Freestyle swimming tips and guide

There are many styles of swimming, but freestyle, also sometimes called the front crawl, is perhaps the most common stroke that recreational swimmers perform. The stroke strengthens your abdominal and gluteus muscles, and like almost any type of swimming, burns calories. Competitive freestyle is a fast-paced race, even in distance events. Rules and regulations for swimming the freestyle are upheld by governing body, FINA, the Federation Internationale de Natation. It is a fantastic style of swimming that brings peoples and nations together in the water.

 How does it work in competition?

Starts and Finishes

The rules regarding starts and finishes for freestyle are easy to understand and follow. The freestyle start is a forward start — you must be moving in a forward fashion toward the other end of the pool. You are allowed to keep your entire body and head submerged for up to 15 meters after your start and each turn, but after that distance, your head must break the surface of the water. The freestyle finish occurs when any part of your body touches the wall after you have completed the race. For most competitive swimmers, this is a one-handed touch.

Stroke Mechanics

The term “freestyle” means that you can swim in any style you like. In a technical sense, you are free to swim backstroke, sidestroke or any other stroke you choose in a freestyle race. The exception to this rule is during a medley event in which you are already swimming backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke. In this case, you cannot repeat a stroke and must choose a fourth, unique stroke. In competition, however, freestyle refers to the front crawl stroke. The stroke is performed on the stomach with an overhand arm stroke and a flutter kick. Unlike the butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke, competitive swimmers cannot be disqualified for performing the arms or kick incorrectly.


Freestyle turns are performed in either an open or flip-style. Both types of turns are legal as long as part of your body touches the wall before you return to the other side of the pool. The hand is usually the body part that touches the wall during an open turn. Your feet touch and push off from the wall in a flip turn. Touching the wall with any other body part, such as the back, buttocks, shoulder or elbow, is inefficient from a racing perspective, but is not grounds for disqualification.


Competitive swimmers may disqualify themselves from a freestyle race if they do not adhere to additional rules regarding their activity in the pool. Swimmers who walk with their feet touching the bottom of the pool during a race, or forcefully pull on the lane lines are disqualified from that particular race. Accidentally bumping into the lane lines is not grounds for disqualification. Refraining from touching the wall during a turn also disqualifies you from a freestyle race.

That’s all you need to know for competitive freestyle swimming. Of course, for just pure pleasure in the water, it’s unbeatable for movement, speed and fun.

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