Four common front crawl mistakes and how to improve them

March 17, 2020

Level 2 Swimming Coach Lucy Lloyd-RoachLevel 2 Swimming Coach Lucy Lloyd-Roach Swim England qualified coach Lucy Lloyd-Roach explains the four common front crawl mistakes and gives you tips to correct them.

As always, we recognise that there are a wide range of swimmers who read this blog.

This post covers some do’s and don’ts when swimming front crawl and provides tips on how to improve.

Body position – poor posture whilst swimming

Good vs bad posture when swimming front crawl
Good vs bad posture when swimming front crawl
Many of us could have better posture in everyday life (myself included). This may take different forms e.g. being slightly round-shouldered or tight through the hips.

If we swim with our body in this position, it will be lower in the water, creating more drag and therefore slowing us down.

When we swim, we want to have good posture, so thinking tall, shoulders down and back, and your core lightly engaged like you’re wearing a belt that’s slightly too tight.

What we’re aiming for – Front crawl body position

In the good posture photo (top) we can see the swimmer stretched from feet to head. In the bottom picture, his feet aren’t pointed, his body is relaxed and you can see he’s less streamlined (even the photo takes up more space).

How to correct it: Experiment with how your body position feels when you push off the wall and hold your glide when you don’t think about your posture versus how it feels when you think ‘good posture’.

Do you go further? Do you feel higher in the water? Faster? Lighter? Then take this good posture into your full stroke, and see how it feels.

Arms – over reaching

Over reaching in front crawl
Over reaching in front crawl
Your second of our four common front crawl mistakes is over reaching with your arms. It’s almost natural to try and stretch forwards as much as possible in order to lengthen the stroke.

However, this leads to sending the water initially the wrong way (down or forwards) rather than behind you. This is an ineffective way to set up your stroke and slows you down.

What we’re aiming for – Front crawl arm technique

In the top photo here we can see the swimmer overreaching and sending the water forwards. In the second photo we can see the swimmer having speared in to 20-30cm ready to send the water behind them.

How to correct it: The depth that we’re spearing into is one of the few areas whilst swimming that we can give ourselves visual feedback.

To do this, keep the water on the crown of your head, keep your head and spine in a neutral position but move your eyes to look forwards. In this position, you’ll be able to see a couple of metres in front and how your hands are entering the water.

We’re aiming to ‘spear in’ with your fingertips to a depth of 20-30cm. Your arm will be extended with your elbow higher than your wrist, your wrist higher than your fingertips.

Kicking – kicking from the knee

Kicking from the knee is another of our common front crawl mistakes as it causes a deep knee bend, which creates more resistance than kicking from the hip.

Swimmers who kick from the knee frequently report feeling like they’re working harder than expected and feel breathless.

What we’re aiming for – Front crawl kicking

How to correct it: You can think about this during the full stroke, or you can isolate it and do legs only.

If you’re doing legs only, try this without a kickboard as the additional buoyancy from the kickboard alters your body position and we want to feel how tuning-up your kick helps to improve this. You may do this with or without fins.

Think about kicking from your hips, keeping your knees relaxed and your feet pointed and slightly in-toeing.

Breathing – lifting the head to breathe

Good posture vs bad posture in front crawl
Good posture vs bad posture in front crawl
And finally, lifting your head to breathe rounds off our four common front crawl mistakes.

When your head is in the correct position, it creates a bow wave (like the wave we see on the front of a boat as it cuts through the water).

If you keep your head in the bow wave when you turn to breathe, it creates a pocket of air to breathe into. However, we see a lot of swimmers lifting their head to breathe, which breaks the bow wave, and this makes it harder to breathe and you’re more likely to take on water.

What we’re aiming for – Front crawl breathing

How to correct it: Learn to see or feel your bow wave.

Look for the water level as you turn to breathe, some people may see a distinct line of water, some might see light on top of the water and dark underneath, some may aim for one goggle in, one goggle out.

Some people find it easier to feel their bow wave. You might feel it on the crown of your head as you’re swimming.

Does that water pressure stay there when you turn to breathe? Can you feel the water level along the side of your face as you turn to inhale?

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