Building Strong Foundations – Front Crawl
Front crawl has always been considered the ‘Meter eater’; it’s the go to stroke for most swimmers. It’s the fastest of the four strokes and the most efficient. Swimming coaches use front crawl to make up the majority of their weekly workouts, because its by far the best stroke for aerobic and distance training. Although it seems like a simple stroke it’s not easy. There are many factors like timing, body position, breathing and rotation that make this stroke difficult to master. Swimming effortless front crawl comes through hours of perfecting the solid foundations of the stroke: We’ve highlighted four key areas to focus on when building strong foundations of front crawl:
- A strong leg kick
- Smooth rotation
- Powerful arm pull
- Efficient breathing
Kicking – The EngineAs the body rotates from side to side the direction of the kick also changes to make sure the legs are keeping in line with the body position. As the body rotates over to the side the direction of the kick will also change to the side, as it comes back to the centre the kick will follow. It’s very poor technique to have your upper body facing one direction and your lower body facing another. They key is to try and keep everything in sync by rotating as one, therefore avoiding any twisting from the trunk. When building a strong front crawl kick it is important to use all 3 kick positions, so that the body doesn’t have weaknesses when you rotate left and right.
The 3 kicking positions
Coaches Tip ” Any kick above the surface of the water is wasted energy. Try to create a boiling water effect on the surface, by making sure your feet do not break the surface of the water”
Smooth Rotation – The BalanceWhy rotate at all? Power. There is a large percentage of sports that require trunk rotation to increase power. Racket sports, golf, boxing, cricket and baseball will all use the rotation of the trunk to increase the power. The body’s rotation in front crawl generates much more power than pulling from a flat position in the water. A lack of rotation makes breathing increasingly difficult, thus causing major problems with balance and timing. Some swimming experts claim rotating onto your side will reduce drag and will enable ‘cutting through the water quicker’ I’m not convinced this is entirely correct, the evidence is not clear enough to justify the statement. Increased power from rotation explained As the body rotates on to its side the strong back muscles (lats) engage. The power from the initial arm stroke combined with the involvement of the powerful back muscles create large amounts of propulsion. The result is power and speed. In a flat body position we are relying much more on the shoulders and arms to pull us through the water. This style will create some propulsion, however, it tends to be far less effective. One key factor affecting rotation is head position. The head should sit in what I like to call a neutral position, resulting in a streamlined effect. When you’re trying to create the position with the least frontal drag the head should be in alignment with your shoulders. The line of sight will be straight down towards the bottom of the pool. A common mistake is having the head lifted or looking forward too much.
Pulling – A Powerful Front Crawl Arm PullAre you getting the most out of your pull? Here’s two key areas of the arm pull that can help create a stronger more powerful pull. The catch, is the most important area of the arm stroke and is the initial part of the pull. The goal is to take hold of as much water as possible. The surface area of the hand should be relaxed but strong to create a large paddle like effect. Fingers are pointed slightly down to achieve the angle most effective for propulsion.
Coaches Tip: “Keep the elbow above the hand, fingers pointed slightly downwards”The propulsive phase is where the power’s generated, the major muscles in the shoulder and back can get really involved and pull the hand through to the hip. Timing is essential, a slow acceleration of the stroke from the catch to the hip combined with a rotation of the body can result in massive propulsion. Two common stroke faults can drastically decrease propulsion.