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3 Key Skills You Should Focus On To Improve Your Freestyle

Two weeks ago, I laid out a simple plan for improving your swimming.

Improving in the water really comes down to this-

1. Establish COMFORT in the water

2. Learn the key SKILLS of freestyle swimming

3. Develop the FITNESS to sustain these skills

Last week, I went into depth about how to tackle step #1, getting comfortable in the water.

It’s the foundation of effective swimming, and if left unaddressed, will make learning the key skills of freestyle swimming incredibly difficult.

Once that foundation is in place, it’s time to start working on your freestyle.

There are COUNTLESS suggestions for how to improve your freestyle.

It can be really tough to know where to start.

However, there are key skills that are important for everyone, and if you can improve these skills, you’re certain to swim faster.

At a fundamental level, effective freestyle is all about-

1. Maintaining alignment

2. Creating propulsion

3. Rotating effectively

Swimming fast is a math equation.

Drag slows you down and propulsion speeds you up.

The faster you want to go, the less drag you want to create and the more propulsion you want to create.

The former is achieved by great alignment and the latter comes from effective arm pulls.

Rotating effectively makes it much easier to accomplish both objectives.

I’m going to provide some depth about these three skills here and how to improve them.

If you’re interested in more, I go into much greater detail about these 3 skills in Freestyle Made Simple.

Maintain Alignment

Maintaining alignment is all about moving through the water as straight as possible.

You want to move straight through the water horizontally and laterally.

By addressing your comfort in the water, you’re going make a huge difference in your horizontal alignment.

You’ll learn to use your lungs to float and how to keep the legs up.

Start there.

Another key issue is head position.

As a really high head can drive the hips down, learning to get the head in line is key for improving your alignment.

Here’s a great tool for learning how to do so.

Things get difficult when it comes to breathing.

By lifting the head and pulling it to the side to breathe, you’re going to negatively impact horizontal AND lateral alignment in the water.

When it comes to breathing, straight and low is the way to go.

Here’s my favorite way to improve it.

Create Propulsion

The more propulsion you create, the more speed you create.

Creating propulsion is simple, although not easy.

  • You need to create as much surface area as possible

  • You need to maintain that surface area as long as possible

  • You need to pull straight back and get the arm moving faster

When it comes down to it, that’s what needs to happen.

Here’s my favorite starting point for improving the pull.

You can make any pulling exercise more effective by using different hand positions, such as the ones below, or by counting your strokes.

Rotate Effectively

Rotation is often misunderstood, and it can be challenging to learn, particular with the approach most instructors typically take.

Rotation is essentially allowing for extra range of motion in your shoulders.

It allows you to recover the arms effortlessly and without disrupting your alignment.

Without the extra rotation, your shoulders don’t have the range of motion to do so!

Secondly, it allows you get more out of each pull by placing your arm in a stronger position.

It’s not just about MORE rotation, it’s about rotation at the right time.

And that’s where it gets tricky.

It’s hard to describe and it’s hard to understand until you FEEL it.

The best way to FEEL it is to experience it with the right exercises.

The exercises below FORCE you to rotate at the right time because the resistance of the arm under water doesn’t allow you to recover the arm unless you time the rotation correctly.

Good exercises do the teaching for you!


If you want to improve your skills, you need to work on them.

Start implementing the exercises to improve your skills TODAY.

If you need help designing effective sets, check out the ones below as a starting point.

Whenever you're ready, there are 2 ways I can help you take your swimming to the next level:

1. If you’re looking for do-it-yourself solutions to improve your swimming, check out my resources Freestyle Made Simple and Addressing Adult-Onset Swimming.

2. If you want a more personalized learning experience, we can work together to analyze your stroke or develop a technical training plan.

Exit the water...


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