Learn How to Swim Freestyle Step by Step

This article gives you an overview of our swimming drills to learn how to swim the freestyle stroke.

The swimming drills have an increasing difficulty and teach you one skill at a time. This allows you to learn the freestyle stroke by yourself at your own pace.

A freestyle stroke swimmer in a lake in the morning.
Learn to be completely at ease while swimming freestyle

The drills teach you concepts such as keeping your balance in the water, making your body as tall as possible, swimming on your sides, etc. which are important if you want to master an effective swimming technique.

If you learn and practice the drills in the suggested order, you should be able to learn how to swim the freestyle stroke easily and enjoy the experience.

Learn the Flutter Kick

A swimmer practicing a flutter kick drill

Learn How To Do The Flutter Kick: Learning the flutter kick in a prone position is an important prerequisite to master if you want to learn how to swim the freestyle stroke.

This article covers a few exercises to learn this important swimming technique in a simple way.

Balance Drills

Having balance means that you are able to stay horizontal in the water with ease to minimize drag and save energy.

The next set of drills let you practice this skill.

Head-Lead Supine Balance

A swimmer practicing a the head-lead supine balance drill

Head-Lead Supine Balance: This freestyle swimming drill introduces you to balance by letting you practice on the back to avoid breathing issues.

Head-Lead Prone Balance

A swimmer practicing a the head-lead prone balance drill

Head-Lead Prone Balance: This freestyle swimming drill is designed to teach you to balance in the water in a prone position (lying flat on your stomach).

This is a very good drill to learn how to keep your hips and legs close to the water surface with ease and without needing to kick hard.

Head-Lead Side Balance

A swimmer practicing a the head-lead side balance drill

Head-Lead Side Balance: In the front crawl stroke, spending more time swimming on the side makes you faster.

This is because when you roll more on the side, you can use the larger back muscles in addition to the shoulder muscles for propulsion.

However, because floating on the side in the water needs some getting used to, we use this drill to get comfortable in that position.

Head-Lead Nose Up / Nose Down

A swimmer practicing a the head-lead nose up / nose down drill

Head-Lead Nose Up / Nose Down: This swimming drill will teach you how to keep your balance in the water while rolling between different positions, face up and face down in this case.

This is an important freestyle skill to master so that you can maintain balance when you roll on the side to breathe.

Head-Lead Looking Down

A swimmer practicing a the head-lead looking down drill

Head-Lead Looking Down: In this drill, you will try to maintain horizontal balance while rolling from side to side. This lets you practice balance to a high degree.

Once you have mastered this drill you’ll have more balance than you’ll ever need in the front crawl stroke.

Hand-Lead Side Balance

A swimmer practicing a the hand-lead side balance drill

Hand-Lead Side Balance: In the Head-Lead Side Balance drill, you learned that swimming front crawl more on your sides improved propulsion.

In this drill, you will assume the same position but you will extend one of your arms overhead.

This teaches you to make your body as long as possible in the water which reduces drag.

Hand-Lead Nose Up / Nose Down

A swimmer practicing a the hand-lead nose up / nose down drill

Hand-Lead Nose Up / Nose Down: This swimming drill lets you practice balance floating on the side with one arm extended forward.

This is useful because you roll from side to side into this particular side position when you swim front crawl.

This drill also lets you practice dynamic balance, where you alternatively switch between a face-up and a face-down position.

Being able to maintain balance while rolling on the side is useful because you roll in a similar way to breathe in.

Switch Drills

The final set of swimming drills lets you transition into swimming front crawl. They teach you correct arm movements and coordination.

They are called switch drills because you switch sides after completing one drill cycle.

Under Switch

A swimmer practicing a the under switch drill

Under Switch: In this drill the arm recovery is done underwater.

This allows you to focus on and become aware of the synergy that exists between the arm movements and body roll while swimming front crawl.

Zipper Switch

A swimmer practicing a the zipper switch drill

Zipper Switch: This drill lets you focus on achieving a compact and efficient arm recovery. This allows you to decrease drag and save energy.

Over Switch

A swimmer practicing a the over switch drill

Over Switch: This is the last one of our freestyle stroke drills. It lets you practice an early hand entry during the arm recovery.

This is to avoid the common tendency of overreaching during the recovery which for several reasons increases drag and can also lead to swimmer’s shoulder.

Once you have mastered this drill you will be ready to transition into swimming the full front crawl stroke.

Additional Drills

Vertical Kicking

Improve the Flutter Kick with Vertical Kicking: It could be that you struggle with our freestyle stroke drills because your flutter kick isn’t propulsive enough.

Vertical kicking is a swimming drill that can help improve your kick.

16 thoughts on “Learn How to Swim Freestyle Step by Step”

  1. Priscilla Aguilera

    This page is great.

    I’ve used it over the years to be more conscious about my swimming in order to enjoy it more and use it more efficiently as a fitness tool.

    However, it appears the videos have been taken down. Is there any way this can be fixed?

    1. Hi Priscilla,

      The videos haven’t been taken down. But it seems that sometimes, depending on the operating system or browser one is using, they don’t work.

      May I ask what are you using to access this website?

  2. Priscilla Blasse

    In my swimming club we have levels 1-5 and I have just been told that I made it to level 5. My coaches told me I am one of the most improved swimmers. So now I have to step up my game.

    That’s why I was on my laptop trying to find a swim site to help me with my technique and then I found this site.

  3. Thank you so much for providing these videos and guides.

    I took a couple of swimming classes before and they taught similar drills. It took weeks for me to master one drill.

    Having these videos helped a lot in getting the drills down.

  4. I am having trouble and feeling very frustrated with balance.

    I know that balance is very important if I am ever to develop good technique and really take-off as a swimmer.

    I have tried the flutter kick and balance drills (Head-lead supine and Head-lead prone balance).

    When trying to float supine and despite all my efforts to press my head and upper back downwards when lying flat – my legs just keep sinking.

    The same happens to my legs when I am face down in the water despite all my efforts to resist this.

    What can I do? I would be very grateful for any advice.

    1. Generally speaking, men’s legs drop more than women’s while swimming crawl, and so men have often more trouble finding and keeping balance than women.

      If you have trouble finding balance, just use short swim fins and move on to the next drills. Then come back regularly to the balance drills as your technique improves.

      Normally, your balance will improve over time and there will be a point where you should be able to do the balance drills without fins.

  5. Hi.

    I have been taking a lot of lessons (30 to be precise) to learn front crawl… and have yet not been able to manage the switches…

    I just stand up after one switch or at the most at my second switch. I find it very difficult to continue moving forward (however hard I continue to kick/sometimes it’s the exhalation problem!!)

    I am on the verge of giving up to learn please help. Either there is something wrong with me or the swimming instructor…

        1. Hi,

          As you are writing that you need to kick hard, this might be (lack of) a balance problem.

          Did you practice the series of front crawl drills proposed here? Those should take care of your balance problems and allow you to float using a relaxed flutter kick.

  6. I read some swimming tutorials and in which they say that the way of body rotation in these videos is “over-rotation”. Is that a serious problem?

    Because I think if we don’t care about speed, we can breathe in a way that’s easy for us to feel relaxed, right?

    1. Hi,

      I don’t know which video tutorials you are referring to, but generally people rotate too little rather than too much while swimming front crawl.

      To breathe, the head should roll along the body and roll a little further to have the mouth clear the water. If you don’t roll enough, you’ll have to lift the head to be able to breathe, which disrupts balance and can cause your legs to drop.

      Hope this helps.

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