Common Freestyle Mistakes You Should Avoid - Full Guide For Beginners

Danila Novikov
All-American swimmer and founder of NYC based swim school.
Hi, my name is Dan. On my blog, I share swimming tips for beginners. Today, we are going to break down common freestyle mistakes, and how to fix them.

Whether you're a beginner or looking to enhance your freestyle, get ready as I reveal the secrets of freestyle swimming.

Let's dive in.

Wrong body position in the water

When swimming freestyle, proper body position allows you to keep moving forward efficiently without losing your speed. An ideal body position is close to a straight line. In swimming, we call it a streamlined position.

It separates you from creating more drag and ensures you stay afloat on the surface of the water.

Looking forward while swimming

swimmer breathes
A common mistake among beginner swimmers is looking ahead while swimming freestyle. Here is some bad news for you: head position can make or break your freestyle stroke technique.

Looking forward forces you to overarch your lower back, and eventually, your hips will sink. As a result, your will legs drop lower than the rest of your body. It will create more drag and decrease your swimming speed.

Tuck your chin closer to your chest and look at the bottom of the pool while swimming freestyle.

Lifting heads up while breathing

head position in freestyle
Lifting your head high while breathing will make you sink. If your head is higher than water's surface and is not supported by the water, your body will be pushed down by the pressure of gravity.

A proper way to breathe is to turn your head on your side with one cheek and ear touching the water. That head position will allow you to inhale quickly without spending an enormous amount of energy struggling to stay afloat.

Turning the head instead of turning the entire body while swimming

freestyle head position
If you are only turning your head instead of your entire body, you are locking your body and not helping yourself move forward. Tense muscles tend to get tired faster and sink below the surface.

Get used to rotating your entire body instead. It improves your distance per stroke and increases swimming efficiency.

Not tilting while swimming freestyle

freestyle mistakes to avoid
Staying flat inside the water makes your muscles tighter. It makes the recovery process way more complicated. And mainly, if you fail to tilt your body while swimming freestyle, it becomes nearly impossible to breathe correctly.

Your body should rotate from side to side like a pendulum. Drop your right side of the hip when pulling with your left arm and your left side when pulling with your right.


Pulling the water chaotically with your arms is one of the most common mistakes we make as beginner swimmers. It makes it harder to catch the proper timing to perform breathing. As well as this approach leads to inefficient energy usage.

Complete the entire stroke with one arm before moving to the next stroke. Make sure you watch the freestyle tutorial video below from my YouTube channel.

Freestyle kicking mistakes

Proper kick technique plays a crucial role in maintaining the correct position of your body, balance, and stability in the water.

#1 Mistake: Not Kicking At All

swim faster with proper freestyle kick
One of the most common mistakes we make is forgetting to kick. It may affect your hips' position in the water and drop your legs too low, which creates more drag and slows you down.

Keep moving your legs while swimming freestyle. Proper kick technique helps to stabilize your body in the water and keeps you closer to the surface.

Kicking too hard

kick mistake freestyle
Don't put too much effort into your kicks unless you are trying to swim faster. It will take a lot of energy from you and wouldn't help you much. Instead, try slowing down your kick to a constant steady pace.

if your goal is to last longer while swimming freestyle, slow down your kicks and focus on arm strokes and hip rotation, as it will help you to cover more distance.

Initiating the kick from your knees

imaginary line freestyle swim
Initiating your kicks from your knees is one of the most common freestyle mistakes. Next time you are in the pool, get into the floating position with bent knees and see how the lower part of your body drowns because of your knees.

Instead, bend slightly your knees and initiate your kicks from your hips so that your entire leg can transfer power to propel you forward. As a result, your hips will be positioned higher in the water.

Pointing toes down while kicking

freestyle stroke kick technique
If you point your toes down while kicking, your legs can barely produce any propulsion. At that angle, you are moving the water with your toes and hills instead of moving with your feet.

Your toes should look behind you, in the direction of the opposite side of the wall that you're swimming from. That will allow you to produce up-and-down beats with your feet and maximize the propulsion of your kick.

Keeping legs completely straight while kicking

Don't try to keep your legs in a perfectly straight line while kicking. It will result in pure muscle and joint mobility, making your kick inefficient. As a result, you'll get tired pretty quickly without moving too far.

Keep your knees and ankles slightly relaxed to create more propulsion and have more flexibility.

Keeping your legs too far during freestyle swimming

Keeping your legs too far from each other while kicking limits your balance in the water. To help your body keep its balance and stability in the pool, make sure to keep your legs closer together while kicking. But don't overdo it.

To maintain proper balance while kicking, aim to keep your legs apart at a distance approximately equal to the size of your fist. Keep your legs separated while kicking.

I have the video about 9 mistakes we make while learning how to kick. Make sure you check them out.

Freestyle Arm Strokes Mistakes

In freestyle swimming, arm strokes are one of the most powerful propulsive phases. To maximize your distance per stroke and swim faster with less effort, ensure that you avoid the following mistakes.

Performing arm moves with elbows first

freestyle forearm pull
Make sure you are not moving the water with your elbows. The surface of your elbow is much smaller than the surface of your palm and forearm.

Catch and pull the water with your palm and forearm. If your pull technique is correct, you should be able to feel the resistance that water creates from the point of hand entry to the very end of your pull.

Cutting your strokes short

hand entry front crawl
Using the entire length of your arm is crucial. If you are ending your stroke anywhere else but next to your hips, you are not using the full potential of your stroke.

Pull all the way down to your thigh before bringing your arm out of the water. Touch your thighs with your fingers before recovery and see how this pull can increase the distance per stroke.

Pulling outside or inside

recovery arm
In case your palm turns outwards or inside, you risk losing the straight trajectory and traveling sideways while not getting the most efficiency from your stroke.

When your hand enters the water, your palm and fingers should be looking down towards the bottom of the pool. Right before your hand exits the water, your fingers should be pointed behind. The goal is to move the water all the way back to propel the body forward.

Bending the wrist, cupping palms

Pay attention to your palm when pulling the water. If you cup your palm or bend your wrist while pulling the water, you are not catching enough water and not getting the most from your strokes.

Move the water with your palm open and fingers slightly separated. This form maximizes the contact area between your palm and the water.

Pushing the water down instead of behind you

If you are pushing the water toward the bottom of the pool, expect to lift yourself high and fall down after. That technique looks nothing but choppy and makes your body jump out of the water this way.

Instead, focus on pushing the water behind you to ensure that you are moving forward. Experience unrestricted movement in the water once you address that minor detail.

Freestyle Arm Strokes Mistakes

straight arm freestyle
Recovery allows you to relax your arms for a little while and make your freestyle smooth and less effortful.

Forced arm recovery

reaching forward freestyle
If your arms are completely straight and tight while you are trying to recover them, it's a problem because you're not using your shoulder joints to the full range of motion.

Relax your shoulders and elbow joints and recover arm as relaxed as it is possible. Recovery allows your arms to prepare for the new stroke and should be easy and natural.

Recovering arm over the side

freestyle recovery over surface area
Recovering your arms too far away from your torso gives you less mobility and strains your shoulders, which might cause injury.

Recover your arms over the surface 1 foot away from your torso. Your shoulders should be relaxed, as well as the elbow and wrist joints.

Entering the water flat (angle wrist before elbow)

swimmers free technique
Entering the water with your entire arm simultaneously sets you up for less effective pull. As well as It makes your muscles and joints tight.

Have your elbow slightly bent when you are entering the water. Ensure you bring your elbow above the wrist so your fingers enter the water first. It will set you up for a nice catch under the water.

Hand entry is too far apart

hand entry in freestyle swim
Your pull will be shorter if your arms stay too far apart before starting your next stroke. This mistake will make your pulls go sideways instead of pulling the water behind you.

Make sure you start your next stroke right next to another arm. Palm looks down while you pull the water behind you.

Dragging your arms forward under water's surface

swimmers front crawl recovery arm
Make sure your arms are not recovered underneath the water. Recovery helps you to relax your arms while setting them up for the next stroke.

Recover your arms above the water and see how it makes your life easier.

Freestyle breathing mistakes

You wouldn't last long if you were not breathing properly while swimming freestyle. Make sure you figure it out. It is essential!

Inhaling through your nose

correct breath free swim
Breathing in with your nose is the most natural thing; however, if you do it while swimming freestyle, you risk sucking the water into your nose, which is not the most pleasant thing if you'd ask me.

Inhaling with your mouth is the right way since it keeps the water away from your nose and allows you to breathe deeper.

Not exhaling enough

shoulder drive free swim
If you are not letting enough air out of your lungs, you wouldn't be able to breathe in properly. Our lungs have limited capacity. You wouldn't be able to breathe in unless you let the air go out of your lungs.

Blow the bubbles and let 50-80 % out of your lungs before coming up for air.

Putting too much effort into your breaths

shoulders rotation swim
If you breathe too quickly and shallowly, you may experience hyperventilation, making swimming challenging for extended periods.

Relax and take it easy, my friend! Remember to breathe in and out comfortably to keep your diaphragm relaxed and stress-free.

Not breathing systematically

lift to breath swim
If you breathe that much now and slightly different next time, you are making your life harder. Altering your breathing patterns doesn't help you to breathe comfortably.

Make sure your inhaling and exhaling are systematic as a precise mechanism. Exhale the same amount of the air, inhaling methodically afterward.

Not synchronizing pull with a breath

When you pull and breathe separately while swimming freestyle, catching a good breath becomes a bit challenging because you'll have less time to breathe. As a result, you might sink and swallow water.

Make sure you synchronize the beginning of your stroke with your hips' rotation to catch the perfect timing for breathing. Pull and breathe at the same time.
shoulders rotate swim

BONUS: more tips for beginner swimmers

Swimming only freestyle

Once you master the freestyle stroke, don't limit yourself to one swimming stroke. Make sure you learn other swimming strokes as well. You will make your freestyle better by improving your backstroke and vice versa.

Not improving your freestyle

Once you get comfortable with freestyle, never stop improving it. Keep doing various drills to continue getting better at it.

Conclusion: The art of swimming is in the correct technique

That concludes the most common freestyle mistakes you should avoid to make your freestyle swimming smooth and easy to perform.

Now I want to hear from you! What part of freestyle swimming are you struggling with the most?

Get my free advice in the comment section down below!