In Swimming, what is the Front Crawl?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 09 January 2020
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The front crawl is a swimming stroke that is considered by many to be the quickest and most efficient swimming style. Also known as the Australian crawl, the front crawl is often performed in swimming competitions. The technique requires a swimmer to be lying on his breast with both arms and legs extended. A swimmer then uses alternating arm and leg movements.

During the front crawl, most of the power is provided by the forward arm movement. The arm movement consists of the pull, the push, and the recovery. At the start position, the arm is slowly lowered into the water with the hand at a 45-degree angle. This movement is referred to as the catch, which helps to prepare for the pull.

With the pull, a semicircle motion is used. The elbow is above the hand, which points toward the body’s torso. The semicircle motion concludes in front of the chest near the top of the ribcage.

The push movement completes the pull. During the push, the palm is extended backward in the water below the side of the body. The motion is quickest just before the end of the push.


During the recovery phase, the elbow reaches a semicircle motion in the direction the swimmer is moving. The lower arm and hand are at ease, hanging down at the elbow. The recovering hand inches forward slightly above the water’s surface. The shoulder shifts into the air by turning at the torso. The recovery motion requires the swimmer to keep the hand above the elbow in order to maintain balance.

The front crawl also requires kicking the legs in alternating fashion, which is referred to as the flutter kick. While one leg kicks downward, the other leg progresses upward. The kicking motion aids in steadying out the body position. From the start position, the leg is bent faintly at the knees. During a typical sequence, there are six kicks.

During the front crawl, the face resides down in the water and a swimmer takes breaths by moving the head to the side of the recovering arm at the onset of the recovery. The head rotates back to the water at the end of recovery. A swimmer breathes through his mouth and nose until another breath is needed. A swimmer may breathe at each cycle, which allows him to constantly breathe from the same side. Another breathing technique is to breathe from alternate sides during every third arm recovery.


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