Updated: Feb 5
There’s a huge amount of drills to help improve your freestyle, but we’ve narrowed it down and chosen 4 drills that will benefit you the most especially when it comes to body positioning and rotation.
When it comes to improving your freestyle technique there are 5 elements that you want to look at. In the teaching and coaching world, this is known as the BLABT acronym where each letter stands for something.
B - Body Position,
L - Legs,
A - Arms,
B - Breathing
T - Timing of the stroke.
Let's start off with the first letter, B. When it comes to the position of your body when swimming, you want to keep your body completely horizontal and as high in the water as you possibly can. With freestyle being an alternating stroke, this means body rotation will happen and you’ll therefore be on your side more than being flat on your front. So, with that in mind, we suggest that swordfish is the best drill to work on for improving your body position.
The main aim of swordfish is to get your hips as close to the water surface as possible whilst maintaining strong a six-beat leg kick. This position best replicates the position you’d be in when at full extension after each arm stroke, and it's also the position you’d be in for when you start your breath. Be aware that there are faults that can happen when doing swordfish. One of which is having a head position that’s too high which therefore makes your hips sink. This makes this bad practice and then loses its effectiveness when trying to replicate full stroke freestyle. Swordfish is also a drill that can help greatly when progressing onto the next letter of the BLABT acronym.
If you ask pretty much every swimmer to practice leg kick in training, they will very likely pick up a kickboard and off they go. However, we believe that kickboards shouldn’t be used as it directly affects your body position by raising your head too high and dropping your hips too low. We recommend that staying in the swordfish position would be of most benefit for training freestyle leg kick. As arms are the next part in the BLABT acronym, we’d choose a drill that combines all of the first 3 letters. That drill is called shark fin.
Shark Fin (https://youtu.be/AR2e7vHLnb4)
Shark fin, which is also known as zipper, is a drill that introduces the first part of the overarm recovery. Although most would see this as an arm improvement drill, which of course it is, we see it more as a progression on from swordfish which further develops your body positioning and leg kick. It continues thinking about all the techniques of swordfish such as high hips, strong kick, and having a high leading arm as well as the beginning of the overarm recovery phase. Even though you want to make sure you have a high elbow when doing this drill, you must still make sure that your body position and leg kick are done correctly as previously practiced in swordfish.
For the next drill we want to continue the progression and now use the first 4 letters of BLABT with the main focus being on the second B which is breathing. This is probably the part of the stroke that most people struggle with. Some may have issues with getting water up to their nose or swallowing water or just simply not being able to get their mouth out of the water to breathe. The drill we’d suggest using to help improve freestyle breathing is 6 Kick Switch.
6 Kick Switch (https://youtu.be/1rKCME8HfJY)
Not only does 6 Kick Switch improve body position and leg kick, but it's also a great way to improve body rotation and timing of your breathing, as well as the underwater phase of your arm pull. The main aim is to improve your body rotation, as you pull your arm through the water when you switch from side to side. This movement should initiate from your hips and your arm pull should help complete the movement by pushing a hand through to your hip. With good body rotation, breathing should become a lot easier especially if you maintain a strong leg kick to keep your body position horizontal to the surface of the water. You also want to make sure you catch as much water as possible by having a high elbow on the underwater phase of your pull.
For the final drill, we’re going to do a drill that’s extremely close to being full stroke freestyle. It can help greatly with every aspect of freestyle – body position, leg kick, arm pull, breathing, and timing of stroke – completing the BLABT acronym.
6-3-6 is an excellent drill to improve your all-round freestyle stroke and completes the progression of all the drills in our list. It is almost the same as 6 Kick Switch however, once you’ve done 6 kicks on your side, you then do 3 freestyle arm strokes as you would normally do in full stroke before returning to the swordfish position on the other side for another 6 kicks.
As it is very similar to full stroke freestyle, each letter of the BLABT is being practiced, so full concentration is required on every element of the freestyle stroke. The timing is important here as you want to try and perform the catch phase of the stroke as you are rotating onto your other side. This makes your drive phase stronger as you’re not only using your arm to push water backwards, but you’re using your hips and core to make the movement more powerful.
Check out the drills in full in the video below!!