Anatomy of Freestyle Stroke

By Carrie Barrett – April 1, 2016
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons


This is your free speed off the wall, whether it’s a start or a turn. It is the fastest moment of your stroke.
Raise arms behind your head and tuck behind your ears.
Hands are on top of each other, body is in a horizontal plane, and toes are pointed.
Push 12 to 18 inches under the water surface to remain below the turbulent surface.


The catch phase is where you feel and “grab” the water in order to propel yourself forward. In this phase, you are actively extending and building power for the rest of the pull.
The arm that is “recovering” is in a high elbow position as depicted.
The catch arm enters the water, finger tips first, and in front of the same shoulder.
As you rotate and reach forward, make sure palm of hand is facing the bottom of the pool with finger tips pointed slightly down.
This initiates that catch or the grip on the water.

Like this article?
Get similar articles along with upcoming events, happenings, and more straight to your inbox.
Unsubscribe anytime.


Without dropping your elbow, lower the hand and forearm, with the hand directly below the shoulder.
Begin pressing back (not down) on the water while keeping that elbow as close to the surface as possible.
While the catch arm is pushing back, the recovery arm will enter and start the stroke on the other side.
As the catch arm finishes the pull, it should remain close to the side of your body. In fact, some drills emphasis the finish of the pull by having swimmers brush the side of their hip before beginning the recovery portion.


In freestyle swimming, only turn your head slightly so that you leave one goggle in the water and one goggle out. Don’t over rotate or lift your head to breathe.
Keep the crown of your head down and near the surface of the water.
As water displaces around the crown of the head, it forms a “pocket” where you will breathe.
Focus on exhaling while your face is in the water. In doing so, you will only have to focus on the inhale when you take your breaths.
Relax and take your time!


Next Article

Related Articles