To make the most out of your training sessions in the pool, you can break down your stroke to focus on specific areas that may need improvement. We’ve rounded up five important focus areas to include in your next workout if you’re looking to improve your front crawl technique.
Body Position in the Water
To improve the efficiency of your front crawl technique, you want to be sure you are keeping your body as flat as possible to stay streamlined in the water. Of course, your legs and feet will need to slightly lower than the rest of your body to keep the kick underwater, so adjust your hips accordingly while keeping the rest of your body flat.
Your head and spine should remain straight and still, keeping your eyes forward and down as you swim. Your head should only move as you turn to breathe, while your hips and shoulders rotate as you stroke to create momentum. Keep in mind that your shoulders should rotate more than your hips, however. The rotating motion should bring your shoulder out of the water as one arm exits, while the other initiates the propulsion under the water.
Arm and Pulling Technique
As you reach your arm in front of your body during your pull, keep your elbow slightly bent before your hand enters the water. With your thumb entering the water first, be sure your hand placement is between the center line of your head and your shoulder line. Once your hand is underwater, you might feel the urge to start pulling back immediately--instead, reach forward under the water first in order to create more of a pull as you bring your hand back towards your body.
As your hand enters the water and makes it way back to your body, imagine the shape of an hourglass and mimic this motion with your hand. Keeping your elbow slightly bent, sweep your hand forward, then back towards the center of your body, then out towards your thighs. This entire motion should be performed with your water completely underwater to capitalize on the water resistance and your propulsion through it.
Think of your front crawl kick as the motor for the stroke, providing the steady power that carries your through the water. Keep your legs close together while relaxing your ankles so they stay flexible in the continuous motion. Your knees will naturally bend slightly on the end of your kick’s upbeat and the beginning of the downbeat, but you will achieve a more efficient and powerful kick by keeping your legs as straight as possible.
Large, sweeping kicks with heavy down and upbeats are not ideal--instead, a steady, small motion will be more effective. However, you’ll also need to consider the distance you’re swimming when deciding on a pace for your kick. Since more kicks will use more energy, long distance swimmers are better off using fewer, more pronounced kicks, while sprint swimmers can settle on six or eight kicks per cycle.
The key to an effective breathing technique is to keep it as quick and smooth as possible. Focus on incorporating your breathing with the rotation of your body as you stroke--your head and spine should naturally follow the rotation of your shoulders. You should also focus on staying flat, taking care to not lift your head too much out of the water. The higher you raise your head, the lower your feet and legs will sink in the water, slowing your pace and increasing drag.
Keep one side of your face in the water and take a sharp inhale of air, turning your face quickly and smoothly back into the water in time with the rotation of your shoulders. Once your head is back to a neutral position, feel free to exhale either gradually or all at once. The standard rule of thumb is to breathe every three strokes, alternating the side in which your head turns to maintain balance through the stroke. However, it’s always better to just breathe when you feel it’s necessary!
Many swimmers add time and lose efficiency on their turns. To improve your front crawl technique overall, you need an effective turn that won’t add time to your stroke. As you approach the wall, your last stroke should begin your turn. With one arm at your side, finish your last stroke and use that arm to sweep your body into a tucked position, bending at the hips and knees. Rotate into a horizontal somersault, throwing your legs over your hips to the wall before planting your feet on the end of the wall.
Using the power gained from the tucked position, push off of the wall, straightening your legs and assuming a streamlined position with your arms as you ride the momentum from your push. Your streamlined arms should squeeze your ears, and one hand should be placed on top of the other. As your body straightens off the wall, you should also twist back to your front, resuming your position on the top of the water. As you make your way back to the surface, begin a dolphin leg kick under the water to continue moving forward as the momentum from the push off the wall slows down. While still slightly submerged, begin your first pull to help break your head to the surface.
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