy?' 'They're not even putting in any effort!', 'They're not even puffed!'. If you've ever said or thought anything like this, chances are you don't know about the Foundations of Freestyle. Just by understanding the Four Foundations, you'll notice swimming will become easier, you will enjoy it more and become a faster swimmer without putting more effort in.
Over the last 6 years of coaching swimmers of all levels, I've learned that swimming a good freestyle comes down to understanding and mastering the below Four Foundations of Freestyle. If you are new to swimming and have never properly learned how to swim Freestyle, this is the place to start your swimming journey. Or if you have been swimming for quite a while, but you are not getting any better or quicker, keep reading!
Foundation 1. Hold Your Balance
The first Foundation to understand is Balance, which is critical in creating a streamlined position in the water.
First of all, let's bring up the fact that water is 1,000 times denser than air. Yes, let that sink it. Once you realise this, you understand why streamlining in the water is so important. Any bit of your body that is not streamlined, will create resistance, 1,000 times more than movement on land.
There are two parts to balancing your body in the water:
A vertical and high-up body position. Making sure your legs are high up as well, by leaning forward on your chest, head and leading arm. The main issue I correct in Private Coaching Sessions is legs that are dragging too low behind the body. This builds up so much resistance and makes swimming so much harder.
Rotation. Turning your body slightly to the right and slightly to the left when swimming freestyle, creates a more streamlined body position and this helps you to breathe more easily and increase the power of your stroke. For new swimmers, or swimmers who have never worked on this before, balancing on a 45 degree in your side can be a real challenge.
Foundation 2. Find Your Strength
As I mentioned in Foundation 1, water is 1,000 times denser than air. This creates challenges when thinking about the extra resistance this creates, but it creates opportunities when thinking of the added power this can give you.
Understanding how water works will help you to increase your power. If you try to hold water in your hand, it'll just run out through your fingers. But if you slap the water with a flat hand, it feels rock hard. Have you ever noticed in the sport of diving that they spray the water where they land? This makes the water move, which creates a softer landing. So moving water is soft, and still water is hard.
When pulling and pushing yourself forward in the water you want to find this still water to increase your power. The water underneath your body is moving because you just pushed your body through it, you will never find great power there. If you go a bit wider with your arms, you will find still water to push yourself forward.
Always focus on finding the hardest way to push your arm back through the water, this means you get more out of each stroke.
The other way to find strength is to make sure your body is positioned in a way that it can deliver the most power. You would never try to push yourself up out of the pool with straight arms, you automatically bend your elbows at about 90 degrees, because this is how you're at your strongest.
Try to do the same when swimming Freestyle. When you grab the water, bend your elbow at about 90 degrees and you'll find a lot more strength in your stroke.
This bend arm together with rotating from side to side will give your superpower in the water!
Foundation 3. Time It Right
Timing is everything in swimming. With the wrong timing of your stroke, you fight yourself and make it hard, if you get it right you'll glide through the water and make most of every bit of power you put into it.
Freestyle is not a continuous movement, you will get little rests which you will use to glide.
You always want to have a leading arm out front, which keeps you long in the water and helps you to stay up high. Most people drop their leading arm too early and find themselves laying in the water with one arm down and the other up out of the water. This short moment will make you sink and create much more resistance.
Instead, think about leaving your leading arm out until your other arm is nearly back forward again and ready to take over the position of leading arm. This way your arm gets a little rest after each stroke and you stay streamlined.
Kicking at the right time helps with getting the glide going as well. Just as you start the stroke with your left arm, you want to kick down with your left leg. And when you start your stroke with your right arm, you kick down with the right leg. Of course, you can do little kicks in between these bigger kicks, but timing these bigger ones right will give you a beautiful extra push.
Foundation 4. Breathe Out, Breathe In
In yoga and other breathing exercises, you are told to breathe into your nose and out through your mouth. In swimming it's almost the opposite. You breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose and mouth.
Most people struggle with breathing while swimming because of the following issues:
Incorrect body position
Struggle with balance
Don't breathe out underwater
Try to breathe in through their nose
Incorrect timing of the stroke
You might notice from the list above that the other 3 Foundations of Freestyle are all needed to make breathing in swimming easy.
Going through these Four Foundations of Swimming Freestyle in this presented order and mastering each Foundation before moving on to the next, will result in an easy and effortless Freestyle.
I am currently working on an Online Program to guide you through these Four Foundations of Freestyle to become a strong swimmer. This program will include more detailed explanations of each foundation and drills and exercises to master each one. If you are interested in joining this program when it's launched, please contact me via the contact form below.
I hope you've enjoyed this blog and learned a few new things to improve your swimming. I would love to hear how this has helped you, so please leave a comment below.