All of these basic drills allow you to exaggerate freestyle movements and focus on muscle control throughout the phases of your stroke.
Balance - Spend some time feeling your body's position on the water. Use either a kick board placed under your chin to lie on the water. Shorter torsos can use it sideways. Or place your feet over the lane line and work on pushing the air in your lungs slowly down on the water or board and feel how your hips come up. Go back and forth with this slowly until you can find this balance point easily without the board (feet on lane line). Once you've found your body balance correct your head's balance. The head movement comes from your neck as it you were nodding "yes". You want what we call a neutral head position. Water should be touching the middle of your head not your forehead or back of head. This will allow your eyes to almost be looking straight down in the water. Ultimately you should find that spot straight down and then look forward with a chin movement (whole head) to see a new point 3-4 inches in front of that first one.
Catch-Up Stroke - This is a one arm at a time stroke. You'll want a decent kick while you're doing this. As you get better with your balance you can actually get away with a very minimal kick! For now use a moderate kick. This stroke won't allow for proper rotation but our emphasis here is to focus solely on one arm at a time. Again, the "catch-up" refers to your hand catching up to the one that is out front planing the water. Once it has caught up and "tagged" the planing arm they change rolls. ONLY ONE ARM PULLS AT A TIME! Focus on each quadrant of your stroke. Q1 first you set your stroke by bending at the elbow to get your palm deeper (palm "looking" at your feet) in the water while leaving your elbow high and "looking" towards the sides of the pool. Now that you're set with a good angle upfront on the water you can start your pull. You should feel tension from the tips of your fingers through your forearm, your bicep and upper torso will start to take on the load, as well. You finish Q1 with your elbow still looking outside and remaining high. You hand will be directly under your shoulder. NOT in front of your chest or behind/outside your shoulder. You should have a 90 degree angle at your elbow. Now holding that spot in the water with your palm, in Q2 you'll start to pick up with your tricep what you give up with your bicep until you've completed what would be a tricep extension in the gym. Your palm should continue to "look" towards your feet while it gradually gives up its depth. Q2 ends with your arm locked (for the briefest of brief moments) and your palm still looking at your feet, with your wrist next to your hip. Do not extend straight armed out of the water!!! Q3 starts with what I call "breaking your elbow", by breaking that locked elbow and sending it straight for the sky overhead. Your hand needs to exit the same hole your elbow creates in the water. Think of drawling a sword straight out of its sheath. So Q3 goes from a straight arm next to your body to a high elbow and your hand almost right up against your arm pit. On your recovery (hand going from back to front Q3 &Q4) keep your forearms, wrists and hands relaxed. Finishing with Q4, you want to keep your elbow high with your hand recovery just over the water. Have you hand enter the water about 8-10 inches ahead of your head but inline with that hand’s shoulder. Don’t cross over, send your hand deep or slap the water. Now finish Q4 by extending your hand forward until you momentarily lock that elbow again. Leave your arms relaxed until the moment you start Q1. Repeat perfectly 5,000 times and you’ll have it down!
Finger Tip Drill – Regular Freestyle stroke. During Q3 & Q4 drag the tips of your fingers through the water as you bring your hand forward. Remember to keep your hand, wrist and forearm relaxed as you draw forward. Keep your palms facing inward. This drill puts emphasis on the high elbow and hand close to body recovery. Make sure that when you go back to regular freestyle that you keep this high elbow recovery.
Quick Note: Your hand should never be higher than your elbow in any part of your Australian Crawl (freestyle) stroke!!! Not underwater. Not out of water.
Zipper Drill – Regular Freestyle stroke. During Q3 & Q4 run your thumb up the side of your body from hip all the way into the arm pit. Remember to keep your hand, wrist and forearm relaxed as you draw forward. Keep your palms facing inward. This drill over exaggerates the hand close to body recovery while keeping the high elbow. Make sure that when you go back to regular freestyle that you keep this hand close to your body recovery.
Finger Tip with Zipper Drill – Put the two together. Drag your fingers while you drag your thumb up the side of your body!