Catch and kick. Those two very important components of a good freestyle are tough to work on at the same time. It’s hard to think about two focus points at once — especially when they involve OPPOSITE ENDS of the body.
This drill almost FORCES you to feel the catch of the hands, as well as kick more quickly and frequently. If you don’t do BOTH… you won’t be able to accomplish the simple goal of the drill, which is keeping your head above water.
If you’re a beginner or intermediate swimmer, or if you’re still working on balance, this drill may seem to go AGAINST everything you’re trying to learn. It asks you to be UNBALANCED, but this can be good when you realize how HARD you have to work when you’re out of balance. For more advanced swimmers, this drill is a good way to practice swimming freestyle with a bit more intensity and aggression. Don’t think about your balance when you do this drill. Just allow whatever happens to happen as long as you’re… keeping your head above the water.
Why Do It:
Head-Up Freestyle requires that you make a quick connection with your hands at the front of the pull. While some may argue that this connection is placed at the wrong angle because it’s a more supportive move, a connection is a connection, and when the head is lowered, the angle of connection will change automatically and it will all tie together. This drill also requires that your legs stay active. If your kick is too small or too slow, the lower half of your body is going to sink SO low that it will be TOUGH to make it to the other end.
How To Do It:
1. Push off and swim freestyle like you normally would… only… lift your head out of the water.
2. Look directly forward, and keep your head stable. Don’t allow it to move from side to side. Keep the eyes looking forward.
3. Try to keep your mouth above water, and avoid bobbing up and down for air. Move on a straight line to the other end.
4. To increase your turnover, experiment with a bit wider entry. Find the spot that allows you to maintain a quick rhythm as well as keep your head up.
5. Maintain a quick, consistent kick throughout the entire length.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
This is an aggressive drill, so limit your swims to 25 or 50 yards. Take a break, then try again. Don’t overdo it and end up struggling just to grab a breath. You’ll also find that the drill is easier to do if you release the hands earlier in the back. If you push the hand too far back, you slow the rate of rotation, and cause your head to fall into the water. Keep the hands out in front as much as possible.
To make sure you don’t end up with a high-head freestyle, alternate sets of this drill with some long, smooth, slow pulling or swimming to remind yourself how you can integrate this pull into your regular stroke. Because this drill works the legs, taking a little break with pulling or swimming will allow you to maintain a quicker kick when you switch back to the drill.