Front Crawl Drills

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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Reading about how to learn the front crawl stroke is all well and good, but what practical steps can you take yourself? Whether you are learning for the first time or looking to improve your form, these are the top three drills for front crawl.


What are the Best Ways to Use Drills with Front Crawl?

Swimming drills are exercises meant to divide the many parts of a swimming stroke into individual lessons. They isolate one key aspect of the front crawl so you can focus solely on that form or movement, carefully practicing the right way to improve your swimming.

If you’re a beginner swimmer, it’s best to start with drills in ascending order of difficulty. The concepts in one drill will build on things taught in previous drills until it all comes together as the front crawl.

Trying to swim with no prior experience can lead to a poor form that is committed to muscle memory and habit or has more disastrous results for yourself and others around you. 

Instead, build confidence through supervised drills, if possible, until you can swim with some assistance with items like a kickboard.

First, identify what part of your stroke needs work for those hoping to refine their front crawl technique. Figuring out what needs improvement and what will provide the most benefits from improving is crucial for success without the frustration of trial and error.

When you have identified an area for improvement, practice a couple of drills surrounding the core concept that needs work. Again, your undivided attention and slow, purposeful actions will be required to break any bad habits you may have.

Mix up your drill training with actual front crawl swimming but pay attention to what you’ve practiced in drills to try and incorporate your learning into real swim practice.


Flutter Kicks

Starting with flutter kick drills builds the foundation of the front crawl stroke and can take a lifetime to master. 

Olympic-level swimmers still methodically practice their flutter kicks using drills, like vertical flutter kicks, as they continue to try and improve themselves. The advantages of learning the flutter kick early on are threefold:


Practice without Arms

Flutter kick drills are often practiced without using the arms, which allows beginners to focus on how their legs interact with the water.


Practice Without Worrying about Breathing

When you first start swimming, breathing is often a big concern. However, many flutter kick drills allow your head to remain above the water line, and you can breathe at any time, just like any other exercise you may have done.


Simultaneously Practice Balance

As progress is made with flutter kick drills, balancing in a horizontal position while in the water becomes more natural. Kickboards are an excellent piece of equipment for these drills because they get beginners fully in the water.

Here are some steps for a simple but effective flutter kick drill:


  1. Grab the pool edge with your hands somewhere near the shallow end so you can stand if you need to
  2. Push off the pool bottom with your feet
  3. Begin flutter kicking by alternating your legs up and down
  4. Extend the feet and hands outwards to achieve a horizontal position


You can add to this drill by placing your head into the water when you feel comfortable enough to hold your breath.


Supine Balance

Practicing floating on your back may seem backward when the front crawl is done in a belly-down, prone position. 

However, if you can balance your back in a supine position, maintaining a horizontal orientation when you start to use your arms and legs together will be much easier. When you are ready to practice this drill, these are the steps you should follow:


  1. In a shallow area of the pool, push off the ground and keep your arms by your sides
  2. Slowly flutter kick to achieve some floating and balance
  3. Contract or relax your abs appropriately to maintain a straight back, and breathe normally
  4. Bring your chin down to your chest slightly
  5. Maintain this horizontal position by flutter kicking as long as you can


Should your legs begin to sink and the rest of your lower body follow, lean back into the water with your upper back. Breathe deeply to increase your natural buoyancy and keep flutter kicking as you have been.

You should notice that your lower body and legs rise back into place with little effort. As a result, you will exert more control over the exercise drill and prevent exhaustion by using this method over trying to kick your legs harder.


Zipper Switches

This is the most advanced drill in the article and requires casual mastery of the above mentioned techniques and forms, as well as some others. The aim of this drill is to promote conscious movement in a compact, streamlined water profile.

You will need to be prone with your head in the water, one arm extended in front of you and the other hanging below your horizontal position. Begin the pull and recovery phases by:


  1. Dragging your bottom hand up and along your side from the hip to your shoulder
  2. Proper recovery of the arm requires this motion to have an elbow high out of the water
  3. Your hand should dangle loosely in the water as your elbow moves towards the head and shoulders
  4. Stretch your arm out fully with the hand in front
  5. As this arm completes the recovery phase by entering the water, the other arm pulls backward with a cupped hand


Rolling from one side to the other while performing these arm movements allows the arm in the recovery phase to rest on your side that is exposed to the water’s surface.


Final Thoughts on Front Crawl Drills

Drills are a superb way to practice and monitor your swimming progress when you learn for the first time and are still useful even after becoming a proficient swimmer.

Many drills help you to learn the front crawl, but these three listed drills are some of the most important milestones when learning how to do the front crawl.