Everyone swims differently, from the splashy crawler to the old lady with her head out of the water in full make up. Quite a few people find front crawl extremely tiring, or worse, don’t do it at all. A few pointers can make a world of difference. Improve your style and it can feel effortless and graceful, not to mention the fact that it could make you swim significantly faster.
Everyone swims differently, from the splashy crawler to the old lady with her head out of the water in full make up.
One of the most important things in front crawl is the position of your body in the water: it should be horizontal because then you just float naturally. Believe it or not, that's largely dictated by the position of your head – too high and your body won't be horizontal in the water, which means you have to kick to stay afloat. To get your body in to the perfect position, simply push your head down. Try it just floating on your front and not moving at first. You'll notice that as soon as you bring your head up your bum sinks; and that when you push your head down so you’re looking at the bottom of the pool just in front of you, your bottom pops up again and you float naturally without any effort.
This is how you want to be positioned in the water.
If you walk through water, you'll notice the water offers less resistance if you turn your body to the side – there's less resistance against the water because you're pushing forward with a smaller surface area. It's the same when you swim front crawl – to make things more efficient, learn to rotate. Try floating face down in the water again then, keeping your head in the same position, rotate your body so that one shoulder is lower in the water; then rotate the other way so that the other shoulder is lower in the water. This should be what happens when you move your arms in crawl. Your leading arm’s shoulder is down in the water while the other arm comes back behind you and out of the water, its shoulder rising out of the water as it does so. As the back arm comes around and enters the water, that shoulder goes down and the other comes up. Try it without legs or breathing for a few strokes. Remember - leading arm shoulder down, back arm shoulder up.
Once you've mastered body position and rotation, have a think about your breathing. This is often where people bring their head out of the water and sink, but there's no need to do that. Instead of lifting your head up (which will make your legs sink) try this: as your back arm and shoulder come out of the water, turn your face to look back behind over that shoulder. Your head will stay down but your face will come out of the water, leaving plenty of time for you to take a breath. Aim to breathe every third stroke so you breathe on each side. That helps you to stay on a straight line. Practise without legs first to get the technique right.
Finally, if you've practiced without legs you'll probably see that they're not that important in crawl. Most of the work comes from your upper body. When you do bring your legs in, it's to kick gently just at the surface of the water. You shouldn't be splashing the lifeguard.
That's it. Most of all, aim for something graceful - aim to glide through the water.
Most of our clubs run swimming lessons for adults so check them out. Even if you’re a competent swimmer it's amazing how much faster you can get or how much easier it can feel with a few pointers from a coach.