Freestyle Progression with Ritter Sports Performance

This Freestyle Drill progression was submitted by Abbie Fish from Ritter Sports Performance. Coach Abbie uses this Freestyle progression to focus on the 5 fundamental movements that make up a great Freestyle Stroke: Body Alignment, Kick, Rotation, Pull, and Recovery. Each drill in this sequence isolates one of these movements, while adding in a new movement—one at a time.

Let’s check it out:

FR Arm Lead Drill focuses on great body position while kicking on your side. What is great about this drill is you can start teaching swimmers to execute a “quick breath” when performing it. This drill is the first portion of our sequence, as it forces swimmers to produce their speed down the pool with their legs–while maintaining a great body line. Keep in mind: You can perform this drill with either hand in front. We normally have swimmers do it on both sides.

FR Head Lead Drill focuses on good body position, a great Freestyle kick, and now–a swimmer’s rotation. Keep in mind: this drill can be done with or without the swimmer rotating. If you see a swimmer that is failing to achieve a great body line, start using this drill without rotation and add it in.

While performing this drill, you want the swimmers to over-exaggerate their rotation. So their chin and shoulder meets on one side, before they rotate to the other side. It’s really important to keep the rotation fast, while moving the hips and shoulder simultaneously. Be sure to check their head positioning as well—especially, through their “quick” breaths!

6K/1 Stroke Drill focuses on good body position, a great Freestyle kick, rotation, and now–adds in the pull. While performing this drill swimmers will still be kicking on their side, but counting 6-full kicks before they execute 1-stroke—switching them to their opposite side, where they count out 6-full kicks again.

Be sure to look out for “arm-throwers”, swimmers who lift their head up too much, and swimmers who have a tendency to cross-over on entry—all of these issues will be very prominent during this drill.

6K/3 Stroke Drill focuses on good body position, a great Freestyle kick, rotation, and now—continual strokes. Just like the 6K/1 Stroke Drill, the 6K/3 Stroke Drill allows a swimmer to take 3 continual strokes in-between the 6-kick pause segments to progress to their Freestyle stroke further.

This drill is great as it still forces a swimmer to rotate to each side, while allowing a swimmer to take multiple full strokes in a row.

4-Tap Drill is the final drill in this sequence and adds in an emphasis on the Freestyle recovery. During the 4-Tap drill, a swimmer will tap their hips, shoulder, head, and finally, enter the water up top to initiate their next pull. This drill forces a swimmer to be on their side and to have a high elbow during the recovery!

Additional Notes:

• All of these drills can be done with fins (if a swimmer’s kick isn’t very strong)
• If you have a swimmer that performs one of these drills really well, have he or she demonstrate it to your group. This will help you out!
• Upon mastering these drills, we look into the finer, technical points of each of these movements and how we can maximize a swimmer’s speed, while minimizing their drag!

Still looking for MORE tips to IMPROVE your Freestyle–try our “How to Swim a FASTER Freestyle in 90-Days” course from RITTER Sports Performance. During these 90-days, Coach Abbie will take you through a daily drill set that will add NO MORE than 10 minutes to your already scheduled workouts! You are guarateed to swim FASTER and MORE technically sound at the end of those 90-Days! [CLICK HERE] to learn more!

Abbie Fish has been in the competitive swimming realm for over 20 years. At the age of five, she started competing and soon after her passion for the sport of swimming ignited. From qualifying (in 6 six events) for the Olympic Trials to working at USA Swimming’s headquarters, Abbie has been on all sides of the sport. She is a University of Georgia “Double Dawg”–where she swam and graduated with M.S. and B.S. degrees. Abbie now spends her time in the Florida Keys, where she coaches online with RitterSP and manages a pool. Abbie continues to further her knowledge about stroke mechanics and analyzing swimming technique by working with swimmers, coaches, and different mentors around the world. Abbie truly believes anyone with the heart to train can benefit from technical advice!

About RITTER Sports Performance:
RITTER Sports Performance helps swimmers go faster and coaches get better, worldwide. Through our online resources on strength training, stroke technique, swim-training, race analysis or nutritional coaching–RITTER is ready to help take your swimming to the next level. Are you?










RITTER Sports Performance is a SwimSwam partner.

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Jacki Swims

This is all old school. A “high elbow”” recovery has been shown to cause shoulder problems and it should really be more about a “leading elbow.” The recovery should be lower and wider. None of this actually helps create more propulsion or less drag.


I’ve never come across any of your points in my reading. Please provide references as well as the names of some elite swimmers who recover wide and low in freestyle.


The points used were body position,arms ,leg kick, breathing, timing . Using this we could analyse swimmers areas of strengths /weaknesses for a group of up to 30 swimmers in a 30 minute session in Plymouth in keith1966,some things do not change!,

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