Freestyle Swimming: 5 Tips for Beginners

When you start taking swimming more seriously, it’s easy for it to feel daunting. Diving into the deep end — both literally and figuratively — can take some time to get used to, and there are some preparations you should make before getting started. This guide will help you grasp the basics of freestyle swimming so that you’ll feel more comfortable when it actually comes time to jump in the water. 

Remember that reading about a concept and actually putting it into action are two different actions, so it might take some time before it all translates. In any case, having a base of knowledge to fall back on is sure to be helpful while you are swimming. 

If nothing else, having a level of understanding about freestyle swimming will give you a sense of confidence that can help you greatly while in the water.

You might have seen videos of Olympians swimming for the gold, or maybe a friend or family member told you about the joys of freestyle swimming. Perhaps you have already perfected other swimming strokes, and it’s time to branch out into something new. Then, it’s also possible that this is your first foray into this kind of swimming, but you think it could be a fulfilling pastime and a phenomenal form of exercise.

No matter your reason for diving in headfirst, this article will give you some helpful tips that you can use to get started on your swimming journey.

1. Understand What Freestyle Swimming Really Is

There is a bit of misunderstanding and confusion when it comes to what exactly freestyle swimming actually is, and that’s understandable. The name would imply that it can be whatever stroke you want, a combination of strokes, or even something entirely new. While this might have been true at a time, freestyle swimming has come to be known as a specific stroke that is favored among swimmers for its speed.

As time has gone on, it’s become the norm for what was once known as the “front crawl” to be referred to as “freestyle.” This is because, while swimmers used to be able to pick whichever stroke they wanted for the sake of freestyle races, the front crawl became so common that it just took over the name.

At this point, if you were to enter or watch a freestyle swimming race, everyone would be doing the front crawl stroke. At this point, the stroke is rarely called a “front crawl,” if ever. While it’s still technically a correct way to talk about the stroke, experienced swimmers will be much more receptive to you calling it “freestyle.” 

2. Position Yourself Well in the Water

Since freestyle swimming is also referred to as a front crawl, it stands to reason that you would do this stroke facing forwards. Unlike the backstroke, in which your face and stomach are up and out of the water, freestyling has you with your face and stomach in the water, pointing toward the bottom of the pool.

Make sure to swim with your body fully elongated, your legs straight behind you. Where your arms are located will shift at different stages of doing the stroke (which we will talk about later in this article), but the goal is to make yourself as long as possible. This will help you get maximum distance out of your freestyle stroke and will lower your time while doing laps.

3. Observe Other Swimmers

To be clear, we aren’t recommending that you stare at other swimmers as they try to get their laps in at the local pool. However, watching online videos about swimming techniques and strategies can be helpful for some people. For those of us who are more visual learners, getting this kind of demonstration can help us immensely.

If you have a friend or family member who is a more experienced swimmer, you can also feel free to ask them for their advice or coaching. The benefits of having someone available to correct your form and give you notes in real time can’t be overstated. That being said, you can absolutely still become an excellent freestyle swimmer without that kind of one-on-one help.

4. Keep Your Arms at the Correct Angles

When you’re swimming freestyle, you sweep one arm at a time in a windmill motion before having it reenter the water with minimal splash. You alternate arms, which gives each arm a bit of a break and helps you maintain your speed. Let your body move and angle slightly with your arm that leaves the water.

When your arm is out of the water, your elbow should be bent at a 45-degree angle. It then reaches back into the water, extended fully out in front of you. Meanwhile, the arm that is in the water should eventually achieve a 90-degree angle with the rest of your body as it sweeps the water away from you. 

5. Know When and How To Breathe

Saying that you have to learn how to breathe when swimming freestyle might be enough to give you pause. After all, you’ve been breathing for your entire life. You are basically an expert on it by now. In reality, though, breathing and being able to control your breath becomes a bit more complicated when doing this type of stroke.

When swimming in this position, many of us will have the instinct to lift our heads out of the water. Unfortunately, this motion is awkward at best, can slow down your momentum, and could even leave you with a mouthful of water. 

Instead, you should turn your head to the side and out of the water to breathe. This does not interrupt your stroke or force you to move strangely, and instead gives you a convenient way to get a deep breath (which is crucial when exercising).

Rather than constantly switching which side you turn your head, swimmers generally choose one and stick to it. In most cases, this is the side that corresponds with your dominant hand. Then, whenever that arm is out of the water mid-stroke, turn your head with it to take a breath.

Come Dressed To Win

When you get in the water, you want to be dressed to impress. At the same time, you need a bathing suit that will enhance your swimming by giving you the flattering coverage you need. The Crafted Botanical Shirred Front Girl Leg One Piece does exactly that, making it the perfect suit for all of your freestyle swimming needs. If that one isn’t your style, check out the other bathing suits available at Maxine Swim.


Olympic Games | Britannica

History of Front Crawl | Olympic Swimming Strokes Explained |

Your Lungs and Exercise | PMC