01 START WITH BODY POSITION
The biggest reason people struggle with swimming front crawl is their body position. If you feel massively out of breath or find your legs are kicking too hard and fast, then these could be symptoms of poor body position. The other thing we tend to see is a reliance on using a pull buoy – athletes swimming faster with a float between their legs than when they’re kicking!
All of this comes down to lacking a solid, strong body position, where your body is as horizontal as possible at all times rather than allowing your hips and legs to sink far below the surface.
To improve this key element, swimmers may be encouraged to ‘look down’ while swimming, but this is only part of the solution. What we really need to do is include ‘posture’ in our swim, i.e engage the core muscles.
By lengthening your spine or standing as tall in the water as you can, and pulling your belly button inward, we can turn the body into a see-saw that pivots over the lungs. This way, when you drop your chin a little and look down, it brings your hips up toward the surface.
By swimming tall and engaging the core/trunk muscles, not only do we reduce our frontal resistance, but it also puts us in a better position to control the water with our arms and helps us make swimming a full-body action, rather than just relying on the arms and shoulders.
A favourite cue of mine is to streamline every time you push off the wall. This does two things: 1. You get used to moving at a faster speed and maintaining at least some of that speed every length; 2.It encourages you to lengthen your spine and reset your body position each time.
When you push off the wall, have your arms pointing forward as far as your shoulders will allow. Not everyone has full range of motion around the shoulder, so it may be a case that your arms are a little lower than straight. This is okay, we work with what we can do. In a perfect world, you’re able to squeeze your ears between your biceps. You don’t need to hold this position for long, just one or two seconds before you start taking strokes.
If you like using a pull buoy, try swapping the float in and out periodically so that you can try to mimic the position you’re in when you don’t have the float. Another drill you can try is to put the float further down between your legs rather than at your thighs – challenge yourself!
Swimming (and particularly freestyle) is inherently complex, with a lot of moving parts. But the best way to improve your stroke is to build it from the foundations up, so that’s where we’ll begin!