You know that not everyone has swims with the same style or rhythm in freestyle. This video by The Race Club and Gary Hall Snr provides a great breakdown of the different freestyle techniques. There’s more than one way to swim, and any coach that tries to tell you that there is only one is incorrect.

These are the three types:

  1. Hip-driven technique: Hip-driven freestyle is used by Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett, Larsen Jensen and  Libby Trickett and is a slower-stroke-rate freestyle. It is typically swam at 60 to 70 strokes a minute.The hand holds the water in front after the entry before beginning the propulsive motion backward. The slower time of the arm pull cycle allows the swimmer to get a bigger hip turn and generate a larger counter force to pull against. This increases the distance from each stroke. It’s better swum in distances over 200 meters and a strong six beat is needed to swim it fast.
  2. Shoulder-driven technique: Shoulder-driven freestyle is used by Peter Van den Hoogenband, Janet Evans and Alexander Popov and is a higher-stroke-rate technique. It’s swam at 80-110 strokes per minute.The entry hander catches quicker and the release is done sooner which results in a faster stroke rate but less hip rotation. Not as much power is generated from the pull but because there is more strokes it makes up for the power difference. The shoulders typically rotate more than the hips in this technique. Two beat and six beat kick are both acceptable, though only a six beat kick should be used when sprinting
  3. Hybrid technique: In recent years a number of swimmers are drawing on elements of both techniques. It is becoming increasingly popular for middle distance swimmers (100, 200 and 400 meters) who draw on the advantages of both techniques and opt for a hybrid freestyle.They use one arm with shoulder-driven technique and the other arm uses a hip- driven technique. It has become popularised by Michael Phelps. It requires a very strong kick and breathing to one side and can be used in open water swims if you have a strong kick

Our Mastering Freestyle program is an excellent drill program for developing a hip driven stroke.

You can find out more about the three types of freestyle at The Race Club.

14 Responses

  1. Very nice article and video again – thank you.

    I think even Thorpe is not exactly symmetric but uses hip more and straighter arm on breathing side ?

  2. Interesting & enjoyable video, thank you. What about the full/3 quarter catch – which is what I thought Thorpe swam – some say outdated ???

  3. Thorpe isn’t exactly symmetrical but still uses the hip driven technique more than the hybrid. This video is great for understanding the different types of freestyle and what the benefits of each are.

  4. Great video. Thanks for explaining the different approaches to freestyle swimming. One question – what do you mean when you state that you “push out” your stroke on a hip driven stroke ? Do you extend your arm out to your sides on the catch ?

  5. Hey Jim,

    you drive you forward more and your stroke is longer because you’re more rotated on your side. Your arm will come out a bit wide during the catch phase

  6. Why do you not even mention the hip driven two beat style as advocated by Terry Laughlin of TI. A lot of long distance swimmers use this style because they find the six beat leg kick consumes too much energy. Not for sheer speed certainly but very practical surely.

  7. Many thanks this is awesome really enjoying and taking on board these clips etc very helpful.

  8. I tried to buy the program and videos but it didn’t permitted is because you are not established in USA???

  9. @Patricia – We’re an Australian company. You should still be able to purchase it, we have customers form all over the world.

  10. TRC looks to be in good shape this season. Interesting to note that much of this is dependent on a single sided breathing technique – which is more common in extremely short races. Sometimes imbalances are a good thing, sometimes……
    O2

  11. So maybe someone can help me. I used to swim the hybrid style and had a lot of success with that in high school and then my coach tried to get me to swim more balanced, which ruined me forever since. I am now attempting to reconstruct from the ground up but, I want to get some input. I’ve never had strong legs. Any suggestions?

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