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  • Islam Abdou

How to Swim Faster Freestyle!

One step closer to being faster in Freestyle. As a swimmer and a coach, I'm always experimenting and learning on how to be faster in all the strokes. I'll be discussing all the other strokes but for today let us dive in Freestyle!

Let's agree that these are my standards and the norm but there is always “what works best for you” and how do you know that? You ;

  1. Try it

  2. Time it

  3. Feel it.

Head Position

Think of the head as the bow of the ship “The boat tip” it determines your initial body position. Too high is bad too low is bad.

Too high and your hips sink, increasing drag. Too low and you create more frontal drag.

What should you do?

- Have your head be in line with your back eyes looking straight at the bottom of the pool, it CAN look slightly forward, just 10-20 degrees, not more.

- If your head looks more forward, then your lower body will sink and that will cause enormous drag and that's bad, drag is bad 😃

Body Position

You want to be high on the water. The most crucial element here is the hips, your main focus here is not having your hips sink (easier said than done).

Just bumping your butt up is not the answer, you’ll just force your legs to sink plus it's not a comfortable position and just looks overall wrong.

What should you do?

You need to elongate your body, keep your core engaged, have enough propulsion from your arms and legs, have good head position and enough reach with your arms.

Pulling Motion

Pulling is your main propulsive force, so many elements here to focus on, starting with

1- Hand Entry

2- The Catch

3- The Pull

4- Mid Pull

5- Finish/Exit

6- Recovery

I will discuss all the details in another post.


The kick is your secondary propulsive force and it has basically four functions, that is if you are kicking correctly.

A correct kick should originate from the hips, not the knees. Imagine kicking a soccer ball. Yes there will be a knee bend but the power is coming from your quads.

The functions of the kick as per Coach Gary Hall Sr.

1- Propulsion

2- Lift

3- Stability

4- Inertia

Points to focus on

- Don't kick too wide. Imagine kicking inside a bucket.

- Kicks need to be fast. Too much splash is not the way to go.

- Bonus points to work on in having more ankle flexibility.

Body Rotation

This is how we increase our efficiency by decreasing drag because as we rotate we decrease the part of our bodies moving with water. We also increase the length of our strokes (DPS - Distance Per Stroke) and save energy.

Body rotation is crucial for mid and long distance swimming as it is a real energy saver!

The rotation should be around 30 to 50 degrees, more than that and you’ll lose your stroke & the efficiency you are going for. Some swimmers actually over rotate on the breath which instantly causes a drop in speed.

That is not the case for sprint events like the 50m Freestyle where the degree you rotate should be minimized.

What should you do?

Focus on the reach of the leading arm and take your time with the stroke.

N.B. - Do not rotate your head with your body unless you are going for the breath


This is one of the most important success factors of your freestyle. Imagine having a Lambo and then filling it up with water instead of the highest quality fuel.

Breathing is your fuel, you need oxygen to perform at optimal performance. In past years, you can see swimmers breathing every 3 or 4 strokes on the 100m Freestyle. Now a breath every stroke cycle is the norm, why? Constant access to fuel aka Oxygen.

Guys need more oxygen than men, why? Bigger muscles need more fuel.

Having said that, now if your side breath is not perfect and I mean perfect, you're only doing yourself a disservice because every time you go for that precious O2 you are losing precious milliseconds adding up to a couple of seconds at the end of the race.

What should you do?

Practice the perfect timing of the side breath for your stroke without loss of speed.

The perfect side breath is taken mid-pull during the body’s rotation.

The side breath is taken through rotation, not by lifting the head nor bending the body.

Aim for one goggle in, one goggle out.

Check out this video of Caeleb Dressel’s breath during the 100m Freestyle Olympic Final.

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