On this page we will get to know the basic swimming strokes that are currently taught in swimming classes. We will also learn about the advantages and shortcomings of each swim stroke.


The breaststroke is often the first of the basic swimming strokes taught to beginners. The modern breaststroke kick is in fact a whip kick. The arms stroke phases include a recovery forward, an outsweep, an insweep where the hands meet below the chest, and again the recovery. All arm and leg movements occur below or at the water surface.

Young girl with fish-like pink swim cap doing breaststroke

Breaststroke is one of the first swim strokes taught to beginners

One of the advantages of the breaststroke is that at a basic
level, the head can always stay above water. This gives excellent
visibility while swimming and avoids breathing issues.

advantage is that both arms and both legs execute the same motion
synchronously, which makes this swim stroke one of the easier
ones to learn.

The main shortcoming of the breaststroke is that it’s slower and
less efficient than the other strokes.


Backstroke is often the next stroke taught to swimmers. As its name suggests, it is swum on the back. The backstroke kick is a kind of flutter kick, which means that the legs alternatively kick up and

The arms execute kind of an alternate
windmill-like motion. The straight arm recovers above the water in a
circular motion from the hip to an extended to the front position, then
catches and pulls under the water from the extended front
position back to the hip.

The advantage of the backstroke is that as it is swum on the
back, breathing issues are avoided once the swimmer has good
. It is also more efficient than breaststroke and can
be swum for long distances. As it gives the back an excellent workout,
it is also often advised as a remedy against back problems.

The backstroke has also its shortcomings. It is slower than
freestyle or butterfly. For novice swimmers, it can be difficult to
find balance on the back and then breathing becomes an issue as the
nose is up and water can easily enter the nose. Finally, it can be
uncomfortable for beginners to not being able to see in which direction
they are swimming.

The Freestyle Stroke

The freestyle
is swum flat on the stomach. The feet execute
the same kind of flutter
like in the backstroke. The arms execute an alternate
motion where they recover from the hip to the front above the water,
then catch and pull back to the hip under the
swimmer’s body in the water.

The advantage of the freestyle stroke is that it’s the fastest
and also most efficient swim stroke. The fastest event in a swimming
competition is always the freestyle. And distance swimmers nearly
always use the freestyle as it allows to cover long distances
while wasting the least amount of energy.

The difficulty of freestyle is that as the face is submerged
and turned towards the bottom of the pool, it must be rotated to the side
at the right moment to allow for breathing. The coordination of
breathing and swimming in the freestyle
stroke makes it one of the more difficult swim strokes to master.

The Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly
is both the most beautiful and most
difficult of the basic swimming strokes. The body executes a wave-like undulation which
starts in the arms and head, travels down the body and ends in the legs
and feet which snap like whips.

arms execute a motion like
that of the freestyle, only that both arms move synchronously. From
an extended to the front position, they pull back under the
swimmer’s body
to the hips, then are thrust sideways out of the water and recover to
the front above the water in a quick circular ballistic motion.

The advantage of the butterfly is that it is also very fast,
faster than breaststroke and backstroke but slower than freestyle. It
is also a stroke that is a lot of fun because of it’s unique
dolphin-like body undulation.

However, the butterfly stroke is quickly tiring as it
requires a lot of strength. It is also difficult to learn as it
requires both an excellent wave-like body undulation and perfect timing
for the arm recovery to occur.


We have discussed the advantages and shortcomings of
the basic swimming strokes. You could now start to learn how to swim
these strokes. Have fun!

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