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5 Freestyle Exercises For Beginners

When you’re first starting out, sifting through all of the information that’s out there can be daunting.

There are countless different skills you could work on and countless different exercises you could use.

It can be overwhelming.

Choose the wrong exercises, and at best it’ll take more time and effort to accomplish your goals.

Even worse, you might not accomplish your goals at all!

Picking the appropriate exercises clearly matters, and separating fact from fiction is particularly tough for the beginner.

So, which should you use?

Why should you use them?

That’s what we’ll cover today.

From a bigger picture perspective, what makes a good exercise?

Great exercises have two important characteristics-

  • They’re simple

  • They’re effective

That’s it!

Both are especially important as a beginner.

As you’re learning to swim, you don’t have the ability to perform complex exercises.

You need exercises you can actually do!

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to figure out an exercise that’s supposed to help you improve, and you can’t even do the exercise.

Secondly, the exercise has to actually help you improve your freestyle.

Some exercises may look similar to freestyle, but they’re actually teaching you something that’s completely different.

If it’s doesn’t help you really improve your skills, what’s the point?

With that being said, let’s get into the exercises I know are the most effective for helping you improve.

1. Ball Float

How do you know when someone is just learning to swim?

You can SEE the struggle.

Most of that struggle is the result of an inability to relax in the water.

Learning to float effectively and get comfortable in the water is THE most important skill.

Without it, learning every other skill becomes pretty much impossible.

It’s that important.

The Ball Float is an excellent way to begin to learn this skill.

This exercise is simple.

Get a BIG breath, grab your knees, and just relax.

You may sink a bit and then come back up, or you might just rest on the surface.

That’s completely fine.

The big focus is relaxing as much as possible and paying attention to how the lungs hold you up and support you in the water.

The more comfortable you can get in the water, the faster you can improve.

2. Ball Float to X Float

Once you’ve improved your ability to relax and get comfortable in the water, it’s time to work on the second most important skill for beginners.

A LOT of beginners really struggle with their body position.

That usually means the head is high and the hips are low, with the legs sinking.

Think about it this way.

You do NOT want to be plowing through the water like a barge.

You want to be slipping straight through the water like a speed boat.

So, you need to learn how to get the hips and the legs up at the surface.

Here’s how to do it.

The Ball Float to X Float helps you learn how to get the hips up and keep everything in line.

It builds upon the stability created during the ball float.

From that stability, it allows you to learn how to create tension in the back of the body to hold the legs up at the surface.

This exercise can be a little frustrating to work with if you expect to be able to get perfectly on the surface of the water.

Don’t worry if that doesn’t happen.

The key is to FIGHT to hold the legs up.

That’s the skill that’s important.

It’s actually easier to do when you’re swimming, so aim to create the necessary tension in isolation, then work to make it happen while you swim.

3. Stroke and Roll

Having touched on body position, it’s time to work on your breathing.

It’s important to touch on body position first because it’s a lot easier to breathe effectively once you in line on the surface of the water.

With breathing, the most common mistake that beginners make is picking the head up and to the side when breathing.

Unfortunately, that’s going to wreck your body position and kill your speed.

Instead, you want to learn to ROTATE to breathe.

This exercise helps you learn to do so.

Just like the name of the exercise implies, ROLL to the breath.

Good breathing involves rotation of the neck AND rotation of the body.

This exercise helps you learn to do both.

It’s important to work both sides.

While you don’t necessarily have to breathe to both sides when racing or training, you should be able to if you’d like to.

While the exercise exaggerates how much you’d rotate, you’ll take the same overall approach when breathing.

Rotate just enough to get a great breath without having to lift or pull the head to the side.

4. Wall Pull

No matter how good your other skills are, if you’re not executing a great pull, it’s going to be difficult to create speed through the water.

Descriptions of the pull can get really complicated.

However, the pull is actually pretty basic.

You want to create a big paddle with your whole arm, then pull straight back.

When you focus on the big picture, it’s easier to get the outcome you want.

The most effective way to learn a great pull is to continue to keep it simple.

This exercise is a little different than the others because you’re not moving directly interacting with the water.

It’s really valuable because it’s simple and it lets you feel the key ideas associated with a great arm pull.

The main idea is to FEEL what it’s like to get the whole arm involved and to learn what it feels like to pull straight back.

What should you try to do?

Find a position that’s comfortable for you.

Maybe a little wider, maybe a little narrower.

Then experiment with putting pressure into the wall with your whole arm, not just your hand.

That backward pressure is what you want to create.

The cool part about this exercise is that you can practice it before every repetition you do, regardless of what you’re doing.

It gives you a great reminder of what you should feel and how to make it happen.

If you want to focus on your pull, add this exercise to your sets during you’re rest periods.

It makes any other exercise you do more effective.

5. Underwater Recovery

One of the challenges of learning freestyle is that there is a LOT going on.

There’s breathing, there’s body position, there’s kicking, there’s the arm pull, there’s the arm recoveries, and there’s timing it all together.

It’s messy and it can be overwhelming.

There are a LOT of ways to use underwater recovery to improve, but we’re going to focus on just one.

Underwater recovery helps you keep it simple.

Underwater recovery allows you to simplify freestyle by removing one the most difficult aspects of the stroke- the recovery.

Then you can focus on working on the other details with a lot less distraction.

The best part about underwater recovery is that it maintains the essential rhythm and timing of regular freestyle.

You get the simplicity without losing the key aspects of the stroke.

The underwater arm recoveries actually reinforce a great rhythm.

If you’re getting overwhelmed with everything, underwater recovery can be really helpful for keeping it simple.

The biggest focus here is recovering the arms straight forward and pulling the arms straight back.

That’s a key skill in freestyle, and one you want to lock in here.

There you have it.

If you’re not sure where to start or what to do, rather than taking a shotgun approach, really focus on the key skills that are going to make the biggest difference in your swimming.

Just as importantly, work on the key exercises that are going to help you learn those key skills as quickly as possible, with as little effort as possible.

If you’re struggling to fix out which exercise you should focus on first, stay tuned for my next article where I’ll show you how to determine which skill you should focus on.

Keep it simple...


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