Front Crawl Coordination of Arms and Legs

While doing front crawl, I am unable to coordinate hand and leg movements properly. Can you suggest any simple tips for coordinating front crawl arms and legs?

The timing of the arm and leg actions for front crawl varies from person to person according to their coordination.

Some of us are able to swim front crawl using a 6 or 4-beat cycle. In other words, kicking 6 or 4 leg kicks for every arm cycle (an arm cycle being 2 arm pulls).

Some of us find it easier to swim using a 1 beat cycle where the legs kick in the same time with the arm pulls. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, most competitive long-distance swimmers use this timing pattern because it uses less energy.

A simple exercise to try out is ‘catch up’ holding a float or kickboard. Hold the float out in front with your hands at the bottom edge nearest you. Begin kicking your legs at your usual pace and then introduce one arm pull at a time, taking hold of the float after each arm action. One arm is not allowed to pull until the other has caught up, hence the term ‘catch up’.

This exercise will help you maintain leg kicking whilst using one arm at a time. The more advanced version of catch-up is to perform the exercise without holding the float, keeping your hands together out in front and pulling one arm at a time.

My eBook How To Swim Front Crawl contains 22 separate exercises, including catch-up, that help all aspects of front crawl technique and are very easy to follow. You can instantly download it, print out the exercises you need and take them to your swimming pool to try out. Click the link below for more information.

Basic drills for learning how to swim front crawl
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Coordinate Arms and Legs for Front Crawl

When learning to swim, how do I coordinate arms and legs for front crawl? I am in my 60s and just learning to swim. When moving my arms, my legs will not move in tandem. Sorry sounds a bit sad.

The problem you are referring to is related to your coordination.

Front crawl is an alternating stroke. In other words, as one arm pulls, the other recovers and as one leg kicks downwards, the other kicks upwards.

Unlike breaststroke, which is a simultaneous swimming stroke where both arms pull at the same time, and both legs also kick at the same time.

You will find that your coordination will favour one more than the other because one will come more naturally than the other.

The timing and coordination of front crawl arms and legs is not something that comes naturally to some people but there is no reason why it cannot be learnt.

A simple exercise to try out is front crawl ‘catch-up’. Hold a float or kickboard with both hands and kick your legs. Then perform one arm pull at a time, taking hold of the float after each complete arm action. You are therefore performing front crawl arms one at a time whilst attempting to maintain your leg kick. Holding the float will help you to focus on your leg kick whilst using your arms.

As for how fast to kick your legs, there is no right or wrong here. The 6-beat cycle is the most traditional, where there are 6-leg kicks to each arm cycle (there are 2 arm pulls to a cycle). A 4-beat cycle is also a common pattern, and a 1-beat cycle is one of the most common.

Keep in mind that most of the power to generate the movement for the front crawl comes from the arms, and the legs are there mainly to balance or provide a small amount of power.

For this reason, a 1-beat cycle can be quite effective, especially as kicking the legs at faster speeds can be very tiring. One-leg kicks and one-arm pulls.

What you have described is very common and not sad at all. With some practice, you will soon have a respectful front crawl swimming stroke.

Front crawl coordination of arms legs and breathing

Coordination and Breathing For Front Crawl

My coordination and breathing for front crawl are not right. I have breathing problems trying to do my front crawl, and then I get frustrated, and it seems to me it will be a long time until I get it right. I have been going for just over 4 months and still cannot get it right. Please help.

The coordination for front crawl can be affected by breathing and vice-versa. The key is to relax into the stroke and take your time.

As front crawl is an alternating stroke (as one arm pulls, the other recovers, and as one leg kicks down, the other moves up), the coordination can be approached in a few different ways.

The most common timing cycle is a 6-beat cycle where there are 6 leg kicks to 2 arm pulls. They can vary right down to a 1 beat cycle where there is one leg kick for each arm pull. There is no right or wrong here. Just do whatever comes naturally and stick with it. Trying to change your timing and coordination pattern can often lead to more frustration and wasted energy.

As far as breathing goes, ensure you are trickle breathing and not explosive breathing. In other words, breathe out into the water slowly as you are swimming and do not hold your breath. If you breathe out into the water as you swim, then turning your head to inhale is that much easier and more comfortable.

Some people find exhaling into the water as they swim an unnatural thing to do and usually hold their breath without knowing they are doing it. Practice standing in the water, submerging and breathing out and practice it several times until you are comfortable with it and have got used to how it feels. Then it will become easier and more natural to breathe out as you swim.

Fitness and stamina play a large part in swimming front crawl. It is a very physical stroke that requires the face to be submerged almost permanently. Practice the stroke in slow motion, as this will help you to relax into your swimming. So many swimmers make the mistake of trying too hard to swim too far too quickly. The result is an exhausted and frustrated swimmer wondering if it is all worth it!

Feel your way through the water, do not fight it and swim in a slow, controlled and relaxed way. Set off with no actual distance goal in mind and instead aim to take your time and relax. You may be surprised at how far you get using half the effort you did before.

My best-selling book How To Swim Front Crawl contains over 20 separate swimming exercises to help all parts of freestyle, including breathing. You can download it, print out the parts you need and take them to your pool to try out. Click the link below for more information.

Everything you need to MASTER Freestyle Swimming Stroke!

Simple basic drills with professional technique tips, covering all stroke parts from body position, leg kick, breathing and coordination.  

Download a copy of my book today.