Introduction: How to Swim Freestyle.

Picture of How to Swim Freestyle.

For the past four summers I have worked at a summer camp teaching kids to swim properly. In this instructable we will break down what you needed to do with your head, torso and legs in order to swim efficiently.

Keep in mind that this is for anyone who is learning to swim, If you are looking to improve your stroke check out some of the comments, they will get you well on your way.

p.s. Keep the comments coming, I'll try to use as many as I can to make this instructable the best it can be.

Step 1: What You'll Need to Get Started.

Picture of What You'll Need to Get Started.

- A body of water. (Start out some where that is bellybutton to chest level, so that if you start to feel uncomfortable you can just stand up.)
- A trained lifeguard on duty. (You should never swim without someone keeping an eye on you, especially if you aren't comfortable with water above your head.)

- a kick board or a pull float. (I'm not sure if these are the cheapest out there, this is just the first thing a Google search turned up.)
- Swim peripherals (goggles, nose plugs, fins ect. Sometimes these tools make people feel more comfortable in the water but they are by no means necessary.)
- A friend (for encouragement, and possible aid during certain steps. Your friend can take the place of your floats if you are particularly light.)
- Bathing suit. (really depends on how close you are to the friend.)

Step 2: Getting Comfortable!

Remember, I taught children to swim, so we'll be taking this nice and slow.

The first thing you need to do is get comfortable being submerged in water. Play some games whit your friend in the shallow end of the pool, go under for as long as you feel comfortable and try to open your eyes.

If at any point you feel panicked don't try to force yourself to continue. Take some deep breaths (above water) and try again when you have calmed down. This is where your friend can come in handy for a bit of encouragement.

Once you feel good enough about having your head under the water for a good deal of time, you will be ready to move on to the next step.

Step 3: Talk to the Fish. Listen to the Fish.

This step is all about learning how to do the proper breathing technique. We won't actually start moving through the water just yet.

First, take a deep breath and submerge your face into the water. The back of your head should be above the water while your face, from the ears forward, will be under.

Next, as you feel yourself running out of air, begin to exhale (talking to the fish, because, if you didn't know, fish speak in a complex language of bubbles) and simultaneously turn your head (I prefer to turn my head to the right, but that's just me). By the time your mouth is out of the water you should have gotten rid of whatever is left in your lungs.

Now that you mouth is out of the water, one of your ears will be submerged (listen to the fish). Take a deep, quick breath in and turn you head so you are once again face down in the water.

Repeat this process while standing in place until you feel comfortable doing it.

Step 4: We Don't Need Flat Palms Here.

Picture of We Don't Need Flat Palms Here.

Next we are going to look at the upper body. This includes how to shape your hands, the motion of your arms, and how to position your torso. This part of the lesson does not require you to actually start swimming, but hopefully you will be able to.

First the hands. Make sure all of your fingers are tight together, and your thumb is pressed against the side of your hand. Curve your hand slightly, as though you were holding a hand full of marbles or a small amount of water. This will help to create more pull when you are going through the water.

Pro Tip: When you take a stroke, keep your hand like it is in the picture, except there should be a slight space between the fingers. It requires more concentration, but you'll get a better pull.\
PRO Pro Tip: Once you feel comfortable enough with your stroke, you can straighten your hand, move your thumb away from your palm and relax your fingers. Unless you want to swim like the flappers.

Step 5: Windmills, Like Holland, Jah?

Picture of Windmills, Like Holland, Jah?

To practice this step, make your way to water that is a little over bellybutton deep, and bend over so your face and the front of your body are in the water. Extend both your arms, palm down, through the water in front of you, stopping just before you reach a full extension.

Step 1: Now, keeping your right hand extended, swing your left hand down under your torso following along your center line until you reach your hip (picture 1).
Step 2: When your left hand reaches your hip (palm up), pull it just out of the water, keeping your fingertips close to the surface. (picture 2).
Step 3: Extend it back to where your left hand was at the start of the step, submerging the hand as it reaches the peak of the stroke. It should now be next to your right hand.
Step 4: repeat steps 1-3 with your right hand.

Once you feel comfortable with this alternating stroke, try to tighten things up a little bit. While you start to extend your left hand as described in step 3, begin your steps for your right hand. And as you start to extend your right hand as described in step 3, begin your steps for your left hand.

Step 6: Incorporating Breathing.

Picture of Incorporating Breathing.

Once you are comfortable with the stroke you will be ready to incorporate the breathing we learned earlier.

When your right hand is pulled down to your hip it is time to listen to the fish, crank your head to the side and take a deep breath. Turn your head back down into the water as your arm comes up above your head. As your right hand swings down your center line, talk to the fish. Repeat when needed. (I do it every stroke because I have awful lung capacity.)

Once you feel comfortable combining your breathing and your stroke you can grab a pull float and try to make a couple of laps with just your arms. The pull float sits snuggly between your inner thighs, and I like to cross my ankles to help keep it in place. You can also try to place a kick board just under your feet, though this has a somewhat awkward mounting and dismounting process.

Pro Tip! Once you get the hang of meshing it all together, try not to breath every stroke, breath every 3 at the most and you will build your back muscles evenly.

Step 7: Kicking Sans Screaming.

If you can get down the coordination of breathing during your stroke than kicking will be easy as pie.

In order to kick properly, keep your legs straight and your toes pointed, then kick. Don't stop. That's pretty much it.

Try to make a bit of a splash behind you, we always told kids the bigger the better, but that's just because they liked big splashes.

Grab your kick board and make a couple of laps using just your legs, until you are comfortable with what you are doing.

Pro Tip! Your legs require 2x as much energy as your arms, but your arms can generate 2x as much propulsion. That's why distance swimmers basically only kick enough to keep their feet floating.

Step 8: Conclusion.

I have never seen anyone just jump in a pool and quickly "get" swimming just because someone explained it to them. It's like learning to whistle (not that you need to know one to do the other) people can tell you how to do it over and over, but more than likely you are going to spend countless hours puckering your lips and blow until your dizzy with no avail. One day you'll get it, but it probably won't be one day soon.

More than anything else this will take time and practice.

And if there is something you aren't sure how to do try watching someone swimming laps. Be sure to take note of how the move their hands, arms, and how they pivot their torso. Also keep an eye on how they breathe, and their head position.

Stay safe and have fun!

P.S. You will get water in your nose.

All pro tips were taken from the comments to this section. If you would like to contribute your own pro tips please comment and I will try to make it happen.


kasperkls02 (author)2015-01-24

When talking to the fish then do it with nose that way you don't get water in your nose

C-R-E-8 (author)2014-09-13

Hi i swim competition so you can trust me. Always remember to keep your hand inline with your upper arm. Your hand must be at your mouth and elbow at ear

GraduallyGreener (author)2010-04-18

 Because you use your pectoral muscles. We aren't all still in 3rd grade.

Unfortuantly, some people will always be in the 3rd grade.

supertoria12 (author)Saturn V2012-07-05

Those poor 3rd grade teachers.

droo1966 (author)2011-12-11

Only one comment. The stroke taught here is called the Australian Crawl. "Freestyle" in a swim meet means any style you choose. Most swimmers use the Australian Crawl simply because it is the fastest for the least effort and hence can be maintained easily.

Templarix47 (author)2009-08-22

I think swimming is one of the most hardest sports and the most muscle making. You really need a lot of endurance for swimming but after you do it for some time you really start feeling stronger. Just keep your fingers together and lift your elbows high and start breathing every 2 or 3 strokes and then start breathing around 5 strokes. It puts oxygen in your blood if you breathe less frequently. Just practice!

Musicman41 (author)Templarix472011-12-10

Being a past runner, and having swam several times for excersize, i feel 5 minutes of swimming = 20 minutes of hard running. Maybe I am just weak, but this is an excellent way to boost oxygen consumption excersize your oxygen debt (a term for when muscles move without oxygen)

CrudeBuster (author)2010-02-06

I hate salt water in my nostrils... It fills my brain with salt... And pool water fills my head with chlorine. Argh.

I'll be better developing a clever floating device for myself. But it is a good instructable, maybe I'll try next time I go to the beach.

 Try freshwater, such as a lake, river, or stream!

and then you have junk from little fishies in the water (not to mention the waste some people dump in the water). It will never be ideal, just live with it. The body is amazingly resilient.

cinalimaster (author)2010-09-07

I'm trying to learn swimming to and still can't :)

but here is a tip from me:

at the learning process leaning back at the water without doing any movement except just breathing will give encourage you from drowning and usefull in deep water when you get tired.

spylock (author)cinalimaster2011-07-29

If you can float you can swim,and if youve got your lungs full of air,youre not going to sink,dont say you cant swim you can you just dont know it yet.Try floating on you back controlling your breathing,when you let out your air youll start to sink,so when that happens take another breath.If I was with you for an hour you d be swimming.

Cheezpaper (author)2010-11-06

Michael Phelps is showing off his manly armpit hair while drinking water at the same time.

swim right (author)2008-07-18

No swimmers swim with tight fingers, you should have your fingers straight and relaxed. Nor should your thumb be pressed against the side of your hand, just watch any underwater video of a world class freestyler and you'll see the thumb is away from the hand (you can watch a snippet of Kara Lynn Joyce at the GoSwim site to see some great underwater shots). And third, no one is "cupping" their hand anymore like in the photo, that went out in the '40's

sokamiwohali (author)swim right2009-08-21

Give Him/Her a break please...swimming is a personal thing. you swim the way YOU want to swim...if this is the way that they prefer to swim, dont cut them down about it. swimming is a science...EVERYONE has their own way of doing it. I actually swim underwater with my fingers "feathered" and then i stremline them closed to each other as they streamline with my body. i also just so happen to dolfin kick while doing this. i get more speed out i of my body when i use my technique.

coolpal007 (author)2009-08-17

How much time we can make out inside the water ideally?

alia27 (author)2009-04-03

thanks so much. I grew up not allowed to swim and then lost all confidence to do adult classes. That was extremely helpful!!! :) Thanks again

cs272 (author)2008-08-20

Thanks...I'm learning as an adult. I've got breast stroke down, but struggle with freestyle. I'll try your tips next time in in the pool. Very helpful.

Khun Aung Thura Soe (author)2008-08-16

it really helps me to swim technically and you shows me the basic facts to swim thank you

Weissensteinburg (author)2007-06-16

If you make a list of what pictures you would like...I may be able to take some for you.

More underwater pictures of cute girls in bikinis! ;)

haha..unless you want me in a bikini (which I very much doubt you do) I can't help you there. For some reasons, girls aren't to fond of people taking pictures of them underwater. Go figure.

JuCo (author)Weissensteinburg2008-08-15

yup, yup... that's how 17.4% of swimming "accidents" happen.* *warning: may or may not be true.

lawizeg (author)Weissensteinburg2008-06-28

I hate pictures on the beach.

rockendrumer (author)SurferGeek2008-06-16


mwwdesign (author)SurferGeek2008-05-29


AustralLord (author)SurferGeek2008-02-29

YES, PLEASE!!!!! Sites need these kind of things to survive!

KentsOkay (author)SurferGeek2008-02-29


wompastompa (author)SurferGeek2008-02-27

hahaha, I'm pretty sure we were all thinking it.

Gbutton (author)Weissensteinburg2007-06-16

Someone in every part of the stroke, someone's face coming out the breath, swimming with the face in the water. Just whatever you can get of a freestyle swimmer would be awesome!

wi-fi astronomer (author)Gbutton2007-09-19

If you can't swim as an adult, it gets incredibly difficult to learn. It's best learned young but not TOO young. If you can't swim as an adult, make sure to wear a life vest while on any boat! I tried it, and no success. You must try it to ever learn it, with or without an instructable.

The younger the better, from my personal experience. My mom taught us to swim as infants. I mean before we could walk. I remember when she was teaching my younger sister to swim, I was four and she was a few months old. My mom just took her in the pool and let go. She started to sink and then instinctively began to dog-paddle her way to the surface and just held her head above water. It was something amazing to see. I don't know where my mom got the courage and security to know it would work, most young moms would sooner take a carpenter's plane to their shins than drop their new babies under water! My sister doesn't even like it when I pour water over her 16-month old son's head when I bathe him.

lawizeg (author)rupamagic2008-06-28

It's actually just natural. It happens in the wild too. But say that im...12. Can i still learn to swim with ease?

Chris Goodwin (author)lawizeg2008-07-31

I'm 38 years old, and I had my first swim lesson in January of this year. I can now swim front crawl and back crawl. I'm not great at it -- I'm still trying to learn side breathing, and coordinating kicking with arm strokes is still a little difficult. But I can move in the water under my own power and float. Before September of last year I couldn't even float. So, my answer to you is, yes you can! :)

hydrnium.h2 (author)rupamagic2008-03-01

HA, my mom just threw me in the water when I didn't want me to learn. Ahhh, my earliest memory of the pool is my mom picking me up and chucking em in, nostalgic, isn't it?

_soapy_ (author)wi-fi astronomer2007-10-14

Uh, wear a life jacket on *any* boat!

If you are knocked out and fall in, if you are winded or tired, or if you are wearing clothes, if you have a heavy pair of shoes or boots on, you get tangled slightly in a weed, or if it is cold, you will be rapidly in trouble, even if a strong swimmer.

Even in ideal conditions, could you swim for 5 minutes while people stopped and turned about to pick you back up? Bet your life on that?

Most people in the UK who drown are "strong swimmers"!

wi-fi astronomer (author)_soapy_2007-12-21

In severe cold water like The North Atlantic (like The Titanic) no swimmer can survive after a short while. But in warm water a person with life jacket gets a chance... or in REALLY cold and undergoes unintended suspended animation. Still, if you go in a boat it's a good idea to have a life jacket whether you can swim or not. Just don't panic as you set off the CO2 cartridge to inflate it. Fun note: Ocean saltwater is easier to float in than in freshwater like a pool. The buoyancy/density of a person is around 1.02 that of freshwater but ocean water is 1.03. That is, if you had a hot tub of ocean water, you'd float like in an "Altered States" style isolation tank but not if it's salt-free. That's why in the X-Treme case anyone can float in the Dead Sea or The Great Salt Lake in Utah. Those sensory deprivation tanks are loaded with epson salt.

Tobita (author)wi-fi astronomer2008-02-27

i used to call the saltwater floating thing "the floating terd effect"

lawizeg (author)Tobita2008-06-28


catprog (author)2008-03-02

Freestyle is not a single stroke but is any stroke. Swimmers generally use the front crawl as it is the faster stroke found.

Tobita (author)catprog2008-07-25

funny, backstroke is my fastest... oh well, to each his (or her) own

K8ROX!!! (author)2008-02-29

Hi I cant wait for the game this web page TAUGHT ME ALOT

YummyPancakes (author)K8ROX!!!2008-03-02

Say wa? I can't understand you. U.s.e. p.u.c.t.u.a.t.i.o.n.

puctuation! Yes!

mwwdesign (author)YummyPancakes2008-05-29

U.s.e c.o.r.r.e.c.t. s.p.e.l.l.i.n.g!

YummyPancakes (author)mwwdesign2008-05-29

Sorry, I'm a Texan and I'm dyslexic.

poletovision (author)2008-03-04

Actually, you don't want your arms to be completely opposite each other. In fact, in the competitive swimming community, the term "He/She swims like a windmill" is generally a criticism, rather than a compliment. A more widely accepted, and easier technique is to rather have at least one arm in the forward position for most of the time. A common drill for this, called the "Catch-Up Drill," entails being in the water in a swimming position, with both arms forward and kicking. One arm is then pulled down as one would normally take a stroke, and a full recovery is performed, with the other arm leading the whole time. Once the arm returns, one pulls with the other arm, and recovers it. Upon recovery, the alternate arm is pulled, and so on. Doing this drill will reinforce the technique mentioned above. Of course, when swimming full stroke, it should not be as exaggerated, but remember to keep in mind that one arm should generally be leading. I cannot remember the specifics of why this is better than "windmill" swimming, but it is all I have ever heard from my high school swim coach and college swim coach. I imagine it has something to do with shifting your center of gravity farther forward, as well as helping to break the water in front of you; imagine what is faster in the water, a "streamline" position with both arms sandwiching the head and coming together at the hands, or a head-lead position. Hope this helps

topazbullet (author)2008-03-03

I hold my school record in breaststroke and I'm not too shabby in the freestyle. Just some little nitpicking: during the pull, the hands should not be opposite. In fact, it's better to pull your leading hand down as late as possible without compromising rhythm. When pulling, the body should rotate along its longest axis in the water so you are actually perpendicular to the bottom of the pool at the longest part of the stroke. Otherwise, nice writeup

K8ROX!!! (author)2008-02-29

I thought that was intresting and pretty cool

About This Instructable




More by Gbutton:How to Swim Freestyle.
Add instructable to: