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Learn more about the freestyle stroke

This is an excerpt from Swimming Drill Book-2nd Edition, The by Ruben J. Guzman.

Freestyle is the fastest of the competitive strokes. In competition, however, swimmers often try to speed up by moving their arms faster through the air. They try so hard that their strokes deteriorate, slowing them down. To move faster, swimmers must balance good technique with strong pulling and kicking.


Efficiency is vital to swimming freestyle fast. In the past few years, much has been learned about the way that the best swimmers in the world swim freestyle. Sprinters tend to have straighter arms for a faster turnover and higher stroke rate rather than a long stroke that focuses on distance per stroke. Distance swimmers tend to have more of a front-quadrant stroke that resembles the catch-up freestyle in some ways. New research supports a shallower pull stemming from the elbow to improve the efficiency of the stroke. The drag applied to the hand and forearm is much less than that for the upper arm, so swimmers are trying to pull with a bent elbow under the water while keeping the upper arm as close to the surface as possible.


The best freestylers

  • maintain excellent head and body position with their bodies high out of the water;
  • have a smooth, relaxed stroke recovery with the elbows high;
  • have excellent head control;
  • breathe comfortably;
  • have good hip rotation, torso rolling, and shoulder lift;
  • have flawless kicking;
  • pull through the water efficiently and with great power;
  • catch the water with the elbow high during the catch phase; and
  • pull all the way past the hip until the hand releases to the recovery.


The drills in this chapter will help you apply the characteristics of the best freestylers to your stroke.

Learn more about The Swimming Drill Book, Second Edition.