Front crawl technique: the key components

Swim coach Robin Brew explains the key components of a good front crawl swim technique that will help you perfect your freestyle stroke, so you swim faster than ever

Chrissie Wellington swimming front crawl

Getting your front crawl technique right can be the difference between a PB and another disappointing swim performance. Here, swim coach Robin Brew explains the key components of a good front crawl technique.


The catch phase of front crawl

Key to a good catch is avoiding the urge to rush

1. The catch is the point where your leading hand starts to build pressure on the water. After you’ve fully extended your leading arm, introduce the catch with a downward and slightly outward sweep.

2. Pay attention to timing. At this point, your recovering hand should be entering the water.

Top front crawl catch tip

Don’t rush the front of the stroke. The emphasis is on the hand that’s completing the push phase, as this is where the most propulsion is generated. Rush the front end and you’re likely to interrupt the push phase. Doing so will cause your pushing hand to exit early, resulting in a shorter stroke and loss of drive.

The pull phase of front crawl

Timing of one phase to the next is the focus for a smoother stroke

1. The pull phase of the stroke is where your hand applies moderate pressure on the water and your arm is brought in towards the centre-line of your body.

2. Your elbow should point towards the sidewall of the swimming pool as your head and body are preparing to rotate.

 Top front crawl pull phase tip

Ensure you get the timing right. One hand is at the end of the pull phase and just about to start the push phase as the other is extending forward. This provides stability and support to maintain the correct body position.

Push and breathe phase of front crawl

A push with your hands and your mouth will result in greater efficiency

1. Your hand reaches the end of the push phase by sweeping back and slightly out – to clear your waist – and then upwards. Your thumb brushes the top of your thigh before your elbow begins to lift your hand clear of the water.

2. Introduce the roll as your hand is pushing backwards. Breathing needs to fit perfectly into the stroke.

 Top tip for the push and breathe phase of front crawl

It’s important to exhale underwater as your back hand is nearing the end of the push phase. Then, rotate to inhale as your hand begins its recovery towards the front to begin the next stroke. Avoid lifting your head to breathe as this compromises your balance.

The roll phase of front crawl

Imagine an axle through the centre of your body and you’re rotating around it

1. Your elbow should be the highest part of your recovering arm; this helps you to balance and control your roll. Focus on keeping your whole body as streamlined as possible.

2. The roll is key to good front crawl, so spend time practising its timing and co-ordination. Getting the roll right allows you to develop a natural rhythm, which helps to ensure your stroke rate and stroke length remain constant throughout your swim. You should pay particular attention to your body position. Once you’ve taken your breath, return your head to the centre-line quickly.

3. Staying face down helps you to balance and makes keeping your hips on the surface, and swimming flat, easier.

Top tip for the roll phase of front crawl

Body alignment is important. Ensure your hips and legs don’t swing from side-to-side. There are two things that cause this. You may be turning your head too far when you breathe or you could be swinging your arms too widely during the recovery.

The kick phase of front crawl

Your hips play an integral role when it comes to a proficient and powerful kick


Don’t kick too deeply. Point your toes straight out behind you and kick with straighter legs. Kick with a whip-like action that starts from your hip. Use your hips and the tops of your thighs to start the kick, then let your lower leg whip down smoothly, in time with the rest of the stroke.