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Freestyle - Basics with Steve Haufler

Important Note to the Viewer

LESSONS: 31 VIDEOS

Freestyle #1:
 Breath Control and Rhythmic Breathing

Freestyle #1:
 Breath Control and Rhythmic Breathing

Freestyle Swim Lesson 1:
 Breath Control and Rhythmic Breathing When we watch someone with a good freestyle stroke, it’s easy to get caught up in how they kick and pull…when one of the most important things we should watch is how they breathe. Notice how this swimmer breathes with a relaxed, steady rhythm. She doesn’t hold her breath when her face is in the water. The air comes out her nose in a nice steady stream. This kind of breath control and rhythmic breathing is the ultimate goal when you swim freestyle, but it starts with simple breathing exercises in the shallow end. When working with beginners, I start with breath control and then progress to rhythmic breathing. To begin, have the swimmer take a breath, close their mouth, and hold the breath for 10 seconds above the water. Next, have the swimmer put their face in the water and hold the breath for 10 seconds while standing on the bottom. The final breath-control skill is to float, face down, for 10 seconds while holding the breath. The next skill is to practice blowing bubbles out the mouth. Start with a fun demonstration…having the swimmer blow a ping-pong ball across the top of the water. Then, let the swimmer take this under water and create a steady flow of bubbles. The next step is to learn how to exhale out the nose. Start by practicing out of the water. Have the swimmer close her mouth and breathe in and out through the nose. Now have the swimmer start to exhale through the nose, then pinch the nose so they can feel the air pressure…then release and feel the exhalation. Now move it to the water line and have the swimmer exhale out their nose. This should create a disturbance on the water… or surface bubbles if they submerge. If the swimmer has difficulty with this, they should go back a step. Start to exhale through the nose, pinch the nose and go under water, blow out and feel the pressure, then release the nose and continue to blow bubbles. The last step is to practice vertical bobbing for 1 minute. Blow bubbles through the nose for about 5 seconds, come up for one breath, and repeat. Have them keep everything rhythmic…and relaxed.

Freestyle #3: 
Flutter Kick

Freestyle #3: 
Flutter Kick

Freestyle Swim Lesson 3:
 Flutter Kick Here’s where we’re headed when teaching the freestyle kick…or flutter kick. The legs should be long and “supple” with a slight bend in the knee… but notice that the swimmer is not kicking FROM the knees. The toes are pointed, and the kick is constant and steady. To teach freestyle kick I use a 4-step process. For the first step I use the wall or a lane line. I want them to hold on to something stable and I want their head down in a neutral position while I move their legs. They can come straight up for air when they need it, and they can practice blowing bubbles when their face is in the water. I place my hands above her knees and create the motion from the hips. I want her to think of kicking with long straight legs and with pointed toes. The motion should originate from the top the leg and not from the knee. However…as the motion becomes more natural, the swimmer will slightly bend her knees on the way down and straighten on the way up. The feet will also be a relaxed point. Ideally the feet should be relaxed, flexible and move like a fin. Step 2 is to have the swimmer kick with a board, like this. Arms are extended in Position 11. The face is in the water with the head in a neutral position and with the eyes looking straight down. In Step 3 we take away the kickboard and she kicks in Position 11. The fourth and final step is to introduce Side-Glide Kick without Breathing. I make sure the swimmer’s eyes are looking straight down and one shoulder is out of the water. We practice kicking with the right arm leading… …and then the left arm leading. The opposite shoulder should be up to the sky. Notice how the kick stays under the water and the motion is toward the side. It‘s also a good idea to let the swimmers use fins with this drill.

Freestyle #4:
 Arm Pull and Recovery

Freestyle #4:
 Arm Pull and Recovery

Freestyle Swim Lesson 4:
Arm Pull and Recovery There are two general ways to recover the arms in freestyle. The first way is called a straight-arm recover. The second way is called a bent-arm or high-elbow recovery. Either type of recovery can be used, depending on which feels more comfortable to the swimmer. Some swimmers use both styles, using one style when they swim at a slower, more-sustained pace… …and another style when they swim fast. When I teach freestyle arm action, I like to start by teaching a straight-arm recovery. I start with the swimmer out of the water. I have her stand up straight in a vertical Position 11, with eyes looking straight ahead. Hands are flat and fingers point straight up. Then, I have her practice pulling and recovering while in this standing position. The pull begins with a slight flex of the wrist of the pulling arm. The fingers are still facing slightly forward, but the palm starts to press toward the ground. Then, while and the forearm and hand press toward the ground… the elbow bends outward but maintains its height. As the forearm and hand come level with the elbow, the palm continues to press directly toward the ground until it is near the leg. Notice how the elbow remains higher than the hand during this part of the pull. Then the recovery begins. The arm simply swings around, from the shoulder, in a big straight-arm rainbow arch, with the thumb leading and the palm turned slightly inward, around the side and slightly behind the body and returns to a complete Position 11 before the other arm starts to pull. Next, the swimmer bends the knees slightly and leans forward, keeping the back as flat as possible. I assist her as she does the same arm pull and recovery, one arm at a time, with the upper body in this horizontal position. She practices until she gets a good feel for it…and then it’s time to try the arms in the water. The swimmers starts with Position 11 float and kick. I guide the swimmer through the movement, one arm at a time. Next, she tries it on her own and the goal is to do 4 complete strokes…each time coming back to a full Position 11… without breathing. The goal is for the swimmer to enter the arms a natural distance straight in front of the shoulder and to pull in a straight line from that point to the side of the hip. As the hand pulls back, the elbow pops up and to the side. At this point, it’s OK if the swimmer does not find the complete Position 11 after each stroke. The emphasis should be on keeping the head in neutral, and using a pulling motion that moves the swimmer forward, with and a big relaxed recovery. We want the swimmer to feel the water with her hands and arms. At this point we introduce 6-Count Switch without Breathing. We review side-glide kick… leading with both the right arm… …and with the left arm. I demonstrate. I tell her to take 6 kicks on one side… and then switch to the other side for 6 kicks. I emphasize that I want her to start the recovery of the back arm FIRST… before she starts to pull with the leading arm. The back arm should be just in front of the shoulders before she starts to pull with the leading arm.

Freestyle #5:
 Side Breathing

Freestyle #5:
 Side Breathing

Freestyle Swim Lesson 5:
Side Breathing What do we want to see in a good freestyle breath? Hardly anything! The breath should do almost nothing to disturb the rhythm of the stroke and the position of the body. Notice how this swimmer times the breath so that the head and body start to turn to air just as the hand enters the water. The head stays in neutral and moves very little during the breath. In fact…the swimmer keeps one goggle in the water as she breathes. This is where we’re headed when we teach the skill of side breathing. To teach freestyle side breathing, we first practice Roll-Over Breathing. I teach a Head-Lead Kick with In-Line Rotation to the back… and then return, rotating to both sides. To keep the head in line with the body, we put the thumb side of one hand on the sternum and the fingers touching the chin. The other arm is by the side. The swimmer moves as a unit from the stomach to the back…pauses to get some air…then rolls as a unit from the back to the stomach. It’s important for the swimmer to exhale and to blow bubbles through each rotation. I demonstrate. As she rolls to her back, she keeps her head in a neutral position. Having the side of the hand on the sternum and the fingers on the chin should guarantee this. I will assist her like this, if needed. The next step is to review Side-Glide Kick without Breathing. I position the swimmer like this, on her side with the face straight down while kicking on her side. Next we do Side-Glide Kick with Breathing. I assist her in rotating the head to breathe. Then I have her practice on the other side. I will assist to get her started. Be sure the swimmer does not lift the head when rotating the head to the side for a breath. A good cue is to have the swimmer roll their ear onto their extended shoulder as they rotate their head to the side. Next I have the swimmer do Side-Glide 6-Count Switch with Breathing. She starts in a side-glide position for 6-kicks… then takes one stroke and breathes to the opposite side as the hand enters. Here’s a right-arm-leading side-glide kick… then the left arm recovers… and the right arm starts to pull AFTER the left arm has passed the head. As the left hand enters the water, the head turns to the right and the swimmer gets a breath…and returns the face to the water for a 6-count kick on the left side. Repeat the process on the other side. When the swimmer is first learning how to do this, it’s OK to be facing up while breathing. In fact, this is BETTER than having them lift the HEAD UP to breathe. Next I have the swimmer take 3 strokes in between each side-glide breath. The swimmer starts in a side-glide position and takes 3 strokes (she can count 3 hand hits) and then breathes to the other side on the 3rd hand hit. After getting a good breath of air, the swimmer takes three strokes and ends up on the other side to take another side-glide breath. Here I’m assisting the swimmer as she goes to the side-glide breathing position, helping her align and extend her arm correctly…and balance her body as she goes to air on each side. This skill should be repeated until the swimmer can take one breath without stopping the back arm, and without needing to roll completely to their back to get a breath. The lead arm stays in front until the face returns to the water.

Freestyle #6:
 Timing the Breath

Freestyle #6:
 Timing the Breath

Freestyle Swim Lesson 6: 
Timing the Breath This swimmer is demonstrating the correct timing of freestyle breathing. Notice the connection between the natural body roll and the breath. Just as the hand is entering the water, the body begins to roll naturally to the side and the head moves WITH the body to take the breath. To teach this timing, I have the swimmer practice head-lead kicking and breathing without using her hand as a guide. Notice how she goes to air by simply rotating her body. She can go to both sides. Next, she does a 6-Count, 3-Stroke-Switch Breathing Drill. She starts in streamline and takes three strokes. As the hand enters on the 3rd stroke, she goes to air. She pauses in this position with her other arm by her side. After about 6 kicks, she returns her face to the water. She recovers the arm once…twice…three times…and rolls to air on the other side. The next step is to rotate to air…but not rotate all the way around to the back. You can see that as she extends the arm forward, her body rolls to that side and the head simply rolls WITH the body toward air. Most of the rotation to get a breath occurs through the roll of the body, not through an independent rotary movement of the head. The swimmer should try to keep as much of the head as possible in the water. It’s not necessary to lift the head at all or to hold the head up and away from that leading arm. Notice how I’m holding her lead arm NEXT TO HER HEAD as she goes to air. All the swimmer needs to do is roll the mouth to where the air is. The swimmer should stay long with the leading arm… and keep the side of the head above the ear IN THE WATER when breathing. Swimmers who do this well will have just one goggle out of the water when they breathe. The other goggle stays in the water. We call this one-goggle breathing. A swimmer will make a bow wave as they swim, creating a breathing space below the surface of the water. It helps to keep the leading arm long during the breath. This gives the swimmer more time to catch a leisurely breath…and helps the swimmer maintain a good body position in the water. An arm that is long should stay UP near the surface of the water and should not fall down while the swimmer is breathing. She can feel the lead arm touch the back of her head while she breathes. The face returns to the water by a rotary movement of the head before the body rolls back to the other side and before the breathing-side arm enters. Here I assist to make sure her head turns face down before her arm completes the recovery. I try to get her face down before her recovery arm has passed her shoulder. After the breath and after the swimmer has rolled her face back into the water, the swimmer should be looking down. The chin should not be lifted. The eyes look down and the head is aligned with the spine. She should exhale deeply (bubbles should also be coming out of the nose) and the face and jaw should be relaxed. Now the swimmer is ready for her next breath, from a neutral head position.

Advanced Freestyle #1:
 One-Eye Breathing

Advanced Freestyle #1:
 One-Eye Breathing

Advanced Freestyle Techniques and Stroke Corrections Advanced Freestyle Swim Lesson 1:
One-Eye Breathing Swimmers have a distinct advantage if they can do their freestyle breathing while keeping one goggle in the water. Here’s what this skill looks like from above the water. Ideally just half the face and only one goggle should be visible. And here’s what it looks like from below. It allows the swimmer to breathe and get air…but with minimal movement and no disruption to her horizontal body position. This is an aquatic body position: the hips are tucked under, belly button in, lower back flat, shoulders rolled in slightly, and the lungs pressing into the water. The swimmer probably feels like they are swimming downhill. Their head is most likely in a neutral position before the breath. As they go to air, the lead arm is most likely still in front of the head, giving them a longer bodyline. All of these skills will put the swimmer in a better position to take a balanced breath. When turning the head to air, it is imperative that the swimmer keeps the top of her head in the water… that the head is not lifted prior to the turn of the head. When teaching this…here’s drill number one. The swimmer holds on to the wall with one arm in a side-glide position and practices a series of breaths to the side, keeping one goggle in the water as she takes a breath. She keeps the opposite shoulder out of the water. The next drill is a standing freestyle breathing drill. While standing on the bottom and with her face in the water, she practices going to air as the lead arm enters and with only one goggle out the water. The other goggle stays in. I instruct her to look across the pool with the underwater eye. Another fun drill for swimmers is called One-Goggle Look and See. Swimmers pair off and swim directly across from each other, swimming at the same speed. One swimmer breathes to the left, the other to the right. They try to time their breaths so that they’re looking at each other with their underwater eye as they go to air. On the next length they switch breathing sides. This really works, and it’s fun.

Advanced Freestyle #2:
 Early Vertical Forearm

Advanced Freestyle #2:
 Early Vertical Forearm

Advanced Freestyle Swim Lesson 2:
Early Vertical Forearm Early Vertical Forearm (often referred to as E-V-F) is a technique that applies to all strokes. In freestyle, EVF occurs when the swimmer sets up the arm into a power position before initiating the pull. Freestyle EVF looks like this…and it puts the arm in the most effective catch position to grab an armful of water. To teach freestyle EVF, I have the swimmer start on land. I have her stand straight up with the arms in Position 11. Then, I demonstrate and ask her to keep the elbows at the same height as she presses the forearms and hands, as one solid unit, to a position slightly higher than the head. As the swimmer presses to this position, the elbows will press outside the bodyline. The hands should be in-line with the shoulders, with the palms facing the ground. I have her freeze in this position and make adjustments if necessary. Next, while she maintains that position, I have her bend at the knees and at the waist. Now she is in a horizontal EVF position. I make adjustments if necessary. Next we go the water… and preferably over a mirror. I ask the swimmer to float in Position 11 and look at the position of her elbows in relation to the top of her head. For most swimmers, the elbows will be forward of the head. Next, I ask the swimmer to press her forearms down to a vertical position, allowing the elbows to press up and out…but not back. She should be able to see in the mirror that her elbows have remained forward of her head. This is the EVF Freeze. After she achieves the EVF freeze position, I tell her to maintain the high-elbow position and pull both arms back toward the legs. Then she recovers underwater to a Position 11 float and repeats the movement. After this, I have the swimmer do the movement slowly but without pausing. The next step is begin in a Position-11 float, but this time press only one arm back into an EVF Freeze, then complete the pull and recover the arm out and over the water. Repeat with the other arm. Next do this slowly but without pausing. Another method to teach freestyle EVF is the Head- Up Scooter Drill. While holding a kickboard with one arm, she swims head-up freestyle with the other arm. She can watch her arm recovery, hand entry, and elbow position as she sets up the pull. I instruct her to watch her ELBOW as her forearm presses back to a position under her elbow before pulling. The elbow should pop up toward the surface and move outward… but should not slide back. Only after the forearm is in a vertical position should she engage her strong lat muscles to pull back. An additional EVF teaching drill is the EVF Dog-Paddle Pull. Using a pull buoy and a snorkel, the swimmer begins each stroke in Position 11 and performs alternate one-arm EVF pulls.

Advanced Freestyle #3: Arm Recovery and Hand Entry

Advanced Freestyle #3: Arm Recovery and Hand Entry

Advanced Freestyle Swim Lesson 3: Arm Recovery and Hand Entry There are two general ways to recover the arms in freestyle. One is called a straight-arm recovery… …and the other is called a bent-arm or high-elbow recovery. Either type of recovery can be used, depending on which feels more comfortable to the swimmer. Some swimmers use both styles, using one style when they swim at a slower, more-sustained pace… …and another style when they swim fast. When I first teach the freestyle arm recovery, I try to keep it as simple as possible. I demonstrate a big arm swing, moving from the shoulders. The arms recover to the side of the body. I don’t tell them to bend their elbows. I want a relaxed rainbow-type arc. I may tell them to do big straight arms, but the young swimmer often develops a natural swing from the shoulders with a slight elbow bend. Like this. The recovery should not be destructive to the hand entry. The hands need to be able to enter flat, with fingers pointing straight ahead, with a slight flex of the wrist, and at shoulder width. I have the swimmer practice while standing in shallow water, bent over, but with her head out of the water so she can watch her arm recovery and hand entry. Next, I want her to swim with her face down. To practice this I have the swimmers do Position-11 Freestyle. The recovery should allow for a straight-forward extension of the hands into the catch. Practicing one arm at a time, using Position-11 Freestyle, helps the swimmer focus on this detail. It’s important that the hand of the recovering arm is not facing outward and away from the body. Like this. This often causes the hands to enter thumb side down and with the fingers facing inward…causing a crossover of the arms on entry. I emphasize that the palms should face slightly inward toward the body at the beginning of the recovery. The thumb side of the hand leads. I direct the position of the forearm and hand like this. As the elbow, forearm and hand pass the shoulder, the palm gradually faces back so that at entry, the palm is facing directly back. This allows for a clean and straight-forward extension on the entry. I have her practice this movement while lying down on the edge of the pool and using one arm and a hand paddle to increase hand awareness. This is the Stationary Scooter Drill. The swimmer pulls the water in a straight line along the edge of the pool. She recovers the arm with a slight inward position of her forearm and hand. The hand enters directly above the shoulder line, with fingers facing forward. Her wrist is slightly flexed, with the palm facing back. Next I use the In-Water Scooter Drill. By using a board and keeping her head up, she can watch all the same details while moving forward. I have her do this first with hand paddles… … and then without hand paddles. Another drill is the Head-Up Water-Polo Drill. I often have the swimmer use fins to make it easier for the swimmer to actually watch her hand entry. The head should be kept straight. The drill allows her to self-correct. She can make sure her hand is entering flat, at shoulder width, and with the fingers pointing straight ahead.

Advanced Freestyle #4:  How to Use a Snorkel

Advanced Freestyle #4: How to Use a Snorkel

Advanced Freestyle Swim Lesson 4: How to Use a Snorkel The FINIS Swimmer’s Snorkel is an incredible teaching tool for freestyle. It allows the swimmer to breathe without having to turn the head. This allows the swimmer to relax…and focus all their attention on head position, body balance, arm recovery, pull, and kick. The first time a young swimmer uses a FINIS Swimmer’s Snorkel, it is very important to take it slow. Initially some swimmers will be very uncomfortable using the snorkel. Some feel claustrophobic and others are scared to breathe. Here’s a 7-step process that can help the swimmer overcome these fears and start using the snorkel like a pro. Step 1 - Adjust the headpiece so that the snorkel fits comfortably. Have the swimmer put her goggles on first…and then the snorkel. Help her place the headpiece and adjust the tube so that it points straight up. Do this while the swimmer is out of the water and sitting on the edge. She should put the mouthpiece in place and form a seal around the mouthpiece with her lips. Step 2 - While sitting on the side, the swimmer should practice breathing through the snorkel. For now, just inhale and exhale through the mouth. Step 3 - While standing on the bottom, the swimmer puts her face in the water and practices breathing just 3 slow breaths, breathing in and out just through the mouth. Step 4 - Try the same 3 slow breaths while in a floating position…just balancing and breathing. Increase the breathing to 10 seconds… then 20…then 30. Take a break in between. Have the swimmer also try exhaling out through their nose. They inhale through the mouth and exhale out the nose. Some swimmers will prefer this. Others will prefer, at least initially, to inhale and exhale only with the mouth and through the snorkel, however… …Some swimmers may need to use a nose plug if they find that water goes up their nose. Regardless of their breathing technique or the need to use a nose plug, see if the swimmer can float and balance and breathe comfortably for 1 minute. Step 5 - Once they can breathe comfortably for 1 minute, ask them to kick easily for 25 yards with the arms by the sides. This often promotes a more relaxed head position initially. Then try easy kicking with arms in front. Step 6 - The next step is to practice easy swimming. Make sure the swimmer is breathing in a relaxed and easy manner. Step 7 - The final step is learning to purge water from the snorkel. Have the swimmer take the snorkel off and dip the snorkel completely under the surface. Without putting the snorkel back on and without going under, have the swimmer practice blowing the water out of the tube. They can see that they can do this. Next, have the swimmer put the snorkel on and completely submerge so that water completely fills the snorkel tube. Remind them not to inhale. Tell them to blow forcefully out their mouth 3 times to clear the water before breathing in.

Advanced Freestyle #5: Correcting a Cross-Over Hand Entry

Advanced Freestyle #5: Correcting a Cross-Over Hand Entry

Advanced Freestyle Swim Lesson 5: Correcting a Cross-Over Hand Entry This swimmer is demonstrating an optimal hand entry for freestyle. The hands enter the water on a line directly above the shoulders or even a bit wider than the shoulders. The fingertips pierce the water and extend forward. The palm faces down on entry. This kind of hand entry sets up the swimmer for an effective catch and pull, and will minimize shoulder issues. This swimmer has what’s called a cross-over hand entry. The hands cross over the centerline of the body. This causes a slight delay before the hand connects with the water. A cross–over hand entry is almost always caused by an improper arm recovery. For example, it’s common to see a swimmer with a high-elbow and “narrow” recovery, where the hand enters thumb first and palms turned outward. This can lead to shoulder problems if not corrected. One way to fix this kind of arm recovery and cross-over hand entry is to change the swimmer to an OPEN recovery. The hand will be at its peak at the middle of the recovery and the angle of attack is from above. The hand entry is forward and down. The hand is driven forward and down into the catch. The best way to build a correct hand entry is to have the swimmer WATCH their hands. On the Look-and-See Drill, the swimmer watches the path of their hands as they enter the water and extend forward. The swimmer should be able to see both arms move forward, as if each arm is following two separate railroad tracks, about shoulder width apart from each other. After watching 4 to 6 strokes, the swimmer lowers her head to the correct neutral head position while keeping the arms extending straight ahead. It is extremely effective if a mirror is on the floor of the pool when she lowers her head. This way she can SEE if she’s maintaining a straight-forward hand entry with her head lowered. If you don’t have a mirror, it helps if you can film the swimmer from head on and SHOW them how they’re doing. In addition, positioning techniques such as holding the head and directing the arms into the correct entry position can be very effective. Here I gently hold her head as she takes a few strokes. If she hits my arm with her fingertips, she will be aware of her cross-over. Here I am correcting the problem at its source…at beginning of the recovery. By simply adjusting the position of the hand as it begins to move forward during the recovery, I can set her up for a straight-forward hand entry.

Advanced Freestyle #6: Correcting a Dropped-Elbow Pull

Advanced Freestyle #6: Correcting a Dropped-Elbow Pull

Advanced Freestyle Swim Lesson 6: Correcting a Dropped-Elbow Pull Ideally, swimmers initiate their catch and pull with a high elbow and an Early Vertical Forearm. They continue to maintain a high elbow throughout the pull. It looks like this. When a swimmer drops their elbow at the beginning of the pull, it’s almost always the result of the swimmer losing hand contact… or feel…or “connection” with the water. To achieve an effective pull, the hands and forearms must start to put a controlled pressure on the water to initiate the catch soon after the hand enters the water. The first drill to correct a dropped elbow on entry is the Stationary Scooter Drill. She watches her hand entry and extension…and immediately puts controlled pressure on the water with her hand and forearm. It’s important that her hand enters the water fingertips first, with a slight flex of the wrist and with the elbow still up. It’s important that she extends her arm at a slight angle downward so that she keeps the elbow higher than the hand before initiating the pull. She pulls with the elbow always near the surface of the water. The next drill is the In-Water Scooter Drill, using the same focus points. Hand enters fingertip first with elbow up. Hand extends with a slight downward angle. Initiate the catch and pull with controlled pressure on the hand and forearm. Elbow is always near the surface. The last drill for correcting a dropped elbow is the Eyes-High, Look-and-See Drill. The swimmer should be able to see both arms extend forward, one arm at a time, at a slight downward angle before pulling. She keeps an eye on the elbow, and should see the elbow pop up slightly as the hand and forearm put pressure on the water. As she pulls back, she needs to feel constant pressure on her hands and arms.