The stroke used most often as the anchor for training is freestyle (also known as front crawl or sidestroke). As it is the fastest competitive stroke known and front crawl needs the least amount of energy per unit time. In order to swim well with freestyle, there are a few important keys to focus.
Your head position is an important part of overall body position. It is established principle that body movement is strongly influenced by where the head is turned and the eyes look. It is commonly said, “where the head goes, the body follow.” The swimmer eye should look down and out while submerged, allows water to flow more easily over the head and reduces frontal resistance. If the head is looking forward, the legs, hips and torso will sink, increasing frontal resistance.
Since the hands are the leading parts of the body that enter the water, they have a greater influence on smooth forward motion than many think. There are two distinct hand entrances into the water; one for sprint freestyle and the other for distance freestyle. The sprinters place their hands into the water in a neutral position; hand flat, slightly pitched downward with the fingers slightly apart, the fingertips hitting the water all the same time. Many distance swimmers seem to prefer having their hands enter the water thumbs first, which they feel allows them to start a wider sweep sooner in the stroke cycle.
Extending the arm forward and grabbing water as far out in front of you as can be done smoothly in time with the roll correctly initiates good distance-per-stroke. The reaching arm now catches the water and pulls it back toward the hips. But for the most power to occur, the elbow must start to bend and wind up pointing out to the side away from the body while still under water. When the pull has been completed, the arm should find itself extended backwards pass the hips with hands still pushing the water toward the rear. In order to keep the freestyle cycle going smoothly, the arm and hand must be brought forward for recovery above water in the quickest manner.
Though the legs provide only about 5% of propulsion in distance freestyle and about 10% in free sprints, they shouldn’t be neglected in training or racing. During freestyle try to remain horizontal in the water, a strong kick will keep your legs from sinking behind you. You should only make a small splash with your legs; it should be natural, not forced only slightly breaking the surface of the water.
In power swimming, the breathing cycle is all important; correct breathing technique on every stroke is critical. In freestyle, Breathing is done through the mouth by turning your head to the side, depending on whether you wish to breathe on your left or your right side. I’ll never advise a swimmer to hold his breath except when competing in the 50. Remember breathing every third arm movement and the swimmers face should keep down in the water while the recovery arm moves past the face.