Mastering the Crawl Swimming Technique

This swimming style has been in use since ancient timesThis swimming style has been in use since ancient times


The Fastest Style

Sports is one of the most important elements of proper physical and spiritual development of a person. Almost all of us had ever decided to start living a healthy lifestyle, get rid of bad habits that negatively affect our life and health, and go in for sports.

It would be perfect to do a bit of everything and try different kinds of sports, because it can facilitate the harmonious personal development, but actually, it is almost impossible.

So, a bit strange, but important and tricky question is what exactly to do, where to direct most of your efforts and energy? The first problem is a simple lack of time – you need to study or work, besides, no one wants to spend his or her leisure time.

The second problem is the complexity. It is difficult to develop in all areas and directions paying equal attention to the kinds of sports that you like most and sports that are less interesting to you. Moreover, it is obvious that different people have different likings – someone enjoys running in all its forms, but hates pumping iron at the gym. Others like martial arts, for example, and cannot be forced to play ball sports.

In this case, swimming is an ideal solution. Why? The answer is simple: everybody loves swimming and water in general. Besides, swimming is a unique kind of sports, because it engages almost all muscle groups – you need great efforts to overcome water resistance, so the intensity is higher than in the "open air" activities.

It follows that swimming is an effective way to get rid of extra calories, shed excess pounds, and build a lean and muscular body. Swimming improves the functioning of cardiovascular system, enhances the oxygen supply to the body, prevents the premature skin aging, improves skin elasticity, and helps to cope with stress and depression. And, the main thing is that swimming gives great pleasure and has almost no contraindications, which means that it is absolutely safe for anyone.

So, swimming is a special and unique kind of sports that involves overcoming water resistance within the shortest period of time.

When it comes to professional swimming, there are four main styles, or strokes – the front crawl (or freestyle), the back crawl, the butterfly stroke, and the breaststroke. All these styles differ in the complexity of learning and mastering the technique, energy expenditure, speed, and other aspects.

For example, the front crawl and the back crawl are among the easiest swimming strokes to learn and perform. Besides, crawl is the fastest style. The butterfly stroke is one of the most difficult to master and the second-fastest style, after the front crawl. The breaststroke is the slowest and the most energy-intensive way of overcoming water barriers. We are going to talk about the crawl as the easiest and fastest swimming style.

Technique of Swimming

Remember to breathe properly while swimmingRemember to breathe properly while swimming

The crawl is a swimming stroke that is performed on one’s stomach or back. The front crawl involves alternating arm movements and a flutter kick (up-and-down movements of the legs).

In other words, while swimming your arms resemble the arms of a paddle wheel of a steamship or the sails of a windmill, and your legs move in a scissor-like motion.

The technique of the back crawl stroke is similar to the freestyle: your arms alternate and move in a circular “windmill” motion and you use the flutter kick. The only difference is that in the front crawl stroke, the swimmer’s arms move over his or her head, pulling the water down the body, while in the back crawl, the arms move in the opposite direction as the swimmer lies on the back.

The Crawl Stroke Breathing Technique

You should inhale through the mouth. To breathe, turn your head to the side towards the arm that is under the water. The breath should be taken at the very beginning of the swing, when the so called "triangle" (the shoulder – the water’s edge – the forearm) is formed, because at this moment the water around the head moves aside. You should exhale through the mouth and then take the next breath.

The rules prescribe to inhale every third arm stroke. This means that you should use bilateral breathing pattern, breathing to the right and to the left side alternatively.

Preparation Exercises

Of course, it is difficult to keep track of everything at once: the movements of your arms and legs, the position of your head, and proper breathing. There are some special exercises designed to help you practice the technique of a particular swimming stroke and feel more comfortable and confident in the water while swimming. They can not only improve your movements, but also increase your speed.

You should try to start by doing the following easy crawl swimming drills:

  • Take a stroke with one arm while your other arm remains stretched in front of you. The idea of this drill is that one of your arms catches up to the other. Alternate the arms;
  • Catch up with the partner, maintaining the proper distance for swimming. It can greatly improve your speed. Do not forget about proper swimming technique!
  • You need a partner with a stopwatch and a whistle. Your task is to swim the longest distance possible within 6 seconds. The ideal for you are the world’s top athletes who cover this distance in 6 or less seconds. The aim of the task is to try different strokes, slightly change the position of the body, and try to swim differently, in general. The partner should point out your mistakes and advise you an optimal variant that you can use later during your swimming sessions;
  • The adults should swim with hand paddles that can help to keep the elbow higher while swimming. This is a good exercise for those who forget to keep the elbows above the water;
  • Swim with one arm only, your other arm should be extended and remain stationary. The breathing pattern should be regular;
  • Try to perform the following energy-intensive exercise: push off the side of the pool, take a stroke with one arm, move it above the water surface, while keeping your other arm stationary, and take one more stroke. Then, stretch the working arm backward and swim a couple of seconds in this way. Afterwards, change the arm;
  • Do various exercises off the water as well. For example, a well-known "Windmill" exercise can help you master the proper arm movements. Just sitting on a bench, imitate the leg movements during swimming – it can help you develop your muscles better. Combine your arm and leg movements. Practice it until you do it automatically.

Common Mistakes

The swimmer seems to sit in the water - the chin is pressed to the chest and the knees are bent. You need to maintain proper body position in the water to avoid creating additional resistance. You should start the movement with a straight leg to avoid this mistake.

Try to avoid these mistakesTry to avoid these mistakes

Bent knee kicking.. You need to maintain proper position of your legs while swimming – they should be as straight as possible.

Improper head position.. If your head is raised too high, it causes your hips to sink and makes you move much slower, besides, the water does not let you breathe. It is recommended to slightly lower your head to your chest – it can help you keep your head straight. Your head should face down and hit the waterline while swimming.

Improper balancing of the body.. Do not swim too deep.

Straight-arm stroking.. It greatly decreases the effectiveness of swimming.

Improper breathing.There are plenty of such mistakes: holding the breath, breathing failure, etc. The breathing technique while crawl swimming requires special attention and it should be considered separately.

To improve your skills, you may find it helpful to use this article about swimming freestyle mistake and how to correct them.

World Records

To date, there are the following achievements of the freestyle swimmers (the athletes give preference to the crawl stroke in this discipline):

Distance (m)

Men (sec)/strong>

Women (sec)


20.91 (Cesar Cielo)

23.67 (Sarah Sjöström)


46.91 (Cesar Cielo)

51.71 (Sarah Sjöström)


102.00 (Paul Biedermann)

112.98 (Federica Pellegrini)


220.07 (Paul Biedermann)

236.46 (Katie Ledecky)


871.02 (Sun Yang)

925.48 (Katie Ledecky)

Can you swim faster? Share your results for these distances in comments.


As you can see, it is not difficult to master the crawl swimming technique. You should learn to position your body properly in the water, maintain proper breathing while swimming, and enjoy the process, that's all!

It would be great if someone could watch you swim and draw your attention to the mistakes you make. The crawl is a great swimming style that is really easy to learn. Good luck!

Shesternenko Alexander
Fitness trainer, group instructor, dietitian
  • Counsels and educates on proper nutrition principles, body weight correction, and adjustment of individual diets and diets during pregnancy;
  • Develops meal plans that meet nutrition goals and dietary needs for obese and underweight people;
  • Specializes in modern functional testing techniques in sports, athletic recovery, sports supplementation, pharmacological support, and actual women's problems in sports;
  • On the website, provides analysis of different dietary schemes, reviews modern training techniques and effective exercises.


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