Front Crawl or Freestyle as it's often called is the fastest swimming stroke you can do. It's usually the most popular swimming stroke because it's the fastest and feels more natural to most people.
It can be an easy stroke to do, but it can be a difficult stroke to do well. I'll give you my top tips for swimming front crawl more efficiently and faster and give you some links to videos showing how to swim front crawl well and give you some practice drills you can use to improve your freestyle technique.
1. Remember what your body actually is.
Sounds stupid, but it's easy to forget that you have lungs that are full of air (hopefully) that provide buoyancy in the water. And depending on your body shape your weight will be distributed differently. Just like when you put a boat in water, if you load up the back with lots of weight it will sink at the back and rise at the front, why is this important to know? Because it's all about resistance.
2. How resistance works in swimming front crawl
Here is a pretty crude but useful image to show the basics of water resistance in swimming. Just like Formula cars try to minimise air resistance, so do cyclists and so do racing boats - swimmers need to minimise resistance. Minimising resistance in swimming is called streamlining. Streamlining means being in the optimum position in the water to cause the least amount of drag.
Did you know? Swimmers are at their fastest when underwater in a streamline position. This is why when you watch Olympic swimmers, they are only allowed to use 15 metres underwater at the start of the race and after each turn. Because otherwise they would probably try and swim most of the race underwater using a butterfly leg kick.
Want proof that swimming underwater with less resistance is faster than swimming on top? Here is a video illustrating the point. This is way it's against the rules - it would be a pretty boring sport right?
Ok back to front crawl streamlining.
3. Front crawl body position when swimming
So bearing this information in mind. When you are swimming front crawl, you want to be balanced on top of the water so you head is in a straight-line with your spine. Now without getting to in depth on the different body positions - you will find that some coaches will tell you to lift you head a little a bit - this can be good for sprinting front crawl because your legs actor as a propellor and your aim is to try and kind of sprint across the top of the water rather than sink into the resistance.
Body position when wearing different swim suits
Another factor of your body position in the water and therefore your efficiency is the swimwear you put on and also the equipment you use. Below is a really cool video showing this point really well - it's something worth bearing in mind. Especially if you are someone who trains with a pull buoy a lot between your legs because it acts as an artificial balancer and can harm your technique if you get to used to it being there.
4. Front crawl technique tips and useful videos
I really think videos are the best format for learning this stuff really (if you don't have a coach). Swimming can be difficult because what you feel like you are doing and what you are actually doing can be 2 completely different things. And sometimes when a coach turns around and tells you something to do differently, to start with it can feel really weird and like you are swimming much worse than you were previously. Don't worry this is just your bodies learning phase.
Here are some useful video series from really knowledgable swimmers that can give you some useful tips on how to improve your front crawl technique.
I have specifically chosen videos from professional swimmers rather than companies or bloggers so you know they know their stuff.
How to Breath When Swimming Front Crawl
This useful video takes you through the steps of how to breath when swimming front crawl. It can be tricky to learn if you haven't learnt it at a young age.
Swimming Faster Freestyle Video
This is a more technical video. The lady in it is a Masters World Champion - she does work for Vasa which do these cool swim benches which is kind of the closest thing you can get to swimming without being in the water.
Best Front Crawl Drills Video
Here is a useful kind of retro video with some old skool (but very good) drills to dry out to improve your stroke. Now you may be thinking "i'm just trying to learn how to swim it for a start i can't do drills?!" - well drills are the way you learn the stroke - it teaches you how to find balance in the water - trust me it's the best way to learn a swimming stroke.
3 Quick Tips For Swimming Front Crawl.
If you just want some quick pointers on how to improve your freestyle then here are the 3 things I would say to you before you dive in your local pool..or lake.
1. Keep your stroke long
Too many people try to turn their arms over too fast thinking they will swim faster. All that means is you 'Catch' less water. Think about swimming in a sand pit. the further you reach in front of you and catch sand the more sand you will push behind you - that's the same in water. You will waste less energy and become less tired too. It might look slow, but its fast.
2. Keep your head down
A common mistake is having you head slightly raised. This means your legs sink in the water (because your body position is wrong). This is going to make it much harder for you to swim as you have just added a load of resistance to yourself.
3. Keep your arm strokes inline with your shoulder (roughly)
Do not when putting your arm in the water cross over what my coach used to call 'the center line' of you body. If you imagine there is a pole running from the middle of your head right through you and out, well out the other side. Don't let your arms cross over this line at any point. If your hand/arm crosses this line it is essentially pushing slightly sideways - it can also cause shoulder injuries and is a major cause of shoulder problems in swimmers.
Here is another useful video about technique - these guys really know there stuff - and they are Australian, and they like, you know - live in the water.
Final Thoughts on Front Crawl Swimming
I know it can be a lot to take in, but just try one thing at a time and you will improve. As a final send off here is the best swimming race I have ever seen with some of the best freestlye swimmers of all time.