Front Crawl is a survival style of swimming taught by Red Cross, LifeSaving Society, and YMCA learn to swim programs with the specific focus on water safety: the goal is to prevent drownings by teaching how to travel short distances unassisted (e.g. to the side of a pool, or to a boat or platform in open water). The Front Crawl requires a low level of skill allowing it to be learnt in few half hour swim lessons.
What is Front Crawl? Easiest way to think of it is as a human version of dog paddle.
If you watch a dog ‘swim’ they paddle: their front legs pull water and their back legs act as a rudder with an occasional ‘kick’ to help steer. Front Crawl is no different. Someone swimming Front Crawl focuses on pulling water with their arms and either drags their legs, or occasionally kicks to restore balance or change their body position. When a front crawler does kick its also disconnected from the pull. There is no timing, no pattern, no connection between the athletes head, torso/arms, hips/pelvis and legs in front crawl.
Due to the lack of connection in the Front Crawl, there is an inherent limit to the top speed an athlete can achieve using this style of swimming. Those trying to train their Front Crawl to go faster typically defer to training sets with paddles and pull buoys. Front Crawlers desperately try to build their pull by muscling the stroke. This results in the athlete fighting the water eventually making the effort so hard it becomes self defeating.
Due to the lack of connection in Front Crawl, breathing is a problem. Without a pattern to the stroke, when do you breathe? Freestyle technique allows a relaxed breathe to be taken because there is a specific point in the stroke cycle that provides for it. There is no pattern to the stroke of Front Crawl so breathing is a constant struggle.
Due to the lack of connection in front crawl, there is no body roll. This creates all the inefficiencies Front Crawlers fight to improve by doing ‘drills’ (i.e. dropped elbows, early entry, weak catch, low elbow pull, head up breathing, dropped hips, fish-tailing, etc…). All the stroke and drill work are pointless when Front Crawl is used.