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Learn to Swim Front Crawl/Freestyle: Hand-Lead Nose Up/Nose Down Drill

Hand-Lead Nose Up/Nose Down is one of our swimming drills for the front crawl/freestyle stroke. You practice active balance again, switching between a Nose Up and a Nose Down position, but now you have one of your arms extended forward in the direction you’re swimming.

Hand-Lead Nose Up/Nose Down follows Hand-Lead Side Balance and precedes Under Switch in our series of swimming drills for the front crawl/freestyle stroke. This is also the latest drill in this series specifically aimed at practicing balance.

A swimmer practicing the Hand-Lead Side Balance drill for the front crawl stroke.

In front crawl, the position of the body is constantly changing, rolling from side to side. In addition, to breathe, the head must be turned upwards, and many swimmers lose their balance in the process.

This swimming drill specifically addresses this issue and lets you practice balance in positions you encounter while breathing in front crawl.

Video Demonstration

The following video demonstrates Hand-Lead Nose Up/Nose Down:

Drill Instructions

The drill begins by assuming the Sweet Spot/Nose Up position with one arm extended forward:

  • Float in a horizontal position, rolled about 45° away from the surface of the water; that is, halfway between fully on your back and fully on your side.
  • Keep your head facing upward, looking directly at the ceiling/sky.
  • Your uppermost arm is resting along your side, partially or even completely above water.
  • Your submerged arm is extended forward in the swimming direction, parallel to the water’s surface, or slightly angled down.
  • The palm of your hand can face any direction as long as you feel comfortable.
  • Perform a relaxed flutter kick.

Take a few moments to check your balance and breathe, then do the following:

  • Swivel your head down until you are looking at the bottom of the pool.
  • Simultaneously, roll your body further on your side until you are lying at right angles to the water’s surface.
  • Your uppermost arm should now be completely above the water’s surface and your shoulder pointing straight up.
  • Your submerged arm is still extended forward in the direction you are swimming. The palm of your hand should be facing down.
  • Your head should now be completely underwater.
  • Start exhaling through your nose and mouth as soon as your face is in the water.
  • Lean on your upper body to maintain your balance as you switch between positions.
  • When you need to breathe, roll back to the Sweet Spot/Nose Up position. Take a few breaths, correct your balance, and switch to the Nose Down position. Repeat.
  • Alternate your floating side with each length.

Additional Tips

  • Practice this drill until you feel comfortable in both the Sweet Spot/Nose Up position and the Nose Down position and can seamlessly switch between the two.
  • Maintain a long, streamlined body to minimize drag and move forward with little effort.
  • You should have the sensation of moving forward and slightly downhill in the Nose Down position.
  • You should notice that it is easy to maintain your balance when you are in the Nose Down position with your submerged arm extended forward.

Learning Path for the Front Crawl

Below is an overview of our series of articles on learning the front crawl. Each article in this series contains one or more drills that have to be mastered. The current article is highlighted:

Once you have gone through all the steps of this learning path, you should be able to swim front crawl without any problems.

Good luck!

paul rennolet

Wednesday 2nd of June 2021

Your swimming drill articles each mention a video demonstration below, "Video Demonstration Below a video demonstration of this swimming drill:" but there is no video demonstration. Is there one that I am somehow not seeing, browser problem, or whatever, or have they been removed?


Thursday 3rd of June 2021

Hi Paul,

Are you using an ad blocker? That could be an explanation for why you don't see the video.



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