Freestyle drills which help you improve your technique and body position

Freestyle drills/ introduction

A lot of swimmers especially beginners feel that going back to using hand floats and freestyle drills is a step backwards. They cannot be more wrong. To practice arms and legs separately so that you are not thinking what the rest of your body is doing is one of the best practices you can do to help to improve or correct certain faults you may have. There are a lot of front crawl drills you can do to improve your stroke with and without hand floats, kick boards and pull buoys.

If you are not familiar with these pieces of equipment click on this link below to view my page about swimming equipment which includes hand floats/ kick boards as well as pull buoys. click on this like to view my page about swimming equipment


Click on this link to go to fun swim shop to purchase swimming equipment

Freestyle drills/ push and glides assisting body position

Let's start with the most common used drills and begin with body position. Push and glide is a good start because it helps you to understand the correct body position. If you are not familiar with push and glide it is what the name suggests. You hold the side of the pool with both arms facing forward. then push hard off the side of the pool arms straight in front of you and together thumbs linked. Then you simply glide across the pool in a prone position which means horizontal. This is the position that you should try to stay in when you are swimming the front crawl. So you can see that push and glide can help you to achieve this and understand the correct body position.

Body position key points:

Prone streamlined Almost horizontal body roll (controlled aprox 45 degrees) This help with head turn, breathing, arm recovery, and propulsion. A variation can be that you roll 70 degrees but this is only for swimmers with stiff shoulders and swimmers who are less buoyant.

Leg action

First starting with kicking your legs against the side of the pool holding the hand rail or side. Remembering the key points:

Alternating and continuous Close together Upbeat should be initiated from the hip with knee flexing, then foot rises in preparation for the downbeat

Downbeat should be initiated from the hip, lower leg/foot whips down to full extension. Foot is plantar flexed and intoed. The timing is 2-4-6 beats per arm stroke if legs/feet cross when swimming it is because there is too much body roll. Leg action provides balance, body position as well as limited body position.

You can also try this drill with the breathing if you want


Freestyle drills/ If you want to look at freestyle swimming in much more technical detail then click on this link to view my page about freestyle swimming

Leg action using floats/kick boards

Freestyle leg action holding two floats in front of you, hold the floats either at the end or the top with your lower arm resting on the float. Do this with your head above the water for this then simply kick your legs. Remember to keep your legs together don't bend your knees and follow the key point that I have previously mentioned. When you have done this go down to one float or maybe a kick board if you are an adult for more support. Don't worry if you are not moving all that fast front crawl legs do not give much propulsion only balance an prevent you moving from side to side when swimming with your arms (lateral deviation).

Because you are keeping your head above the water you are increasing resistance which in turn will develop a better and stronger leg kicking action

Freestyle drills/ Variation of above drill

Another drill you can try is to hold your hand float or kick board vertical and half submerged in the water. Keeping your head above the water kick against the float which is causing resistance in the water.

This practice encourages a harder leg kick and strengthens your leg action, it also help with your stamina and fitness.

Freestyle drills/ leg action no floats

This time try kicking your legs with your arms out in front of you extended and linked together by your thumbs. Push and glide from the side of the pool and kick nice and hard. Go as far as you can without breathing and straining yourself. Then stop and have a rest and swim the same way back. Do not spend too much time with this just a few widths of your pool.

This again will help you to gain good body position and leg action without thinking about the breathing which can sometimes interfere with your concentration.


The next freestyle dill is similar to the last one but with the breathing. You will only have one arm outstretched and the other held to your side against your thigh. The side that you have the arm to your thigh is the side you will breathe to. Once you have done this then change arms. If you find difficulty doing this drill, try doing it with a hand float/kick board in the hand that is extended in front of you.

These freestyle drills will help you with your breathing whilst your upper arm is out of the way like when you are swimming front crawl with your arms, the breathing is then more realistic.


The last freestyle drill for your legs involves you kicking your legs on one of your sides, simply lie in the water on your side with one arm outstretched in front of you with your head resting on your lower arm. The other arm will be resting on your side touching your thighs. Your head will be above the water so you will be breathing normally.

This freestyle drill will help you to maintain a regular leg action kick whilst you are still breathing.

Freestyle drills/ arms getting started

If you are unsure of the perfect arm action then click on this link to see my page about freestyle technique This action helps you to go over the correct arm action without moving across the pool so you know the arm action in your own mind before starting any freestyle drills.

Let's go through some key points before you start the main freestyle drills

The arms should be:

Alternating and continuous throughout the stroke Is the main propulsion element The entry should be between the shoulder and the head Elbows high just before entry with arms extended Arm slides in thumb first Palm turns out (aprox 35 degrees) then scull to the catch position Downsweep, Elbows high, hand then accelerates Insweep, pitch of hand turns inward, elbow flex about 90 degrees, acceleration continues towards the center line Upsweep, pitch of hand changes backwards/outwards, hand passes hip, palm turns inwards

Now try arm action walking across the pool this can be done with and without your head in the water.

This is a gradual progression towards the main freestyle drills and give you a feel for the water.

Freestyle drills/ arms with floats

One arm one float is a useful freestyle drill to do, it is what the title says you hold a hand float at the end in one hand. You then swim with the other hand. This can be done with your head in the water looking down and slightly forward, you then breathe out whilst your head is in the water ready to breathe in when your head is out. The head turns as your arm bends to come out of the water. Your head then returns to the water after a breath is taken.

Two arms one float is similar to the previous practice, you begin by holding a float with both hands at the end. Before you start decide which side you want to breathe to. Then push off the side and kick your legs with your head down again looking at the floor. Then do one arm full arm pull whilst holding the float with the other hand, once that arm has finished you hold the float again with that arm and let go with the other hand and repeat the arm pull with the other hand. The side you have decided to breathe from you will breathe to that side. Then continue this to the other side. It looks like the full stoke but you are practicing the arms one at a time. Also you need to remember to kick your legs to keep you horizontal and straight on the surface of the water.

This helps to improve your technique whilst giving yourself some buoyancy the float enables you to practice one arm at a time. This will also improve your propulsion and your breathing pattern.

Freestyle drills/ pull buoys

Using a pull buoy between your thighs is a good way of practicing your arms on their own without having to worry about what your legs are doing. You can then be free to practice your entry, exit, propulsion as well as your breathing.

This freestyle drill will help you to put more concentration on your arm entry, pull, as well as the recovery. Using the pull buoy will also strengthen your arm action.

Freestyle drills without floats/ kickboards

Single arm pulling, you hold one arm out in front of you with your arm straight. The other arm swims the front crawl the arm should brush your head on recovery. Then change arms and swim it again. You do not need to breathe with this practice.

This freestyle drill will help you to keep your elbows high. It helps you enter the water thumb first as well as enabling you to see your arm pull underwater.


The next freestyle drill is quite similar to the previous drill, you hold an arm in front again and the other arm will swim but you will draw your thumb up to the side of your body up to your armpit before you stretch it back to enter the water.

This will encourage you to keep your elbows high and keeps your fingertips close to the surface of the water as your arm exits the water.


Catch up is another good way to practice your freestyle swimming, as your hands enter the water you pause with that arm with it in front of you with elbows locked just before the catch. The other hand will then complete the propulsive phase and begin recovery. When this arm then catches up with the other arm which has paused you then use that paused arm and so on. You do not use the other arm until the other has caught up. You always have one arm outstretched performing this drill.

This freestyle drill conserves your energy expenditure in your arms which permits a much stronger upsweep as well as an early catch. You need to kick your legs much stronger a 6 beat kick for this freestyle drill to effective.

Full stroke using your fists, this allows your lower arm to become more efficient in the water. Try counting your strokes with and without fists across the pool and compare the difference. Thank you for reading my page about freestyle drills I hope it has been of some use to you I do have lots more pages about other strokes and aspects of swimming if you are interested.

Dale Dudley. Click here to return to home page