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How's Your Front Crawl?

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Front Crawl Technique Session: Improve Your Rotation

Recognising that swim power comes from ‘whole body’ rotation is key to unlocking your swim potential. As with throwing a javelin or pulling on a heavy rope, your arms should be used simply to transfer this core power to create propulsion.

Whole body rotation should originate from the hips, linking to the shoulder rotations of the arm stroke with shoulder, hip and ankle in alignment. The body should rotate approximately 45° as you inhale during arm recovery, back to the midline and then to the other side. Positive, whole body rotation is linked to positive breathing technique, body position, stroke timing/coordination and helps initiate a high elbow catch position, increased propulsive pull/push and finish phases of the stroke. It’s important that hand entry is at shoulder width, though, to avoid ‘fishtailing’ through over-rotation.

Front crawl technique: the key components

The catchphrase of front crawl

Key to a good catch is avoiding the urge to rush


  1. The catch is the point where your leading hand starts to build pressure on the water. After you’ve fully extended your leading arm, introduce the catch with a downward and slightly outward sweep.
  2. Pay attention to timing. At this point, your recovering hand should be entering the water.

Top front crawl catch tip

Don’t rush the front of the stroke. The emphasis is on the hand that’s completing the push phase, as this is where the most propulsion is generated. Rush the front end and you’re likely to interrupt the push phase. Doing so will cause your pushing hand to exit early, resulting in a shorter stroke and loss of drive.

The pull phase of front crawl

The timing of one phase to the next is the focus for a smoother stroke


1. The pull phase of the stroke is where your hand applies moderate pressure on the water and your arm is brought in towards the centre-line of your body.

2. Your elbow should point towards the sidewall of the swimming pool as your head and body are preparing to rotate.

Top front crawl pull phase tip

Ensure you get the timing right. One hand is at the end of the pull phase and just about to start the push phase as the other is extending forward. This provides stability and support to maintain the correct body position.

Push and breathe phase of front crawl

A push with your hands and your mouth will result in greater efficiency


  1. Your hand reaches the end of the push phase by sweeping back and slightly out – to clear your waist – and then upwards. Your thumb brushes the top of your thigh before your elbow begins to lift your hand clear of the water.
  2. Introduce the roll as your hand is pushing backwards. Breathing needs to fit perfectly into the stroke.

Top tip for the push and breathe phase of front crawl

It’s important to exhale underwater as your backhand is nearing the end of the push phase. Then, rotate to inhale as your hand begins its recovery towards the front to begin the next stroke. Avoid lifting your head to breathe as this compromises your balance.

The roll phase of front crawl

Imagine an axle through the centre of your body and you’re rotating around it.