The Best Way to Swim the Crawl
The crawl is the consummate swim stroke: graceful, powerful, and bound to get you to the other side of the pool faster than any other. But without proper form, you might as well be dog-paddling. Consider these pointers from Olympic medalist Lindsay Benko, who won gold in 2004 in the 800-meter free relay and silver in the 400.
Look at the bottom of the pool, not the wall ahead. “Looking down helps body alignment, and it helps you avoid feeling like you’re swimming uphill,” says Benko. “I like to think of it as someone pulling me by my hair to the other end of the pool.” When turning your head to breathe, don’t lift your bottom ear above the water.
Enter the water with your fingertips before any other part of your arm. The idea is to grab the water with your hands, not pull at it with your whole arm. Point fingers down, toward the bottom of the pool. “If your hands face left or right, you’ll zigzag,” says Benko.
Kick, don’t bicycle. Flutter-kick your legs with a slight bend in the knees. A deeper bend may feel more natural but will result in jerky movement; a minimal bend propels you forward. And keep your ankles loose. The best athletes “use their ankles like flippers,” Benko notes.
Finish your stroke. When aiming for speed, it’s tempting to end a stroke at the waist. But it’s crucial to follow through with a full extension of your arms, brushing all the way past the hips. “It’s a bit counterintuitive to finish the stroke,” says Benko, “but if you want to go faster, you need to.”