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The number of breaths you take depends on your freestyle-swimming style.
There are three main types of freestyle-swimming styles: hip-driven, shoulder-driven and hybrid, which combines both. How quickly you kick and your number of strokes per minute are the key differences. Though the number of strokes can vary greatly, most freestyle swimmers use a two-beat (one kick per arm stroke) or six-beat (three kicks per arm stroke) kick. During a freestyle swim, you should face the bottom of the pool and lift your head only to breathe.
You may find that the hip-driven freestyle technique works well when swimming more than 200 meters. In this style, you extend and hold your arm and hand in front of you a little longer than you normally would before moving your arm backward. Because you hold, or вЂњcatch,вЂќ the water longer in this style, you can generate more hip rotation. This rotation helps increase your forward propulsion even though you're using fewer strokes -- between 60 and 70 per minute -- to cover the same distance as you would using other freestyle-swimming styles. You need a strong six-beat kick to be a fast hip-driven freestyle swimmer.
When using a shoulder-driven technique, your entry hand catches and extends quickly, so your forearm is parallel to the surface of the water. Then you more quickly release, which results in a faster stroke rate. In this style of swimming, your shoulders rotate more than your hips. Because there is less rotation in your hips, this style of swimming is not as powerful. You can expect to swim at between 80 and 100 strokes per minute. The faster stroke rate, however, makes up for any loss of speed. You can use a two-beat or a six-beat kick in shoulder-driven freestyle, but Coach Cokie Lepinski of Swymnut Masters says that the low, two-beat kick rate may be difficult to maintain.
During a race, you may benefit from using more than one type of freestyle-swimming technique. You can shift into a shoulder-driven technique near the end of a race to increase your speed. Some swimmers, like Michael Phelps, use a hybrid freestyle technique. You need a strong six-beat kick to use a hybrid-freestyle technique. You will also breathe on only one side, which means you must be able to hold your breath longer than you would if using only a hip-driven or shoulder-driven style. In these styles, you lift your head out of the water to breathe on each rotation. Middle-distance swimmers, such as those swimming 200 meter, 400 meters or in open water, often use this hybrid technique.
Improve Your Freestyle Swim Game
Small adjustments can make you a better freestyle swimmer, says Ryan Chapman, a certified USAT Level 1 triathlon coach. Relaxing your neck and letting your head hang between your arms or biceps will help keep your body straight. Slicing forward at about 15 degrees below the surface of the water will minimize drag and help you propel forward more quickly. Don't slice so your hands slap the water. Keep your forearms and hands perpendicular to the direction you're swimming, according to U.S. Masters Swim Coach Scott Bay, and rotate your body so you are swimming on your side. In this position, you pull down and back with one arm while rotating to the other side of your body and preparing that arm to pull down and back.