Learn to Swim Front Crawl / Freestyle: Zipper Switch Drill

A novice swimmer who practices the zipper drill for the front crawl stroke.

In the previous front crawl / freestyle stroke drill (Under Switch), the focus was on the synergy between arm stroke movements and body roll.

In this swimming drill, Zipper Switch, the focus is on achieving a compact and efficient arm recovery.

Achieving a compact recovery allows you to decrease drag and save energy, as explained in Swimming Mistakes: Wide Arm Recovery.

Video Demonstration

The video below shows a demonstration of the Zipper Switch drill:

Drill Instructions

This drill starts exactly like Under Switch:

  • You are floating half on your back and half on your side.
  • You use a supple flutter kick for moving forward.
  • Your top arm rests on your side, your bottom arm is extended forward underwater.
  • Your face is turned toward the ceiling.

Once you are balanced, rotate your head in a downward position:

  • Your body rolls into a position where it is at a 90° angle with the water surface.
  • Your face is turned toward the bottom.
  • Your arms have kept their respective positions.

Take a few moments to rebalance, then start the recovery forward of your top arm:

  • Sweep your hand forward past your hip, rib cage and shoulder, as if pulling up a zipper.
  • Lead the recovery with a high elbow and let your forearm dangle down from the elbow.
  • Let your hand drag in the water. The pressure of the water against the hand will ensure that you lead the recovery with your elbow.
  • Enter the water with your hand once it has moved past your head.
  • Extend your arm forward underwater into the overhead position.
  • As the recovering arm enters the water, the other arm starts to sweep backward and to push against the water for propulsion.
  • Simultaneously roll on your other side and continue the arm movements until one arm is completely extended in the overhead position and the other arm rests on your top side.
  • You are now back into the initial position but floating on the other side. Take a few moments to catch your breath, then start the cycle again toward the other side, and so on.

Additional Tips

  • Practice the drill until your recovery feels compact and efficient and you can maintain your balance throughout the whole cycle.
  • Once you have mastered simple switches you can practice double and triple switches like you did in Under Switch. Multiple switches teach you the rhythm you will use while swimming the full crawl stroke.

Learning Path for the Front Crawl

Below you will find an overview of our series of articles to learn the front crawl.

Each article includes one or several drills/exercises to be mastered.

The current article, which is part of this series, is highlighted:

By completing the different steps of this learning path, you should soon be able to swim front crawl.

Good luck!

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