The freestyle stroke, or front crawl, is the fastest and most efficient of the strokes used in competitive swimming. However, in order for a swimmer to get the most out of it, their kick must be strong. While you may see more of a swimmer’s arms during freestyle swimming, it is a stroke that relies on both the arms and the legs doing their part. The speed that a swimmer will reach depends on the power of the kick propelling them through the water. Below are some tips for getting the most out of your freestyle swimming stroke.
Timing Your Kicks
There are two phases of the freestyle stroke. First, as your right hand is entering the water for the first part of the stroke, your left leg should be entering its kick. Conversely, as your left hand enters the water, your right leg should enter its kick. When done properly, the shoulders, hips, and torso should function as one unit, maintaining the proper degree of body rotation.
Proper Body Positioning
A strong freestyle kick relies on proper body positioning. In order to sustain momentum, your hips and legs should be in the correct position throughout your swimming kick sets.
Hips and Knees
One of the biggest mistakes a swimmer can make in the freestyle stroke is to bend their knees too much. This causes them to sink lower into the water than they should. Then, instead of putting all of their energy into their arm stroke, they are using it to keep themselves on the surface of the water. Instead, try to drive your freestyle kicks from your hips with your knees relaxed.
Plantar Flexion, or, Pointing Your Toes
The technical term for pointing your toes during the freestyle kick is “plantar flexion”. It is an important aspect of performing a proper kick. Unflexed toes increase the amount of water that your body has to push out of the way as you swim. This slows you down. Pointing your toes will reduce your drag in the water, giving you a better time.
Pointing your toes may seem like a laughably easy exercise. However, a competitive freestyle swimmer must point their toes sharply and for an extended period of time. Athletes like runners or cyclists are trained to stabilize their ankles as much as possible, but a swimmer must be both flexible and stable. Practicing yoga can help a swimmer learn to flex their ankles without undermining their stability.
With proper body positioning and practice, a swimmer can learn to deliver strong freestyle kicks and improve their stroke.