Forget what your age group swim coach taught you. Freestyle has evolved.
For an activity that has been around since the dawn of mankind, swimming has had plenty of innovations. In particular, freestyle techniques have dramatically advanced.
We divide freestyle into three styles: Hip Driven, Shoulder Driven, and Body Driven.
- Hip Driven Freestyle: Efficient and used for longer distances
- Shoulder Driven Freestyle: Fast and used for sprinting
- Body Driven Freestyle: For competitive swimmers to finish a race
We call this the Three Style Freestyle. Each style of freestyle has a unique technique and purpose. Master all three to enhance your freestyle swimming abilities.
Hip Driven Freestyle: The Most Efficient Way to Swim
Hip Driven Freestyle is the most efficient and common way to swim freestyle. This style uses the power of the hips and rotation to move through the water.
This technique is used for longer aerobic distances. It is also to be used for warming up and cooling down.
Getting the timing correct is crucial to Hip Driven Freestyle. Four things need to happen at the same time. We describe it as a four-point-connection:
- The hand above the water enters the water
- The hand under the water pulls through
- The hips rotate from one side to the other
- The foot closest to the bottom kicks down
The Set-Up and Drive Drill video below illustrates the four-point-connection described above. For maximum efficiency, guide out (“skate”) after each stroke.
For beginner swimmers, use a progression to work up to the Set Up and Drive Drill:
- Kick flat on your stomach: Work on staying high in the water by keeping eyes at the bottom of the pool.
- Kick on your side with one hand out: Keep the core engaged to stay balanced and alternate sides each lap.
- 6-Kick Switch: Take about 6 or more kicks on your side, then pull through to the other side.
Once you master that progression, try the Set Up and Drive Drill. We highly recommend using a snorkel. It will give you easy access to air, giving you one less thing to worry about.
The next drill to perfect your Hip Driven Freestyle technique is the Connection Exercise Drill.
Shoulder Driven Freestyle: Use to Reach High Speeds
Shoulder Driven Freestyle is the fastest way to swim freestyle. It is to be used to reach top speeds. Since it is powerful, it uses a lot of energy compared to Hip Driven Freestyle.
This technique should be used for 50’s and 100’s. It can be worked into longer distances when needing to get into the next gear and finish strong.
One of the key parts to masters Shoulder Driven Freestyle is keeping the scapula muscles connected in the top of your back. As one hand exits the water, the other hand should enter at the same time. This is contrary to Hip Driven Freestyle, where you glide out (“skate”) on each stroke and wait for the recovery arm to catch up.
Try the Head Up Free Drill to learn to pull immediately when the hand enters the water. Take a few strokes head up, then transition into Shoulder Driven Freestyle.
Remember, this is used for sprinting and to reach high speeds. If done properly, you should only be able to do this over shorter distances.
You will want to keep your hips flat in Shoulder Driven Freestyle. When the left hand enters, the right foot kicks. When the right hand enters, the left foot kicks. This will stabilize your hips, giving all propulsive kicks and no rotational kicks.
Use the Kick and Dip Drill to work your timing and power.
Body Driven Freestyle: Use to Finish Races Strong
Body Driven Freestyle is used for competitive swimmers to kick it into high gear and finish races. This technique is to be used when you are fading and need to finish the final 10-15 yards.
The power and rhythm comes from your core. Use the momentum from your body to then throw your arms straight in the recovery. Do not take a breath — this is the end of the race.
We are not going to lie, Body Driven Freestyle does not physically feel good at the end of your race. However, it will all be worth it when you get your hand on the wall and beat the person next to you.
The best way to practice this is with the Crock Kick Drill. View the video below to see the motion of this technique. This will also be a great core workout.
Conclusion on Three Style Freestyle
Every swimmer should know these three techniques to be a well-rounded swimmer. Competitive swimmers should “game plan” how they will approach their races using these techniques. Fitness swimmers can use these to mix up their workouts and exercise new muscles.
Let us know what you think about this way of swimming freestyle. If you have any questions drop it into the comment section.