How To Correct Common Freestyle Errors

1. Late Breath with Crossover & Scissor Kick.


More than 80% of the swimmers I see have this combination of stroke faults take a look at the pictures below and you’ll probably have seen a picture like this on your analysis.

late breath left

A late breath is a breath that occurs after the body has reached its desired level of rotation(NO MORE THAN 60 DEGREES, FOR MOST 45 DEGREES IS BETTER). This means breathing a fraction of a second after your lead arm is at full extension. Late breathing shortens the time available to breathe, causes over rotation and often means the swimmer lifts the head much more than is necessary to achieve a breath.Freestyle breathing faults, Late breath and over rotation

The head should rotate to breathe with the body not after it.  A simple way to visualise this is to turn the head away from the entering hand as it passes the head. Just before the hand enters the water the head should turn smoothly and in a chin tucked position away from the extending hand.

The UNCO drill is useful for getting the hang of breath timing try it using fins to suffer less.








Very few swimmers are conscious of their scissor kick until they see it on video. Clearly parting the legs like this causes lots of drag, most swimmers come to a virtual stop in the water when they do this. Coming to a stop means inertia needs to be overcome so the swimmer performs an energy sapping scissor kick to get moving again.  The legs unconsciously part to balance the body due to an over rotation.  This is often caused by both a crossover and a late breath remove the over rotation and the scissor kick will stop.


Freestyle / front crawl errors the crossover

A crossover is when the hand crosses an imaginary centre line down the body this most often happens in front of the head but often swimmers crossover underneath the body also.


A crossover in front of the head like this is caused by poor swimming posture.   The shoulder blades need to be pulled together and down  as though standing proud.  The problem is that driving, working at a desk, slouching, spending hours cycling in an aerodynamic position and even the act of swimming freestyle can cause a rounding of the shoulders.  This rounding of the shoulders is what needs to be overcome to swim with better posture and remove the crossover. This is often easiest to achieve with remedial gym work scapular push ups and dips or the TYA exercise can help this. With all gym work form is the most important thing take professional advice before undertaking any gym work and use a qualified strength and conditioning coach to ensure you’re performing any exercises correctly.

Helpful drills to remove a crossover include kicking on the side with or without fins, head up freestyle and focusing on entering the middle finger in line with the shoulder.  Some swimmers find it helpful to swim above the center line of a lane ensuring that the arms stay either side of the line marked on the pool bottom. The main focus should be on maintaining correct posture i.e. shoulders together and back.

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