Swimming Freestyle Rules

Swimming Freestyle Rules

Freestyle is the most commonly used stroke for practicing and one of the fastest and easiest strokes for racing. Freestyle races can also be one of the most exciting to watch, whether it’s Katie Ledecky swimming a distance race or Caeleb Dressel swimming the 100m in under 40 seconds. Below are the USA Swimming rules for any freestyle race to avoid disqualification and get a new best time.


The front start must be used in any freestyle event. To effectively perform the front start, a swimmer will stand on the starting block with their nondominant foot at the front of the block and their dominant foot at the back of the block for support.

Once cleared by the referee, the starter will say, “take your mark,” during which the swimmer will bend down and grab the front of the starting block using both hands. If a swimmer does not assume the proper position at this time, the starter may release the swimmers and redo the start.

Once all swimmers have taken the proper position, the starter will give the signal to begin the race.


In any freestyle event, swimmers are allowed to swim any stroke as long as it is not a backstroke, butterfly, or breaststroke. The front crawl is most typically used for these races.

To swim the front crawl, the swimmer will circle their arms forward, pulling under the water and swinging back around to the surface. For the kick, the swimmer will use the flutter or scissor kick, in which the legs alternate kicking up and down. As with the other races, some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water after the 15m mark following the start and each turn.


During a freestyle event, the swimmer must touch the wall after completing each length of the race. After a legal touch has been made, the swimmer may use any method to turn and leave the wall.

Similar to a backstroke race, a swimmer may use the flip turn after completing a length. To execute this turn, the swimmer will perform a flip while planting both feet on the wall. The swimmer will then push off the wall into the streamline position, with both arms above the swimmer’s head and their biceps pressed against their ears using either a flutter kick or a dolphin kick, before returning to the stroke.


After the swimmer has completed the required race distance, the swimmer must touch the wall using any part of their body. If an automatic touchpad is used for this race, the swimmer must complete the race by touching the automatic touchpad in order for the race to conclude.

Once all swimmers have completed the required distance, the swimmer may then exit the pool.