One of the most common stroke problems in freestyle is falling out of balance — or out of the extended glide position — during the breath. Here’s a drill that will help you maintain balance and forward momentum during the breath.
Why Do It:
One of the secrets of fast freestyle is staying horizontal — in the extended GLIDE position — for as long as possible in each stroke cycle. By staying long and horizontal, you minimize drag and allow your body to continue to move forward without a lot of effort. In the first photo, and in the first part of the video clip, our swimmer is letting his lead arm drop during the breath. This takes him out of horizontal balance, and creates a slight "hitch" or break in his forward motion, as you can see in the video. By staying balanced during the breath, he’ll have a smoother stroke that keeps him moving forward at all times.
How to Do It:
1. Push off in streamline and take three strokes of freestyle. As the hand enters the water for the third stroke, extend the hand forward and keep it extended as you roll to your side (or even toward your back) for air.
2. Hang on to this extended position while you check to make sure you are balanced — horizontal — in the water. Compare yourself to the swimmer in the second photo and in the video. Could you run a straight line from your fingertips along your arm, through the armpit, and down through the torso, hip, and leg? Lean in through your armpit until you feel the line is straight and your body is balanced.
3. When you feel balanced, swivel the head to look down, then take three more strokes of freestyle and roll into extended balance on the other side.
4. Check your position, then repeat back to the other side.
5. Practice the Balanced-Breath drill for several lengths, then simply take out the rolling to your side and the long pauses. When you do this, your hand may drop slightly during the breath, but the goal is to keep the hand and arm nice and long and EXTENDED as you take a quick, balanced breath.
6. Repeat the drill/swim sequence until it feels natural to keep the lead arm extended during the breath.
How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
1. Practice swimming slowly with balanced breath, then graudally add speed to see if you can hang on to the concept while swimming FAST.
2. See if you can keep one goggle in the water as you breath. This keeps you really low and helps you maintain balance and forward motion during the breath.