How to Swim Crawl Stroke

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If you watch good swimmers while they are swimming crawl you will notice they have a few things in common. Firstly they all roll easily from side to side. Next the body, arms and head are all moving as a unit, not as individual parts or movements on their own. The strokes are long, easy and smooth. Finally, although they kick, the kick is not emphasized.

When learning to swim crawl it's best to think about the stroke as a whole movement instead of individual parts. The approach outlined below begins with simple movements and adds something new to each step. This will help develop a full stroke instead of trying to tie learn individual parts and tie them all together.

Step 1: Floating on the Water

Start with the "dead man's float" or prone float face down in the water. In most cases this will place you in a proper body position for swimming. Arms are floating at the surface in front of your head, your your legs are stretched out behind you. Your legs might sink slightly, but because you are holding your breath your upper body, head and arms will remain at the surface.

If you have a low percentage of body fat this might be difficult for you. The higher your body fat the more you will float. The less body fat, the more you will sink. If you find that you are completely sinking in the water try taking and holding a larger breath of air. If that doesn't work, place a pull bouy between your ankles.

Step 2: Gliding on the Surface

While still doing the prone float push off the bottom of the pool and glide across the surface of the water. In deep water you will push off the side of the pool. You want to float and glide across the surface.

Step 3: Flutter Kick

Repeat step 2 and as you glide add an easy flutter kick. Do not try to kick too hard or too fast. Count your kicks in threes. 1 – 2 – 3 , 1 – 2 – 3 … Practice this step several times before moving to step 4.

Step 4: Arm Strokes for Crawl

Now it's time to add the arms. There are 3 parts to the arm pull, the pull, the push and the recovery.

The pull occurs when your arm enters the water and presses downward. You want to have your hand guide your arm in a slightly outward curve, but always keeping your arm directly under your body.

The recovery should lead with the elbow lifting out of the water and your arm traveling in a bent outward motion above the surface. You will be rolled slightly on your side while this occurs so that while one arm is recovering, the other arm is in the pull, push stage of the stroke.

Continue the kick pattern from step 3. You will do 3 kicks to each arm stroke, so continue counting if that helps you focus on the rhythm.

Practice this step while keeping your head in the water with the water line at mid forehead. Your head will only roll slightly with your body as your change your stroke from side to side, arm to arm.

Step 5: Crawl Stroke Breathing

The breath will be added in this step. Begin by taking a breath every other stroke until you develop some skill.

As your arm begins the "push" phase of the stroke you will exhale while your face is still in the water. As your arm leaves the water for the recovery phase, and the other arm begins the pull phase, you will be rolling to your side. During this roll turn your face out of the water without lifting your head. Take a breath then roll your face back into the water when the recovery arm goes back into the water to begin the pull phase again.

By following these 5 steps you will learn how to swim crawl stroke in a progressive way. Some parts of the stroke may not feel natural at first, but as you repeat the steps it will begin to come together as a fluid movement. Swimming crawl stroke is the first step for fitness swimmers, triatheletes and all competitive simmers whether they compete in a pool or in open water.

Please consult your doctor before beginning any type of training program.