Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced swimmer aiming to improve your speed and technique, mastering the fundamentals is key. Who better to guide us through this journey than the legendary Olympic swimmer & analyst, Rowdy Gaines?

MySwimPro CEO Fares Ksebati recently joined Rowdy Gaines to coach a clinic in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Watch our newest video for Rowdy’s invaluable insights and tips that can elevate your freestyle swimming to the next level.

Master the Streamline Technique

Mastering the streamline technique is fundamental for faster swimming. It isn’t just about the initial push off the wall; it’s about maintaining proper body alignment throughout the entire stroke. Avoiding unnecessary movements, such as lifting the head while breathing, is essential for maximizing efficiency.

Streamline is the fundamental body position in swimming. In streamline, you make your body as narrow as possible to help reduce drag as you dive in or push off the wall. When in streamline, squeeze your biceps to your ears and keep your legs tight together. Any extra space creates resistance that can slow you down! Think like a torpedo.

Focus on Core Strength and Rotation

Core strength and rotation play pivotal roles in freestyle swimming. Gaines highlights the importance of leveraging your core muscles to drive each stroke efficiently. Initiating the catch, breathing, and accelerating power through rotation are key components to focus on during your swim.

Every time you take a stroke, keep your head in place and use your hips to rotate to the right and left. Try to focus on rotating your body with your core, instead of leading with shoulder twists. The hips will initiate the movement, and your shoulders will follow. Connecting these two parts of your body will keep your body in a perfect, streamlined position along the surface of the water.

Sculling Drills for Forearm Engagement

Sculling drills, where you engage the entirety of the surface area of your hands underwater, can help improve forearm engagement and water feel. By simulating the motion of frosting a cake, you activate your forearms and enhance your ability to catch more water with each stroke.

Early Vertical Forearm (EVF)

After your arm is fully extended, bend at the elbow and angle your fingertips toward the bottom of the pool. This sets you up for a strong pull phase, turning your entire hand and forearm into one large paddle. It’s also much easier on your shoulders than pulling with a straight arm.

Related: How To Do Perfect Early Vertical Forearm (EVF)

Pull Phase

After initiating EVF, you will begin your pull. Pull straight back toward your feet, keeping your hand relaxed with the fingertips slightly apart. Try to keep your elbow above your hand for most of the pull, eventually extending your arm straight when your hand reaches your hips.

Maintain Proper Body Position and Entry

Proper body position and entry are crucial for maximizing speed and minimizing drag in freestyle swimming. Gaines stresses the significance of maintaining a streamlined position and avoiding excessive backward lean, especially during starts and turns.

Head Position

Head position plays a major role in your overall body position. When you swim freestyle, try to look down and focus your eyes on the bottom of the pool. Your neck and head should be in a neutral position, straight above your shoulders. You should not lift your head or look up in front of you.

Hip Position

Your head position has a direct effect on your hip position. If your head is neutral with the eyes focused down, your hips will naturally lift up, making it much easier to kick. Try to press your upper body lower in the water, which will make your hips higher. Add short and strong flutter kicks, and your legs will be right on the surface of the water.


Your hands should be relaxed with a few millimeters of space between each finger. This actually helps you swim faster and increases the power of your pull compared to swimming with your hands cupped tightly together!

Your fingertips should enter the water about 12-18 inches in front of your shoulder at a 45 degree angle to the water. Try not to cross your arms along the center of your body — it’s inefficient and might cause you zig-zag around your lane.

Your middle finger should enter the water first, followed by a long reaching extension through your shoulder and arm. Once your shoulder is fully extended, your chest will open up to the side, and you will keep looking down. This is the beginning of your catch, where you will start to pull water with your full arm.

Consistent Practice and Reflex Development

Improving your swimming technique takes time and consistent practice. Gaines emphasizes the importance of reflex development through drills and exercises. By focusing on reacting quickly, you can dive off the blocks quicker and enter the water with explosive power.

Related: 6 Swim Drills To Improve Your Starts & Flipturns

Swim Your Own Stroke

While it’s tempting to mimic the strokes of elite swimmers like Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky, Gaines advises against copying them entirely. Instead, focus on incorporating their best qualities into your own unique stroke technique. Swimming authentically allows you to optimize your strengths while continuously improving your performance.

Embrace Risk and Fearlessness

Gaines emphasizes the importance of taking risks and embracing fearlessness in swimming. Whether you’re a seasoned swimmer or just starting out, fear of failure should not hold you back. Learning to overcome this fear is crucial for unlocking your true potential in the water.


The basic principles of swimming are so important, regardless of age or skill level. By incorporating these tips into your training regimen and embracing a fearless attitude towards improvement, you can unlock your full potential as a freestyle swimmer.

Remember, mastering freestyle swimming is a journey that requires dedication, patience, and a willingness to push your limits. So dive in, embrace the challenges, and let Rowdy Gaines’ expert advice propel you towards swimming perfection.

How to Practice Your Freestyle Stroke

There are hundreds of swim workouts and drills that you can try in the water to practice your freestyle. Check out our YouTube channel or download the MySwimPro app for more tips and workout ideas!

Sign up for Coach to unlock all of our AI Swim Workouts, Training Plans and Technique Videos. 


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