There is specific intent to the title having the word ‘stroke’ pluralized to ‘strokes‘: because there is no one single solitary technique that is Freestyle.
Many swimmers and swim coaches seem to be under the belief that there is one and only one version of Freestyle with the belief extending to the belief that if a swimmer would learn the one version, then that swimmer would go onto to set endless personal records, and qualify for whatever level of competition they seek.
Think about it. Because when you do… you will realize it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever that there would be one way of swimming for all events. It makes no sense whatsoever that there would be one way to swim sprint events like the 50m FR and that one way would be equally suited to distance events like the 800 or 1500m FR or to open water swimming events such as the 10km marathon swim.
Would the running technique used by Usain Bolt in the 100m work equally to run the 10,000 or the marathon events in track & field? No way. So why would anyone suggest that a swimming sprint event should be swam with the exact same technique as a distance event, or an open water event?
FYI… THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS STROKE NIRVANA
Stroke nirvana is a cover for coach laziness, for coach complacency, for coach ignorance, for coaches who do not give a rip… about swimmers, about swimming, about the sport, about excellence, about performance, about an athlete’s potential. Stroke nirvana is a cope out for coaches allowing them to claim a paycheque without actually coaching.
BTW… underwater video footage which leads to a coach offering ‘stroke correction’ for your entry, catch, or recovery are useless when an athlete swims using the Front Crawl. What’s the point in perfecting a stroke which is absolutely useless to performance swimming because of its inefficiency (i.e. low power / high drag creation)? No competitive swimmer or triathlete races with Front Crawl… so why waste your time, your money, your energy, your effort in perfecting something which is pointless to perfect (and with a coach who knows no different)?
Here is a Youtube video from The Race Club head coach 3 time US Olympian Gary Hall Sr who was also a World Record holder in the 200m Butterfly providing a brief overview of the two foundational forms of the Freestyle stroke and one derivative form of the stroke:
– Freestyle with a Hip driven stroke (foundational);
– Freestyle with a Shoulder driven stroke (foundational);
– Freestyle with an alternating Hip – Shoulder driven stroke (derivative).
Note: video is dated Feb 2011, so none of this is brand spanking new technique, in fact, Freestyle technique has evolved since this video.
Triathletes take note…
At the start of the video, Hall describes the Hip driven Freestyle stroke: a stroke inappropriate for sprints, but appropriate for distance events. Note that the Hip drive requires a powerful kick because the stroke turnover rate (i.e. cadence) remains low – as in the hi 60s/low 70 range.
Triathletes… I dare you to take this video to your triathlon/swim coach and ask why they are not focusing on developing the kick, training you to coordinate your kick to your pull, etc…? Unfortunately, but you will likely come to the realization that your “coach” is clueless when it comes to swimming, but will attempt to validate their own philosophy by having you put on even bigger paddles and even bigger pull buoy (confirming how little they know). Triathlon websites are as clueless as many triathlon coaches… they haven’t progressed either past front crawl:
For those triathletes who refuse to learn to develop a distance (i.e. hip driven stroke) by learning how to kick, perhaps when you exit exhausted from the swim of an upcoming triathlon you will clue in to the fact that swimming distance with a sprint stroke is a losing approach to peak performance (but it does go hand in hand with stubbornness).
Triathletes should take note as well that shoulder driven and hip driven strokes do not apply strictly to swimming… the sports of cycling and running both have shoulder and hip driven pedal strokes (cycling) and strides (running). If your triathlon coach is failing to teach you proper technique in these sports as well… well, don’t be shocked when all the HiiT workouts fail to develop you to your athletic potential.
Age Group Swimmers (and parents of Age Groupers) take note…
If your swim club coach is not teaching you to be able to swim both foundational forms of Freestyle, and is not teaching you to be able to swim the basic derivative forms of Freestyle… then what are they doing on deck besides chewing gum and checking their phone?
If you as an athlete have dreams and goals to pursue your potential as a swimmer, and your coach is not doing their job then you have two options:
(a) stay with your club knowing that in the end you are highly unlikely to achieve your athletic potential in the sport of swimming not because you lack anything, but because your coach is too lazy, ignorant, or simply incompetent as coach (and should have retired or been fired from coaching, but because they are likely the head coach of the club no one dares), or
(b) change to a club where the coach trains as hard at being the best coach as you train at being the best athlete.
What do you want? To fail or to succeed?
Considering no one plans to fail on purpose (at least I hope not), the decision is clear.