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Matej Grožaj
Personal coach
Z-Health Practitioner

How to master "freestyle technique" as adult

In practice, I often encounter the question of whether it is possible to learn to swim as an adult. People usually ask me about it - recreational athletes who have reached the next stage of their lives and decided to fulfill their desire to learn to swim a specific swimming style from scratch or who want to advance in their sports performance and want to improve their technique. They plan to try triathlon or endurance swimming. But there are also clients who would like to swim "crawl" for health reasons, to straighten their spine and relieve a sore neck or lower back.

swimming training adults
swimming training adults

Swimming training for adults and subsequent training takes time - it's not a sprint but a long distance run. It requires a lot of patience and mutual trust between the swimmer and the coach.

Success depends on several factors, such as the current level of the adult (non)swimmer's mental (mental) state of mind, the level of physical condition and health status, the variety of the movement of the body, sports history, training habits, the adult's willingness to listen, to have an open mind in training and not to be afraid to try something new.

It is necessary to prepare for the training process, which is like riding on a roller coaster.

In some places it will go smoothly - when you are in a good mood and you are training something that you control quite well - but at other times it can be wild, sometimes even rough, especially when you get out of your comfort zone and hit your own physical but especially mental limits. In training, the coach and the athlete always set limits at the beginning of cooperation, where they are and are not willing to go. Over time, the edges are sharpened and the collaboration fine-tuned to achieve a successful goal.

Adult swimmers bring the problems of the adult world to training - there is always something going on at work and in the family...

They come to training with different expectations, they are influenced both positively and negatively by the environment in which they live and work - family, friends, colleagues, social networks, fashion trends and technical conveniences, but also by their own fears, prejudices, self-criticism... All these factors they greatly affect performance in training. That is why it is very important for the trainer to understand what his client is experiencing outside of training, so that he can help him get in the right mood for training, set the difficulty of the training on a given day, and support and successfully motivate him during the training itself.

Each trainer has his own approach and his own concept of training. The client and the trainer must "fit the path" on how the training takes place.

My training system is based on basic breathing and technical exercises, which we start training in the first lessons, first on dry land, then in water. Over time, the difficulty of the exercises increases.

On dry land, I prefer training with my own weight and selected equipment.

In the water, I prefer equipment free training and we emphasize "polishing" basic swimming techniques.

The concept is based on building a more efficient swimming technique, which I adapt to the state of health and predispositions of a specific individual. Therefore, the execution of the swimming technique for each swimmer will be different at the end. The process of improving swimming technique is a never-ending process. It is always up to the swimmer's individual decision whether the current level of swimming technique is sufficient for his needs or whether he will continue with further training.


In the next part of the post, I would like to introduce you to the process of swimming training and swimming training of my clients - two adult swimmers and one swimmer with the aim of mastering the technique of crawling, freestyle swimming.

At the beginning of our cooperation, we all started pretty much from scratch. The training consisted of movement training on dry land and training in water. And like all beginners, my clients also faced challenging moments in the water.

Dryland training preparation

The training preparation on dry land was aimed at mastering the warm-up, specific swimming imitation exercises and functional training for the needs of training in the water. The goal was to mobilize those parts of the body that were too "stiff" for swimming and to strengthen selected muscle groups that were weak. All three have a sedentary job and are engaged in other sports for recreation. Both of these factors affect their movement abilities in different ways, so it was necessary to modify some movement patterns correctly.

swimming dryland training
swimming imitation exercises

For both female swimmers, in addition to the dry warm-up, we also included in the program functional training 1-2 times a week.

And for one of the swimmers also ashtanga joga and specific dry swimming training to strengthen the crawl kick but also to strengthen the arms and shoulders.

Training in water

We always completed the first phase of the training process in the conditions of the indoor swimming pool, where the swimmers effectively mastered the technique of swimming freestyle, as well as other swimming styles backstroke, breaststroke and backstroke swimming coordination exercise. Training in the water was difficult for everyone from the beginning, as none of the swimmers had any basics of freestyle and other swimming techniques.

 crawl turn
training in the pool - crawl turn

The second phase of the training process, after mastering the technique and sufficient "swimming" in the pool, was focused on open water training (Bratislava's Draždiak and, for one swimmer, a training camp in Tenerife), which we focused on preparing for triathlon races. Thanks to this experience and the good feeling of movement on open water, new possibilities of using its conditions for recreational purposes have opened up for them (we also included fun training on a Stand Up Paddle Board).

paddle board training for swimmers
Shoulder strengthening on a paddle board

Challenging moments in training


The ability, or the inability, to set one's body in motion in the water as soon as possible has a significant impact on the mental state of every swimmer. It is often the key moment that decides whether a swimmer will continue to pursue his dream or give up.

Thanks to high-quality dry training, my swimmers were able to reach the required level of fitness, coordination and mental strength in a shorter time, which allowed them to set their own bodies in motion in the water. We thus prevented the onset of early stagnation, which is usually the result of insufficient understanding and perception of one's own body in the water.


The second challenging moment is to set one's body in motion, and at the same time to keep it in motion, using only the technique of crawling legs. It takes a lot of effort for a beginner swimmer. If his respiratory system is underdeveloped, it will make the whole process more difficult. Although the swimmer starts with a crawling kick and stays on the surface, at a certain moment he "runs out of oxygen", he has to surface, stop and take a breath to balance the oxygen debt. The first attempts and repetitions are often characterized by an unwanted dive when stopping the kick. A beginner cannot avoid the experience of inhaling water at the moment when he tries to pull his head out to inhale. However, this experience is part of the process, and I can confirm from my own experience that over time, everyone successfully manages to overcome the pitfalls and obstacles of the crawling leg technique and swim to the opposite side of the pool without further complications. The respiratory and muscular systems will be strengthened by repeated training. And at the memory of "sipping water" over time, everyone will laugh heartily.

training for adults crawl kick
training for adults crawl kick

All my novice swimmers, whether they wanted to or not, "drank" like this - more than once. But they were tenacious and did not give up, despite the fact that in my principles i did not allow them to help themselves with a board or fins, which, in my opinion, create a false sense of security for beginners. The moment you take away the beginner's aids, even in shallow water - despite the possibility of standing - the panic will deepen and the entire training process will be prolonged. It is better to teach the swimmer from the beginning to rely on his own abilities and to understand movement in the water. To teach him how to behave and help himself in critical moments.

In my trainings, it doesn't matter if it's working with children or adults, my goal is to build strong and self-confident swimmers who believe in themselves and can realistically estimate what they are capable of. They gain knowledge and experience how to use different parts of their body and their breath to generate forward movement, they know how to rest on the surface, how to dive and emerge. They have sufficient awareness of their own limits, respect them, know how to safely push them further, but above all they have their own ego under control in the water. Safety comes first in the water.


A very important factor for success and progress in training is the ability to imagine the movement of your own body in the water. As a coach, I will demonstrate the movement on dry land, and the swimmer must be able to imagine this movement and repeat it in the water. If it is not necessary to supplement the demonstration with a verbal comment, I know that the swimmer has a high degree of imagination, which allows us to progress quickly in the next training. In the course of many years, I realized that it is not fitness or coordination that is difficult to build, but it is the imagination of one's own movement that takes a very long time to build in swimmers. And with increasing age, this difficulty increases even more, especially if the client has not previously engaged in any sports activity under the guidance of a coach.


In the last part of the post, I would like to introduce you my swimmers and video demonstrations with their individual execution of swimming techniques.

plavecky kemp na Tenerife

1st FEMALE SWIMMER, 41 years old

office work

hobby athlete (cross-country running)

The first female swimmer has successfully mastered the freestyle technique, which she demonstrates during swimming in the pool as well as in open water. In addition, she successfully mastered the technique of breaststroke swimming.

The swimmer also completed my swimming camp in Tenerife, where we had the opportunity to focus more intensively on dry preparation as well as training in the water. The dry preparation was aimed at improving the warm-up, mastering advanced imitation exercises and breathing techniques. As part of the diversification of the program, we completed cross-country runs in nature and relaxed during yoga exercises.

An important part of the swimming camp was also mental training and a complex analysis of the swimming technique of crawling. Training in the water was also focused on mastering the crawl turn and starting from the block. The swimmer also got the opportunity to test her own limits in the upstream channel, which is undoubtedly a unique experience for every swimmer.

Video demonstration of various phases of the crawl technique training process, from dry preparation, as well as from the upstream channel:

trening dospeli kraul

A video demonstration of the different phases of the breast technique training process:

trening dospeli prsia


2nd FEMALE SWIMMER, 50 years old

office work

hobby athlete (running)

The second swimmer also successfully mastered the technique of freestyle. At a later stage, she also mastered the technique of breaststroke, backstroke and coordination swimming exercises backstroke with arm together.

She later successfully used the freesytle technique in open water races.

The first video demonstrates the training moments at the beginning of her freestyle technique journey:

video trening dospeli kraul

In the following videos, she demonstrates other advanced swimming exercises that enabled her to effectively master the freestyle swimming technique:

trening kraul sklz rotacie nadych

Videos with the swimming technique of the backstroke:

trening znak sklz rotacie
trening znak sklz rotacie
trening znak sklz rotacie
trening dospeli znak supaz

Video with breaststroke swimming technique:

trening dospeli prsia


kraul trening dospeli otvorena voda

3rd MALE SWIMMER, 33 years old

office work

hobby athlete (crossfit, combat sports)

In the past, this athlete has been involved in various combat sports and has been actively involved in crossfit for several years now. His next goal was to complete a triathlon race.

In order to achieve his goal, he needed to master the freestyle technique.

kraul trening dospeli otvorena voda

Not only for the client, but also for me personally, this cooperation was a challenge.

Helping a crossfit athlete master the freestyle technique was quite challenging. Over the years, his body has been adapted to work with weights, where there is significant stabilization and an increase in muscle tension. The exact opposite of what needs to happen in water. When swimming, it is mainly about the ability to relax in the swimming technique. So that was the main priority for us.

However, we managed this challenge successfully with our joint efforts, and the swimmer is currently preparing for his next open water race.

A compilation of training videos of the third swimmer in the pool and in open water:


In conclusion

Acquiring the freestyle swimming technique was a difficult process for two swimmers and a male swimmer. It is natural that a person, adapted for a terrestrial environment, will not have it easy when transitioning to an unstable aquatic environment. Especially at an older age, when his body is marked by years - by performing a certain profession or sports specialization.

However, my clients have successfully mastered the technique of crawling and other swimming techniques at a later age. These swimmers are able - without my presence - to effectively use the learned freestyle technique for recreational as well as fitness purposes. The experience of training in the pool and open water has opened up possibilities for their use in combination with other sports activities, and they enjoy moving in the water.

swimming camp in Tenerife
the reward is the joy of swimming

If you are just deciding whether to go for it at an older age, don't forget that people are adaptable and when they have a clear goal, build a strong will and find a passion for what they decide to do, they can even "crawl". The benefits that swimming and the confidence of moving in the water will bring you will definitely exceed any effort you put in during training. You will improve your condition, clear your head, and by overcoming critical moments in the water, you will increase your self-confidence and self-control.


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