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Front Crawl Drills and Tips

Dept. of Physical Education, Health, Dance & Athletics

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Front Crawl Breathing Rules

  1. Do not hold your breath. If you are not inhaling, you should be constantly exhaling slowly through both your nose and your mouth. Holding your breath can cause water to go up the nose.
  2. Exhale into the water. If you don't exhale, you can't inhale. You don't have time to both exhale and inhale above water, so it better to exhale when your face is in the water and inhale when your face is above water.
  3. Do not lift the head when you breathe. This is one of the major mistakes and it causes the feet to sink and water to go up the nose. Keep the forehead down and the chin slightly tucked while you turn both the head and the body to get your breathe.
  4. Open your mouth to inhale. Do not attempt to breathe in through a small opening. This increases the pressure and the chance that you'll swallow water. If your mouth is open wide and you get some water, just spit it back out after getting your air. This is normal and should not cause you to panic.
  5. Inhale quickly and exhale slower. You inhale quickly when the head is turned and the arm is in the correct position. But you will exhale much slower so that it continues until the next inhalation.
  6. Open your mouth when you exhale. Do not attempt to exhale through the nose. Some of your air will come out the nose anyway, but forcing it all out the nose can disturb the sensitive membranes. If your nose drains or you get headaches after you swim, check the way you exhale.
  7. Turn your head to breathe as you pull. Timing the head turn to the arm pull is crucial to breathing correctly. You can not wait until the arm gets back before turning your head. You must do those motions at the same time. Attempt to get your head turned just prior to the hand coming out of the water.

Front Crawl Arm Pull Drills

  1. Practice the pull while standing in the water.
  2. Practice the pull just one arm at a time while the other holds onto a milk jug or kickboard. This is a good drill to practice breathing.
  3. Practice the pull just one arm at a time without a floatation device. This is called "catch-up" swimming.
  4. Practice the pull without bringing the arms out of the water. This has been called the "human stroke" or the "beginner stroke."
  5. Swim with a close fist for a distance and then with hands open. This can increase the "feel" for the water.
  6. Swim with hand paddles. Again, this increases the feel for the pull.
  7. Swim with pull-buoys between the legs. This reduces the effect of the kick on the body.
  8. At the end of each pull, touch the thumb to the leg. This makes sure the swimmer is pulling all the way back.

Front Crawl Arm Recovery Drills

  1. Practice shoulder shrugs forward while standing on deck or in the water and arms hanging relaxed at sides. Start with both shoulders moving forward at the same time and then alternate the shrugs. Add a high elbow move and then add the rest of the arm recovery motion.
  2. Stand on deck or in the water and elevate the shoulders and raise the elbows high. If possible, the elbows should be as close to shoulder high as possible. Move the hands forward and back as if swinging the arms like a huge crane. This helps the student to feel the arm movement at the shoulder joint.
  3. Stand in the water and have the swimmers imitate the arm recovery movement while dragging their fingertips across the surface. This helps them to build kinesthetic awareness of what they are doing.
  4. Swim with one hand holding onto a floatation device such as an empty milk jug. Pull with the other arm and recover with the fingertips dragging across the surface.
  5. Swim with one hand holding onto a floatation device and focusing on high elbows with hands below the elbow. Don't let swimmers bring the hand inside like a chicken wing.
  6. Swim catch-up style (hands touch between pulls) and concentrate on both the pull and the recovery.
  7. Swim with a kickboard in one hand. Pull and when you enter, aim the hand for the corner of the board and reach out under the side of the board instead of for the center. This can correct some of the common mistakes of moving the hands across the body on the reach after entry.
  8. Watch the hand enter the water and make sure the elbow is high and the palm is facing away.

Date Last Modified: 3 February 1998

Copyright (c) 1 January 1998 Linda Delzeit (