8 Different Swimming Styles and Strokes

Whether you want to learn how to swim for competition, exercise, or safety, it’s best to learn several different swimming strokes as each offer different advantages in different situations.

The different types of swimming styles and strokes mainly include the freestyle stroke, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly stroke, and sidestroke.

For competition, the versatility will allow swimmers to compete in multiple events. For exercise, different muscles are used for different strokes, so learning all of the strokes provides a more comprehensive workout. For safety, different strokes can be used depending on the dangers of a particular situation.

Here Are 8 Different Swimming Styles and Strokes:

Freestyle/Front Crawl

The front crawl is likely the first swimming stroke you think of when you picture swimming. It is commonly called the freestyle stroke as most swimmers choose to use this stroke in freestyle events as it is the fastest.

To execute the front crawl, you lie on your stomach with your body parallel to the water. Propel yourself forward with alternating arm movements in a sort of windmill motion that starts by pushing underwater and recovers above water. Your legs should propel you with a flutter kick, which is performed with pointed feet as your legs move up and down in alternation. Do not bend your legs at the knee.

Time your breathing to match your swimming strokes by turning your head to the side while your arm is in the recovery (above water) position. Do not turn your head too far and face upward or you will actually sink into the water rather than remain above it.


The backstroke requires similar movements to the front crawl, but it is done, as the name suggests, on your back. Doctors often recommend this stroke to individuals with back problems as it provides a great back workout.

To perform the backstroke, while floating on your back, alternate your arms with a windmill-like motion to propel yourself backwards. Like the front crawl, your arms should start the circular motion by pushing underwater and recovering above water. Your legs should engage in a flutter kick. Your face should be above the surface as you look straight up.

Keep your body as straight as possible, with a slight decline in the lower body to keep your legs underwater. Don’t allow your hips to get too low or your body to bend too much or it will slow you down. Keep your legs close together and use the motion from your hips to get a more powerful kick.

Your face will remain out of the water, but you will still want to be cognizant of your breathing rhythm. Again, match your breaths to your strokes.


The breaststroke is the slowest competitive swimming stroke, and it is the most commonly learned stroke. It’s often taught to beginner swimmers because it does not require putting your head underwater. However, in competitive swimming, swimmers do submerge their head and breathe at designated points in the stroke.

This stroke is performed with your stomach facing down. Your arms move simultaneously beneath the surface of the water in a half circular movement in front of your body. Your legs perform the whip kick at the same time. The whip kick is executed by bringing your legs from straight behind you close to your body by bending both at your knees and at your hips. Your legs then move outward and off to the side before extending and coming back together. This swimming technique is often compared to a frog’s movement.

Time each arm stroke to match your leg movements for more effective propulsion by resting the arms while the legs kick, and straightening the legs while the arms push you forward. This way, there is always something working to continue forward movement.


The butterfly is an advanced swimming stroke that provides an excellent workout. It can be more difficult and tiring to learn, but it is also a lot of fun. It is the second fastest competitive stroke, and the favorite stroke of Olympic legend Michael Phelps.

To perform the butterfly stroke, start horizontal with your stomach facing the bottom of the pool. Bring your arms simultaneously over your head and push them into the water to propel you forward and bring them up out of the water again to repeat. As you move your arms into the water, you will push your head and shoulders above the surface of the water.

Your legs will perform a dolphin kick, which requires your legs to stay together and straight as you kick them similarly to how a dolphin’s lower body and tail moves. Move your body in a fluid wave-like motion.

The best time to take a breath will be when your arms are just starting to come out of the water, just before you begin the next forward thrust. Lift your head straight in front of you during this move and do not turn your head to the side.


This is an older swimming style that is not typically used in swim competitions, but is still an important stroke to learn for safety reasons. It is most commonly used by lifeguards when they rescue someone, as this stroke most easily allows you to pull something along with you. It involves swimming on your side, as the name implies, propelling yourself forward with a scissor kick and alternating arm movements. It’s one of the easier strokes to learn, and can be a nice break from the more popular swim strokes if you’re looking to add more variety into your routine.

One way to remember the sidestroke is by comparing it to apple picking. Your first arm will stretch above your head and pick an apple, then your hands will meet in front of your chest. The first arm hands the apple to the second arm (the side of the body that is on top and partly out of the water). The second arm will reach out to toss the apple behind you as the first arm reaches above your head for another apple.

Elementary Backstroke

This is a variation from the typical backstroke you see. It uses a reversed breaststroke kick while your arms move in sync beneath the water. It’s called “elementary” because of its simple technique that’s easy to pick up, and is often one of the first swim strokes taught to new swimmers for this reason.

This stroke is often taught to children using fun nicknames for the parts of the movement. Bring your hands to your armpits like a monkey, spread your arms like an airplane, then push them down to your sides like a soldier.

Combat Side Stroke

This is a form of the sidestroke that all US Navy SEALs have to learn. Efficient and energy-saving, the combat side stroke is a kind of a combination of breaststroke, freestyle, and, obviously, sidestroke. It reduces the swimmer’s profile in the water, making them less visible while allowing them to swim with maximum efficiency–two critical criteria for combat operations that require swimming on the surface. You will focus on balance, length, and rotation. The combat side stroke is a relatively complicated stroke to learn, so for the full official description and steps.


This stroke evolved from the sidestroke and is named after the English swimmer John Trudgen. You swim mostly on your side, alternating lifting each arm out of the water and over your head. It uses a scissor kick that only comes in every other stroke. When your left arm is over your head, you spread your legs apart to prepare to kick, and then as the arm comes down you straighten your legs and snap them together for the scissor kick. This stroke is particularly unique because your head remains above the water for the entirety.

What are the Basic Skills of Swimming?

There are five skills that are important for every swimmer to know:

  • Breathing technique
  • Gliding with your face in the water
  • How to coordinate various body parts during movement
  • Stroke styles/swimming techniques
  • Diving

How Do You Become a Good Swimmer?

As with any sport, the best way to improve or to become truly great is with hard work and practice. Taking swimming lessons is a great place to start, regardless of age or skill level. And most importantly, spend as much time as you can in the water!

Sign up for lessons at SwimJim in order to learn and master the different styles of strokes in swimming. Not sure which level to start out on? Visit our SwimJim Levels page and we will help you figure it out.

Beginner’s Guide to the Different Swimming Strokes

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Whether it’s summer or not, jumping in the pool is a great way to mix up your workout routine, take the load off your joints, and burn major calories while using pretty much every muscle in your body.

Not sure where to start? Consider this your guide to the most common swimming strokes—and how to incorporate them into your next water workout. (Don’t wanna do laps? Try this non-swimming pool workout instead.)

4 Swimming Strokes You Should Know

If you’ve ever tuned into the Summer Olympics, you’ve seen the four most popular swimming strokes—freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly—in action. And while your strokes may not look quite like Natalie Coughlin’s, nail the basics and you’re pretty much guaranteed a killer workout. (Once you’ve mastered these swimming strokes, try one of these swimming workouts for every fitness level.)

“Freestyle is definitely the best-known swimming stroke,” says Julia Russell, C.P.T., former Olympic swimmer and swim coach and trainer at Life Time Athletic in New York City. “Not only is it the fastest and most efficient, but it’s also the easiest to master.”

If you’re new to swimming or want to get a solid workout in the pool, freestyle is a great stroke to get you started. Swim freestyle at a medium to vigorous effort level for an hour, and a 140-pound person will burn upwards of 500 calories.

How to do the freestyle swimming stroke:

  • You swim freestyle in a horizontal prone position (meaning face-down in the water).
  • With pointed toes, you kick your feet in a quick, compact up-and-down movement known as the ‘flutter kick.’
  • Meanwhile, your arms move in a continuous, alternating pattern: One arm pulls underwater from an extended position (in front of your body, bicep by ear) towards your hip, while the other arm recovers by sweeping above the water from your hip out to the extended position in front of you.
  • To breathe, you turn your head to the side of whatever arm is recovering and inhale quickly before turning your face back down again. (Typically, you’ll breathe every two or more strokes.)

“The hardest aspect of freestyle is the breathing,” says Russell. “However, it’s easy to work on with a kickboard.” Flutter kick while holding a kickboard out in front of you and practice rotating your face in and out of the water to breathe until you feel comfortable. (Here are some more tips to make the most of every swimming workout.)

Muscles worked during freestyle: core, shoulders, glutes, hamstrings

2. Backstroke

Essentially the upside-down counterpart to freestyle, backstroke is another easy swimming stroke to master that’s popular among swimmers of all ability levels, says Russell.

Though the average person only burns about 300 calories per hour swimming backstroke, the stroke offers one major perk: Your face stays out of the water, so you can breathe whenever you want. “Backstroke is extremely useful when you need a bit of a rest period,” says Russell. (Related: How This Woman Uses Swimming to Clear Her Head)

Plus, it also comes in handy when you “really want to strengthen your abs and back muscles,” she adds. Combine backstroke and freestyle in the same pool workout and you’ll have worked your body from all angles.

How to do the backstroke swimming stroke:

  • You swim backstroke in a horizontal supine position (meaning you’re face-up in the water), hence the name ‘backstroke.’
  • Like in freestyle, you kick your feet in a short, constant flutter kick while your arms move in a continuous alternating pattern.
  • In backstroke, you’ll pull one arm through the water from an extended position above your head down to your hip, while the other arm recovers by making a semi-circle motion in the air, from your hip to that extended position.
  • Your body will roll slightly from side to side as each arm pulls underwater, but your head will stay in a neutral upward-facing position, meaning, yep, you can breathe easily as needed.

Muscles worked during backstroke: shoulders, glutes, and hamstrings, plus more core (especially back) than freestyle

3. Breaststroke

Though the tempo of breaststroke, which is quite different from freestyle and backstroke, can be tricky to nail, “one you get it, you get it for life,” says Russell. “It’s like riding a bike.” (Related: The Best Swim Goggles for Every Situation)

Since the average person burns just shy of 350 calories per hour swimming breaststroke, it may not be your go-to for a high-intensity workout. However, since it uses such a different movement pattern than freestyle and backstroke, it’s a great way to switch things up and focus on different muscle groups, says Russell.

Plus, “if you’re hesitant to hold your breath, breaststroke is great because you breathe every stroke,” she explains. Heck, you can even do it without putting your face in the water at all (though that’s not technically correct).

How to do the breaststroke swimming stoke:

  • Like freestyle, you swim breaststroke in a horizontal prone position. However, in breaststroke, you move between a more horizontal, streamlined position (when your body is like a pencil underwater, with arms and legs outstretched) and a more vertical recovery position, in which you pull your torso up out of the water to breathe.
  • Here, your legs perform a symmetrical ‘whip’ or ‘frog’ kick that involves pulling your feet together in towards your glutes and then whipping your feet out to the sides in a circular motion until they meet again in a streamlined position. (Seriously, just picture frog legs.)
  • Meanwhile, your arms move in a symmetrical, triangle-like pattern. As your legs recover towards your glutes, your hands (which are extended out ahead of you) sweep forward, outward, and then pull into your chest, creating that triangle shape. As your legs perform their frog kick, you’ll shoot your arms back out into their extended position and repeat.
  • In breaststroke, you breathe by lifting your head as your arms pull through the water, and tuck your face back down as they extend out in front of you.

Muscles worked during breaststroke: chest, all the leg muscles

Perhaps the most epic-looking of the four swimming strokes, the butterfly is also (by far) the most difficult to master.

“It’s a pretty unusual movement,” Russell explains. “Plus, it utilizes just about every muscle you have.” The result: a swimming stroke that’s not only technically very advanced, but absolutely exhausting, even for the pros.

Because butterfly is so tricky, Russell recommends mastering the other three strokes before giving it a try. Once you get there, though, know this: It’s a wicked calorie-burner. The average person torches close to 900 calories an hour swimming butterfly. “It really gets your heart rate up there,” she says.

How to do the butterfly swimming stroke:

  • Butterfly, which is performed in a horizontal prone position, uses a wave-like undulating movement in which your chest, followed by your hips, continuously bobs up and down.
  • You’ll start in a streamlined position underwater. From there, your hands make an hourglass shape under the water as they pull towards your hips, and then exit the water and recover to that extended position by circling forward just above the water surface.
  • Meanwhile, your legs perform a ‘dolphin’ kick, in which your legs and feet stay together and push up and down, with pointed toes. (Picture a mermaid tail.)
  • In butterfly, you breathe as needed by lifting your head up out of the water while your arms recover above the water surface.

“When I teach butterfly, I break it down into three parts,” Russell says. First, practice the general movement pattern of alternatively bobbing your chest and hips up and down, just to get a sense of the rhythm. Then, practice the dolphin kick. Once you’ve got that down, work on just the arm movement before finally piecing it all together. (BTW, did you know you can take mermaid fitness classes while you’re on vacation?)

Muscles worked during butterfly: literally all of them (especially the core, lower back, and calves)

  • By Lauren Del Turco

Different Swimming Strokes and Their Benefits

Competitive swimmers race in a variety of different strokes. The freestyle and butterfly races are some of the most highly anticipated events at the Olympics. But, you don’t have to be a professional or competitive swimmer to enjoy the benefits of swimming. Learn about the benefits of different swimming strokes to help you decide how you want to do your laps in the pool.

1. Freestyle

Freestyle is probably the most well-known of the swimming strokes. Here is what you need to know about performing this stroke and its benefits:


Freestyle is also known as the front crawl. When swimming this stroke, your body will be in a prone position on your stomach and face toward the water. Both your arms and legs will pull you through the water, while your torso remains stable. Your arms will move in an alternating fashion. One arm will arc up out of the water while the other is on the downswing, close to your torso in the water. Each arm will reenter the water at an angle, fingers held straight and together, to minimize resistance.

While your arms pull you forward through the water, your legs will be hard at work too. You will use the flutter kick to complete the freestyle stroke technique. The flutter kick is achieved by constantly moving your legs in a tight, scissor-like movement beneath the water. Your knees will bend slightly, but your legs will remain relatively parallel to the surface beneath you at all times. You can adjust the number of kicks per complete cycle of arm movement depending on how quickly you want to swim. Your legs are an important part of freestyle, but keep in mind that they provide just about 10 percent propulsion in the bodies of practiced swimmers.

Freestyle often looks intimidating to inexperienced swimmers because it requires you to put your face in the water. Once you get used to putting your face in the water, adding breathing to the freestyle cycles is relatively easy. As one arm swings up and out of the water, you simply turn your face to the side and take a breath. As the arm comes down, lower your face back into the water. Some swimmers alternate sides when it comes to breathing while others stick to one side.


You can burn hundreds of calories with just a half an hour of swimming freestyle. What are the biggest benefits of this stroke?

Freestyle, favored by long-distance swimmers, is considered the most efficient stroke. Freestyle takes you farther than other strokes without expending more energy. If you like to set your swimming workouts to a lap count, this will help you reach your goal faster.

Freestyle also gives you a full body workout. It works the muscles in your arms, legs, core and back. If you are looking for a particular swimming stroke to tone your back muscles, freestyle is definitely the way to go.

While freestyle has multiple benefits, keep in mind that this stroke can be more difficult to master than other options, such as breaststroke.

2. Breaststroke

The best swimming stroke is a matter of opinion. If you are new to swimming, breaststroke might be the easiest place to start. Breakstroke is also a good option for anyone looking for a slower alternative to freestyle. Here is what you need to know about breaststroke technique and benefits:

Like freestyle, breaststroke involves separate movements for your arms and legs. Your body is in the same horizontal position as it is during freestyle, but you will use different motions to propel yourself through the water. Your arms will together at the same time in a half-circular motion underneath the water. Your arms, bent at the elbow, will sweep apart and then together again toward your chest, remaining underwater the entire time you swim this stroke.

As your arms move in this rhythm, your legs will be busily pushing you forward with a technique known as the whip kick or the frog kick. When executing this kick, your legs should be behind you approximately hip-distance apart. With your knees bent and your feet flexed, kick your legs apart and then sweep them together again to form one smooth line. Repeat this motion in concert with the arm movement. The optimal rhythm allows your arms to rest while you kick and vice versa.

The final piece of breaststroke is your breathing. It is possible to complete the arm and leg motions of this stroke with your head completely above water. If you want to add in the breathing technique to complete the stroke, you will duck your head beneath the water each cycle of the stroke. Use your shoulders to lift your head out of the water and take a breath. As your arms sweep forward in the water, all your shoulders to drop and take your head under the water once again.

If you are looking for swim stroke advantages, there is a lot to love with breaststroke. For every 30 minutes of swimming breaststroke, you will burn approximately 200 calories. Breastroke is considered the easiest stroke to learn, which means you can concentrate on the workout without worrying too much if you are getting your movements just right. Plus, if you aren’t comfortable putting your face in the water, you can still swim this stroke.

Like all swim strokes, breaststroke works multiple different muscle groups. This swimming style is a particularly good option for working your chest muscles and your hamstrings. Your thigh muscles, core muscles and arm muscles will also benefit from breaststroke. Breastroke is also a great cardio workout.

Breaststroke is the slowest swimming stroke, which may be a con for people who prefer speed. Yet, this can be considered positive. Because it is so slow, breaststroke can be done for longer periods of time, serving as an endurance workout.

3. Backstroke

Unlike with most other swimming strokes, your face will not be in the water during the backstroke. Instead, you will be on your back in the water, just as the name suggests. Here are some tips on perfecting your backstroke technique and reaping the benefits of this stroke:

You can think of backstroke as almost the mirror image of freestyle. Instead of facing downward, you will face upward in the water. You will remain in this horizontal position, looking upward, as you move your arms and legs. Your arms will propel you forward with a windmill-like motion. One arm will come up out of the water and go overhead, while the other sweeps forward beneath you in the water. You will move by alternating this motion — one arm comes up and the other goes down. Keep your arms close to your ears as they come back down into the water. Additionally, you will want to keep your arms as straight as possible and your fingers close together to minimize resistance. Try to keep your hips from dropping into the water. Too much sag in your hips will slow your forward momentum.

As your arms pull you through the water, your legs will be using the same flutter kick performed during freestyle. Your legs will be slightly bent as you kick in a flurry of alternating motion. You can decide on the frequency of kicks depending on how fast you want to move.

The beauty of backstroke is that you only need to concentrate on your arm and leg movements. There is no breathing technique to worry about because your face is always above the water.

Swimming backstroke will burn approximately 250 calories in 30 minutes. The pros and cons to swim strokes can often depend on what you are looking to get out of your time in the water. Backstroke offers plenty of benefits distinct from other strokes. For example, backstroke can help improve your posture since your muscles need to work to keep your back straight in the water. It can also help improve your hip flexibility. Just like other swimming strokes, it will also work your arm, leg and core muscles.

The position of your head is one small downside of backstroke to consider. Since your line of sight is directed upwards, rather than in front of you, some people feel slightly nervous not being able to see where they are going in the water. You can overcome this by counting how many strokes it takes to complete a lap.

4. Sidestroke

Sidestroke can be done on your own or with the help of a kickboard. You may be less familiar with this stroke because it is not used during competitive events. Here is a look at the technique and benefits of sidestroke:

Just like the name suggests, you will swim this stroke on your side. Begin by positioning your body on one side in the water. Stretch the arm beneath that side of your body forward in the water. The arm on top will rest on top of your horizontally positioned body. Rest your head on the arm stretched out straight in front of you. Your head will not move from this position the entire time you swim sidestroke. Since your face does not enter the water, you will not have to worry about your breathing technique.

Both of your arms will move during sidestroke. The arm stretched out in front of you is referred to as your lead arm. Your lead arm and the arm resting on the side of your body will both sweep downwards through the water, bent at the elbow. Your hands will come toward one another in front of your chest and then sweep upwards back to the straight, starting position.

During sidestroke, most of your forward momentum will come from your legs. You will move your legs using a scissor kick, which means your legs move back and forth beneath the water in an alternating motion. As you kick, your arms will move toward one another and then back to a straight position.

You can burn more than 200 calories swimming sidestroke for 30 minutes. While not a competitive stroke, sidestroke is often used by lifeguards to perform in-water rescues. So, knowing how to swim sidestroke can come in handy if you are ever in an emergency situation. You will use your arm and leg muscles to propel you forward, while you will work your core muscles to maintain a smooth, horizontal position in the water.

From purely an exercise standpoint, sidestroke allows you to keep your face out of the water while working multiple muscle groups.

5. Butterfly

Of all the different swimming strokes, the butterfly is probably the most challenging. Butterfly requires a great deal of strength and coordination that takes time to develop. Here is what you should know about this swimming stroke:

The butterfly is named for the way a swimmer’s arms move while swimming this stroke. Your arms arch up and out of the water together, looking like a pair of wings. Your body is in the same horizontal position as required by freestyle and breaststroke. You begin by placing your arms out in front of you, your thumbs facing down toward the water. Sweep your arms down and out with your elbows slightly bent. Your arms should form a Y-shape in front of your body. Pull your arms back through the water, parallel to your body. Next, you will pull them back up out of the water and begin the cycle again.

As your arms move through this cycle, your legs will be continuously moving using a technique known as dolphin kick. During dolphin kick, your legs remain zipped together in one smooth line. The legs move up and down together, pushing you forward in the water. The heels and soles of your feet will break the surface of the water as you kick upward. You will kick down as your arms reenter the water and sweep down.

The breathing technique for butterfly is similar to that of breaststroke. You will use your shoulder muscles to bob your head up out of the water and back down. You should come up to breathe as your arms are recovering and preparing to sweep back up again.

The butterfly burns the most calories of any swimming stroke, approximately 450 calories for every 30 minutes of swimming. This stroke is an excellent option for combining core and upper body training. During this stroke, you challenge your core muscles to keep your body stable as your arms and legs move simultaneously. You also work your arm, chest and upper back muscles to raise both of your arms up out of the water and over your head. Your body’s position during the butterfly also helps improve overall flexibility.

While a fantastic workout, the complicated movements that go into the butterfly can be a challenge to master. If you are looking for a challenge in the water, the butterfly is the way to go.

Get Swim Gear at All American Swim

Which swim stroke provides the best exercise? It depends on your goals and preferences. No matter how what stroke you use, you need the proper gear to get into the water. Shop All American Swim for suits, goggles and more.

Swimming Strokes/ Styles for Beginners

Swimming is a great sport to be fit, stay motivated and fun to learn. It is a stress reducer cutting all ties from the outside world and relaxing underwater.

During swimming, your body releases a pain bearing hormone called endorphins keeping you rejuvenated the entire day, improves sleep, boosts the immune system and develops pain bearing capacity. The sport must be a part of our daily routine.

You can never get bored of swimming. The water sport has so much to offer. Fitness drills, Aqua jogging, water aerobics, sprinting work, bubbling training and the list goes on. Flaunt your mermaid avatar with different swimming strokes and styles, making it look breathtaking and eye-soothing.

So, do you want to learn swimming and experience the adrenaline rush in your receptors? Sportz Craazy demonstrates different types of swimming strokes and styles for every beginner, who loves swimming and wants to overcome the fear of water.

Types of Swimming Strokes/Styles

The Freestyle Stroke Swimming

Freestyle Stroke also called front call by many is the most used stroke by the swimmers and triathletes. To swim freestyle, your arms should make alternate movements, one arm moves backward from the head, the other arm comes out of the water from the hips towards the head.

During the arm movement, the legs do the flutter kick making upward and downward movements with a pointed toe. This is a result-oriented kicking exercise to strengthen the ligament. Make sure the head is in line with the trunk looking straight down, extended arm with your palms turned downward.

Breaststroke Swimming

Breaststroke is one of the first strokes taught to early swimmers, easy to learn and execute in the water. During the stroke, both the arms make half-circular movements lifting your upper half. The arm release movement occurs inside the water. The legs execute a whip kick.

The reason it is taught to the beginners is that he can keep his head above the water skipping all the breathing and panic problems. Once you are experienced, you can submerge your head in the water during the stroke.

The upper body should be at the top when your hands meet below the chest and feet above your buttocks.

Butterfly Stroke Swimming

Butterfly Stroke is the toughest and competitive stroke used by the swimmers, thrilling to watch and unique in nature. The butterfly stroke was founded by the Australian named Sydney Cavill, the stroke spread like fire when Sydney went to the USA and inspired players like Michael Phelps, who carried on Sydney legacy and reframed the art of the butterfly stroke.

The swimmer uses a symmetrical arm stroke to create a wave-like body undulation with a dolphin kick. For a beginner, it is quite exhausting and requires some serious skill to master. It is the second-fastest swim stroke after freestyle.

Note, don’t juggle normal kick with a dolphin kick. It is different.

Backstroke Swimming

As the name goes, it is swimming on the back. The swimmer uses alternate circular movements to keep the body above the water level, while the legs use the flutter kick to push the body as used in freestyle stroke.

If you suffer from any kind of back problems, backstroke helps in releasing the muscle tension and strengthen the upper back and lats, giving your body a robust posture. It is somewhere between breaststroke and butterfly in terms of execution.

To master the backstroke, the swimmer practice different drills to improve the performance, such as:-

  • Blind drill
  • Backstroke 7&7 drill
  • One arm backstroke drill

Sidestroke Swimming

Sidestroke is completely out of fashion and is hardly used by the swimmers in the competitions, but can prove to be a unique substitute to backstroke. Nowadays, it is used by the lifeguards to rescue victims.

You can master the sidestroke in just a few sessions and practicing certain drills over a period of time. For example:-

  • Dryland scissor kick
  • Dry-land side stroke arm motions
  • Dry-Land Sidestroke Swimming Motions
  • Swimming sidestroke with a swim noodle
  • Sid stroke arm motions with a pull buoy
  • Scissorkick in the water with a swim noodle
  • Swimming side stroke
  • Alternating Sidestroke and Breaststroke

Elementary Backstroke Swimming

The difference between breaststroke and elementary backstroke is that during elementary backstroke use reversed breaststroke kick and using simple arm stroke in conjunction. It is a beginner swim stroke mainly taught to children due to simple techniques.

The only disadvantage with the elementary backstroke is that you need to maintain a certain balance in the water or body will dip in the water. You can pull buoy and kickboard while learning the stroke.

Please don’t consider swimming as a sport or leisure activity, it has much more to proffer. It is a synonym for a healthier lifestyle. It is found that regular swimming reduces the chances of heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, and obesity. It improves your overall cardiovascular fitness and helpful in weight loss. You are likely to have increased lung size, enhance pain bearing capacity, boosts the immune system, increased muscle mass and good heart rate

Swimming has a positive impact on mental growth and high self-esteem. Once you enter the pool, it becomes almost like a meditative trance, enjoying very own company underwater.

It is better to substitute for jogging and lifting body weights, it is helpful in the overall development of the body.

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While you may have started swimming by learning to dog paddle, that’s not considered a mainstream swimming stroke. Four main swimming strokes exist to help you meet your fitness goals. The arm and leg movements required for each stroke work your body differently, so incorporate several strokes into a swimming workout. Always consult your doctor before beginning this or any exercise regimen.

Starting Out

When many people start learning mainstream strokes, they start with the front crawl, also called the freestyle stroke. With this stroke, you alternate your arms, with one leaving the water near your shoulder to move forward above the water while the other hand pushes down into the water, moving from front to back. Perform a flutter kick with your feet — alternate moving your feet up and down in small movements.

Moving Forward

Two other forward strokes exist to incorporate into your swimming routing. The breaststroke requires you to start with your hands together in front of your chest with your head and chest slightly lifted. Push forward and down, separating your hands under water and bringing them back up under your body to start the next stroke with the hands together. Use a frog kick to help propel yourself forward, where you bend your knees outward, then push your feet back until your legs are straight.

The butterfly stroke is similar to the front crawl in that your arms come up out of the water on each side, but in the butterfly, the come up and down together instead of alternating. Use a dolphin kick with this stroke, where you keep your feet together and move your legs up and down from the hips, bending your knees slightly to keep the movement fluid.

Changing to Backward

Swimming on your back doesn’t mean you’re taking a break. The backstroke moves you quickly across the pool, but you’re facing up rather than down toward the bottom of the pool. Also called the back crawl, extend one arm straight up and bring it down behind your head, pulling it down into the water with the elbow slightly bent. Straighten it to perform the next stroke. Alternate your arms so one is above water and one is under in a continuous movement. Use the same flutter kick as with the front crawl.

Breathe Easy

How you breathe affects how effective your swim strokes are. Instead of holding your breath, exhale continuously between breath intakes. When you need to breathe in, time it so it works best with the stroke. In the freestyle, for example, alternate sides so you don’t end up drifting one way because you turn your head that way every time. You might want to breathe every third stroke, taking in a quick but full gasp of air. With strokes that bring your face above water, such as the breaststroke, you can breathe with every stroke if needed. Consult a professional coach or trainer to ensure your technique is correct.

Different Swimming Strokes: Which is Right for You?

Swimming is one of the most popular forms of exercise, so if you are thinking of taking it up you will be in good company. It has never been easier to start swimming, with public pools available around the country. Many homeowners even choose to have their own private pool constructed to take advantage of. Even smaller home pools can be set up to allow you to get exercise, with options like swim jets making lane swimming possible even in a tiny space. So there really is no excuse if you are looking to start swimming. But if you are going to begin swimming on a regular basis it is important to choose the right swimming stroke in order to get the most out of your workout. Here are four different swimming strokes that happen to be the most common; along with their benefits and drawbacks to help you choose the perfect one for you.

1. Breaststroke

Breaststroke is often the first swimming stroke taught to beginners, this can mean that some people discount it as nothing more than an easy stroke that doesn’t really offer any major benefits, but this isn’t true. It has many advantages that make it one of the most popular you will see in any pool.

The benefits:

This stroke is a fantastic choice if you are looking to get a cardiovascular workout from your swimming sessions. As one of the easiest swimming strokes to learn, it also has the benefit of being perfect for people who don’t enjoy having their head underwater for long periods of swimming. It is also a great workout for your chest and lats.

The drawbacks:

This is a relatively slow stroke which means that it doesn’t offer a great deal of fat burning potential, so there are better options if you are looking for a pure workout.

2. Front crawl

The freestyle stroke, front crawl is known for being the fastest swimming stroke as you drag yourself through the water while being propelled by fast flutter kicking with your legs. It naturally has the challenge that you are facing down into the water and have to learn proper breathing techniques to get the most out of the stroke. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most popular styles of swimming.

Front crawl is the fastest stroke! It can be the best if you are looking for a pure power workout from your swimming. It is a great way to work on your chest, back and lat muscles, and is the most efficient way to swim if you want to test yourself.

We have already mentioned that front crawl can be challenging to learn to execute correctly as you have to develop a breathing routine. Getting it wrong can leave you out of breath in the water which halts your progress. This can be a challenging thing to coordinate, especially if you are not used to it.

The swimming stroke on your back, backstroke is typically more relaxed and useful for working a different set of muscles. It is definitely useful to learn backstroke and use it in combination with other strokes to get a broader workout from your swimming session.

Backstroke is unsurprisingly a fantastic workout for the back muscles, but it can also help you work out the hamstrings. It is another one of those swim strokes where you don’t need to worry about breathing as your head is out of the water at all times.

It can be initially challenging to hold your balance on your back. This can make backstroke a bit more tricky to learn than other swimming strokes. Additionally, it can be difficult to get used to not being able to see where you are going.

4. Butterfly

One of the more challenging swimming strokes to master, the butterfly looks fantastic when someone executes it correctly. But it can be an intimidating stroke to start doing – it’s important to learn how to do it correctly. Both arms swing simultaneously and pull back under the swimmer’s hips to generate forward motion. The legs and feet snap together in a dolphin-style kick.

This is a fast and fun stroke that is great for burning fat. It works out your core, shoulders and chest. If you are looking to master a unique stroke, this is the one. You aren’t likely to see many people doing this stroke in the pool.

The butterfly is difficult to learn. There are a number of complicated body movements that you need to master; including proper breathing techniques. On top of this, of all the swim strokes, this one is very tiring and is difficult to do for long periods of time.


The stealth message in “Swim Speed Strokes” is that putting forth effort in your nonprimary strokes will do you more good than you can imagine.

Swimming more than one stroke brings these benefits:

  • Much improved feel for the water.
  • Improved sense of the timing of arms, core and kicking movements.
  • More interesting swim workouts.
  • Better all-around muscle strength from recruiting different muscle groups.
  • Improved conditioning, especially from butterfly sets.
  • A stronger core from wider muscle recruitment.

Consider this quote from a triathlete who took a backstroke clinic I coached in the winter of 2014:

“What stunned me is that learning the correct catch and grab for the backstroke translated into my finally figuring out the catch and grab for freestyle. Who knew that after all these years, it would take flipping me onto my back to get the most important part of the freestyle stroke?”

This triathlete now deliberately practices backstroke rather than using it as a stroke to take a rest.

So as you plan your offseason swim training, consider becoming a stronger, faster swimmer by mastering another stroke.

Republished with permission of VeloPress from ITU world champion and four-time Olympian Sheila Taormina’s new book “Swim Speed Strokes.” Learn more at swimspeedsecrets.com.

Guest post by Anabel Cooper

There are quite a few swimming strokes or different styles out there, however, the most used ones are the ones that are also used in international competition. If you were curious about which one is best and what is the advantage of each and every one of them, keep reading and you’ll be amazed.

The breaststroke is the extremely popular with athletes but can also be performed by hobby swimmers as well. In this style, both of your arms do semi-circular movements while underwater, just in front of your head. The recovery also takes place underwater and the legs execute a sudden whip. The advantage of this stroke is that rookies can swim while keeping their head above water, thus avoiding orientation and breathing issues. Unfortunately, the breaststroke is one of the slowest in all swimming styles, so you have to decide what works best for you.

Butterfly Stroke

This is one truly spectacular stroke with an impressive technique. It is based on a symmetrical arm stroke and a recovery that happens above water and also a wavy movement of your body, similar to a dolphin kick. This is the second-best stroke when it comes to speed and it is considered to be one of the most exhausting. Once mastered, though, it can mean a lot of fun.


The freestyle stroke is, perhaps, the preferred style for swimmers that already gathered some kilometres in the pool. By alternating arm movements with the flutter kick of the legs and an above water recovery, this technique is quite efficient and fast. It just might be the fastest of all swimming strokes and that’s the main reason why it is used in freestyle competitions.

Just as the name indicates, the backstroke is swimming backwards. Well, not that literally but it does use circular arm movements above your head while sitting on your back. This form of swimming is usually indicated by physicians to treat various back problems or even for spinal accidents recovery.

The sidestroke is, perhaps, one of the oldest forms of swimming and it uses a scissor kick as well as a couple of asymmetrical underwater movement of the arms. Although it is not being used in swimming competitions, it is easy to learn and it provides a very good alternative to the previous strokes detailed so far. Another thing that differentiates the sidestroke from all other strokes is that it’s the type of swimming used by lifeguards to take victims ashore.

Similar to the backstroke, this style of swimming has a spin to it. It is swum on the back as well, however, it is mostly based on a reverse breaststroke kick and just a very basic synced movement of the arms while underwater.

This elementary style can be easily taught to children in the process of learning how to swim. It can also be used for elderly persons that do not have enough strength to try the other styles but still want to enjoy some time in the water.

Featured photo by allendc33


4 Different Swimming Strokes And Their Benefits

Swimming can work wonders for your cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and is a great stress buster to boot. But when it comes to choosing from the many swimming strokes, how do you decide what’s best for you? The answer really lies in your fitness goals, and whether you are constrained by certain injuries or are trying to specifically tone up certain muscles. To find your perfect swim stroke match, consider the benefits of everything from the challenging butterfly to the popular freestyle stroke.

Amp Up Muscle Strength And Cardiovascular Fitness With Swimming

As you master the different strokes like the crawl, the breaststroke, the backstroke, or even the challenging butterfly stroke, you’ll also improve your coordination, posture, and balance in and out of the water.

Swimming is a great way to lose weight, tone up, and stay fit – no wonder it’s up there with the best kinds of workouts. It can help you build muscle strength as well as cardiovascular fitness. Combine your swimming routine with a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, and you could lose or manage weight. Since your movements are buffered by water, it takes the impact of other aerobic exercises like jogging or running out of the equation. It also helps improve flexibility. Many swimmers will tell you that they find swimming is also a great stress-buster. The relaxing and soothing nature of the workout can help you fit in a workout even when the weather is hot and no other exercise seems possible.1

Different Strokes: Mix It Up For Variety And To Exercise Different Muscle Groups

By moving between different swimming strokes, you give yourself a full body workout and exercise different muscle groups – without being bored by the same routine. While one stroke may work the arms and upper body more, another may use more lower body strength. This also helps reduce the risk of strain and repetitive stress. Plus, it will make your entire body limber and strengthen muscles to give you that toned look overall.

Here’s a look at the different swimming strokes and how they could help you.

1. Freestyle Stroke/Crawl: Get A Full-Body Workout And Tone Up Overall

The front crawl or freestyle stroke needs you to keep your body straight and time breaths with your strokes, tilting your head sideways to breathe at fixed intervals. Kick hard with the feet and alternate raising arms overhead, bringing one into the water as the other rises out on the other side.2

Benefits Of The Freestyle Stroke: Easily the most popular kind of swimming stroke, the freestyle or crawl does give your entire body a proper aerobic workout. Resistance from the water causes your arms to get stronger as they push the water away and propel you forward. Your legs, in turn, need to kick and power that forward motion. Swimming freestyle uses your core, arms, neck, shoulders, chest, upper back, and legs. In other words, pretty much all your joints and muscles are in play!3Of all the strokes, this one is most effective at toning your back muscles.4

You stand to burn anywhere 330 calories per half hour of swimming the crawl or freestyle if you weigh around 125 pounds or 409 calories per half hour if you weigh 155 pounds.5

2. Breaststroke: Work Those Leg Muscles And Tone Your Back

Here, you move your legs in a manner similar to a frog kick, with the knees bending, and kick out below you inside the water. Your arms move in one stroke, starting at breast level. As you push the water away with your arms, it propels the head out of the water naturally, allowing you to take a breath. The breaststroke is the swimming stroke that is linked to the lowest number of shoulder pain complaints from swimming. Although you do need to lift your head to breathe, the way you lift your upper body is more natural than in the butterfly stroke, so your lower back and spine are less likely to experience strain as well.6

Benefits Of The Breaststroke: With the breaststroke, your legs are the source of power needed to generate the forward motion and are used more than your arms.7 So if you want to pick a stroke that really uses your leg muscles, from your hamstrings to thighs and lower legs, this may be the one to go for. It will also work your chest muscles and tone up your upper back and triceps.8

Plus, you’ll burn off 300 to 444 calories per half hour depending on how much you weigh.9

3. Butterfly Stroke: Strengthen Your Core And Work Your Upper Body

The butterfly stroke is seen as one of the more challenging strokes. When you do this, you need to raise both your arms above your head simultaneously and then push down into the water with them to propel the body forward. Your legs move in a dolphin kick motion – straight and held together as you kick down with them.10

Benefits Of The Butterfly Stroke: The butterfly stroke engages your core. You need to leverage your abdominal strength to stabilize your body and get that rhythmic motion needed to do the butterfly stroke properly.11 It also uses your upper body strength, so doing this stroke can help tone up your arms, chest, stomach, and back muscles.It could even help improve posture and make your body more supple and flexible – because of how much you need to extend your limbs and torso to achieve the right movement.12

Doing the butterfly stroke for half an hour uses 330 calories for a 125 pound person, 409 calories for a 155 pound person, and as many as 488 calories in a 185 pound person, making it the swimming stroke that can help you burn the most calories.13 Just take care to do it right to avoid pulling a muscle or straining your back, neck, or shoulders.

4. Backstroke: Improve Your Posture And Work That Spine

With the backstroke, the principle remains similar to the crawl – only you lie on your back and float instead of face down in the water. When you begin, your lungs should be at the surface but the rest of you must be below the water level. Try and keep the body as perfectly horizontal as you can while you move. Kick with your legs and alternately raising one arm at a time. Bring it back into the water in a vertical arc, so that the water that is pulled below your body propels you forward.14

Benefits Of The Backstroke: Doing the backstroke helps you lengthen your spine, making you seem taller and helping you hold yourself better. You will also tone your shoulders, legs, arms, buttocks, and stomach with this stroke. Because it helps work your hips, it is a great choice for anyone who sits long hours at work or home.15

The backstroke may not be as high on the calorie burn front as the breaststroke, butterfly stroke, or even the crawl. But it can help you use as many calories as circuit training, cycling at 12–13.9 mph, or running at 5 mph. And that’s nothing to scoff at! Burn around 240 calories with every 30 minutes of backstroke if you’re around 125 pounds; or use as many as 355 calories in that time if you tip the scales at 185 pounds.16


1. Swimming – health benefits. Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia.
2, 10, 11, 14. Gulhane, T. F. “5 Important types of swimming stroke.” (2015).
3. A Comprehensive Joint and Muscle Analysis Regarding the Motion of Freestyle Swimming. Department of Health and Physical Education, Rowan University.
4, 8, 12, 15. The best swimming stroke for weight loss. Swim England.
5, 9, 13, 16. Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. Harvard Health Publications.
6, 7. Pink, Marilyn M., George T. Edelman, Russell Mark, and Scott A. Rodeo. “Applied biomechanics of swimming.” Athletic and sport issues in musculoskeletal rehabilitation. St. Louis: Saunders Elsevier (2011): 331-49.

4 strokes in swimming

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