freestyle swimming

How to Swim Freestyle

Freestyle swimming is the ideal way for a beginner to start to learn how to swim and to gain confidence in the process. It is the most commonly used stroke and it's often used as the first stroke a person will learn as they get into the water and start to learn.

Freestyle swimming combines turns, power, and a need for gliding, or slipping. All in all, freestyle swimming challenges every muscle in your body. As a result, it's great overall exercise!

Of course, not everyone finds it easy to get into the water and learn to swim. This is something which takes time and you need to build confidence in the water too. It's never advisable to learn to swim alone. A swim teacher will help to build your confidence and show you the correct way to perform different strokes. You can also make use of at-home tools such as the ZEN8 Swim Trainer. This will allow you to build core strength and confidence in how to execute different strokes while out of the water.

Swimming Freestyle in Open Water or a Swimming Pool

Swimming in open water is becoming very popular but this is not something for beginners to try. However, regardless of your proficiency level or whether you're swimming in a pool or in open water, the skills for performing a freestyle stroke are basically the same. When in open water, you may simply need to adjust your strokes very slightly, to adapt to currents and perhaps even temperature.

By mastering the following skills, you'll be able to both increase your speed and ensure that your technique is top-notch.

Head Position

The position of your head forms the basis of high quality swimming. If you don't have your head in the correct position then your entire body will be out of alignment. That's not going to allow you to complete the stroke correctly and you could end up far slower as a result.

The best advice is to look straight down towards the bottom of the pool or the water during a freestyle swim. This helps to keep your hips up in the water. However, when sighting (more on that shortly), you'll need to look ahead. You need to be cautious with this as it could mean that your hips sink deeper into the water and create more resistance. Training with the ZEN8 Swim Trainer can help you to practice good positioning and helps to build your core muscles at the same time.


Breathing should be easy, right? Well, when you're a new swimmer, trying to remember everything and breathe in the right way can be challenging. It's very tempting to make the mistake of lifting your head totally out of the water to take a lungful of breath. However, when you lift your head out of the water, you're creating an excess of drag and you'll find it very difficult to make any movements with progress.

Instead, you should turn your head to one side when you need to breathe. Keep an ear and an eye in the water and breathe normally. For sure, at first it might feel like you're going to inhale a bit of water but it's not going to happen. You'll naturally create an air pocket as you're moving forward and that's enough to stop any water going into your nose. When you exhale, you need to do this as your face is in the water. You should then turn your head to the side to inhale, when your lungs are empty.

For sure, this is a practice makes perfect situation. The more you do it, the more natural it will seem to you. If you're swimming in deep or perhaps murky open water, it's very tempting to hold your breath but that's not going to give you any energy and instead, you'll become tired and start to move downwards. Just keep breathing.

The Pull & Catch

Once you've mastered breathing and you have your head in the right position, you need to work in the pull. When your hand enters into the water, it should be your fingertips that go in first, and arms should be just a little wider than your shoulder width. This is good positioning that will give you power to move through the water. You'll be able to catch enough water to pull through and push behind you. That in itself will propel you forwards.

Again, the ZEN8 Swim Trainer can help you to practice this movement out of the water, if you don't have the time to head to the pool on a particular day.

As your arm goes into the water, you should extend it out as far as you can once you've rotated slightly to your side. Catch the water with a very slight wrist tip and then with your forearm, your wrist and your hand forming a straight line, press backward. As you do this, your elbow will bend outwards and up, allowing your arm to become naturally vertical while it is in the water. Keep your fingertips lower than your wrist, pointing to the bottom of the water.

The middle section of the pull is when you should aim to get the most power in the movement. To do this, your hand needs to be below your shoulder and then pull through with as much power as you can muster. You should never allow your arm to move outside of the width of your elbow. Your fingers should be held just ever so slightly apart and relaxed. If you cup your fingers, you may naturally slow yourself down.

Leg Kicks

You should aim to keep your legs as straight as you can when freestyle swimming and if you need to bend your knees, this should be very minimal. You should kick from your hips and keep your toes pointed outwards. Think small and quick kicks and don't allow your feet to move apart too much. Large kicks are not as powerful as you think, and if you want to move faster through the water, you should aim for compact kicks instead.

Body Rotations

Part of freestyle swimming is rotating your body, so at some point you're going to be swimming on your side. This is the part of your move that helps to put the freestyle swim together and again, it's something you can practice on your ZEN8 Swim Trainer.

As you're swimming freestyle, your body will naturally rotate from side to side and that will help to move faster through the water with less effort. Core strength is key here, as well as ensuring that you kick from your hips.

As one hand goes into the water and you move to pull forwards, you'll rotate to one side and then as you allow that hand to recover and switch to the other hand. Then, you'll naturally rotate to the other side, and vice versa.

Once you put all of these movements together, you're swimming freestyle!


In addition to knowing the actual technique to learn how to swim freestyle, you also need to learn about sighting. The bottom of the pool is your guide and it helps you to stay in your lane. When you're swimming out in open water, you should look forwards as your guide, perhaps a landmark or a buoy you can set your eyes on. You should look to sight every 6-10 hand strokes so that you're not going to veer off and you'll stay straight.

Being able to sight correctly means taking your eyes out of the water and allowing your head to roll slightly to the side so you can breathe. As such, you're sighting and breathing at the same time.

If possible aim to sight just before you breathe. By doing this, you're not going to disrupt the rhythm of your strokes and when in open water, that's even more important than ever. By kicking strongly just before you sight, you'll also avoid any drag that comes your way and you won't sink your legs down a little as your head comes out of the water.

As with anything swimming related, practice makes perfect, so keep trying and you'll notice your speeds increasing and your technique improving.
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