As most people know, freestyle is the fastest stroke, most efficient stroke, as the body maintains a streamlined position with the arms and legs are able to apply constant propulsive forces. The arms perform an alternating action while the legs perform a continuous flutter movement.
The body position needs to be streamlined and kept ‘long’ with the arms extending above the head to lengthen the body even further. The back and the legs are remain straight except during the flutter kick.
The water line should meet at the top of the head and the head should be kept down at all times. The eyes should look down to the bottom of the pool and not ahead. Doing so will keep the body streamlined and reduce the frontal resistance. If the head is looking forward, the legs, hips and torso will sink, increasing frontal resistance.
Body roll in begins with the arm action. The whole body rotates along its long axis when the hand enters the water in front of the head. This rolling action increases the power of the stroke by introducing the core (stomach) muscles into the stroke. The hips and the shoulders should remain in line as the body rotates. Freestyle should be thought of as swimming by alternating from side to side, not swimming on your front.
The hand should enter the water forward of the head and between the midline of the body and a parallel line from the shoulders. The first part of the arm to enter should be the fingertips, and the elbow should be kept higher than the forearm and hand. The forearm should be at around 30 degrees with the water. The arm should be about 2/3 extended when hand enters the water. The rest of the extension occurs underwater after the entry.
Some common errors on entry
1. Hand at rotated to 90 degrees on entry – reduces ability to pull and increases injury risk
2. Extending fully before entering – creates bubbles on hand during pull through
3. Entering too early – drag is increased and momentum is lost
The ‘catch’ phase begins with the front hand while the opposite hand releases the water. The wrist should be flexed outward, downward and backward in order to expose the palm and forearm to the water. As the elbow starts to flex, the hand should sweep downward and slightly outward. Two keys to a successful pull are to get a strong catch with the water and maintain a high elbow position when the hand pulls past the head and shoulders.
The hand should continue to sweep down towards the midline of the body and then upward and in close to the lower chest. The hand should accelerate throughout the entire pull phase in order to gain maximum speed.
The last propulsive phase is sweeping the hand backward, upward and outward.
Kick begins from the hip and the upper leg muscles. The legs remain primarily in line with the body with the ankles flexed but relaxed so that the big toe on each foot should turn towards each other. Flexibility and loose feet and ankles is the best way for an easy and efficient kicking technique.
There are two speeds of kicking known as six-beat and two-beat kick. Six-beat kick is when the swimmer performs three downward beats per arm stroke. Two-beat kick is when the swimmer performs one downward beat per arm stroke. Both kicks are advantageous in their own right. Six-beat kick provides more speed while two-beat kick is more energy saving and better for longer distance.
Breathing should be a part of the body roll. The face should turn with the body and breathe when the opposite hand enters the water. Breath in when this hand pushes back and your opposite arm is recovering. The face should turn back into the water while the recovery arm moves past the face.