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Learn to Swim Front Crawl/Freestyle: Under Switch Drill

Under Switch marks the beginning of our final swimming drills for the front crawl/freestyle stroke. In this drill, we start to practice the arm movements of the front crawl, albeit with an underwater arm recovery.

Under Switch follows Hand-Lead Nose Up/Nose Down and precedes Zipper Switch in our series of swimming drills for the front crawl/freestyle stroke.

A swimmer practicing the Under Switch drill for the front crawl stroke.

By performing the arm recovery underwater, we can focus on body rotation, switch timing, and linking the core body rotation with the arm movements.

Swimming Drill Video

The video below demonstrates the Under Switch drill:

Swimming Drill Instructions

As before, the drill cycle begins in Hand-Lead Side Balance/Sweet Spot:

  • Float in a horizontal position, rolled about 45° away from the water’s surface; that is, halfway between fully on your back and fully on your side.
  • Your head faces upward, so you are looking directly at the ceiling/sky.
  • Your uppermost arm is resting along your side.
  • Your submerged arm is extended forward in the direction of swimming, parallel to the water’s surface or slightly angled down.
  • Perform a relaxed flutter kick.

Once you feel balanced in this position, roll into the Nose Down position:

  • 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 at right angles to the water’s surface.
  • Your uppermost arm is still resting along your side.
  • Your submerged arm is still extended forward in the direction you’re swimming.

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

  • Sneak the hand of your uppermost arm forward along the midline of your body, with the palm turned toward your body.
  • When you can see your hand in front of your face, switch your position by rolling your body like a log onto your other side.
  • As you switch your position, sweep the hand that was extended forward to your hip, effectively performing the underwater part of the front crawl arm stroke.
  • Your other arm continues moving forward until it is fully extended and submerged in the water.
  • The switch ends in the Hand-Lead Side Balance/Sweet Spot position on your other side, with your arms having also switched their position.

Take a few moments to catch your breath, correct your balance, and then switch back to your initial side to complete one drill cycle. Continue switching from side to side in this fashion for the whole length.

Additional Tips

  • Practice this drill until the timing of performing the switch when your hand is in front of your face becomes second nature.
  • Remember to roll your body as one unit; don’t anticipate the rotation with your head.
  • Remember to keep your body as streamlined as possible to minimize drag.
  • You may discover that you sink a bit after performing the switch and that your face is too deep in the water to breathe immediately. If this is the case, just wait a bit until your body has been buoyed up. Performing the switch more quickly can also help.

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!

Jay Albert

Friday 7th of January 2022

Hi. These lessons are Great! As I go back in however I find that the videos no longer show up for the Under switch and Zipper switch drills. If you can give that a fix it would be MUCH appreciated.

best, jay


Monday 10th of January 2022

Hi Jay,

I just checked and it works on my end, going from one article to the next and back. Please make sure you are not using an ad blocker, as these also blocks the videos on my side. Also, the videos may take some time to load.

Hope this helps,


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