Swimming Strokes: Common and less Common Styles

The most common swimming strokes or styles are the freestyle stroke, the breaststroke, the backstroke and the butterfly stroke. They are well-known because they are used in swimming competitions.

Besides these common strokes, there are other styles of swim strokes like the sidestroke, the trudgen, the combat swimmer stroke etc. that also have their uses.

Let's have a quick overview of these popular swimming strokes now.

The Freestyle Stroke

The Freestyle Stroke or front crawl is often the preferred stroke of seasoned swimmers. It uses alternating arm movements with an above water recovery. The legs execute a flutter kick.

A young woman swimming the freestyle stroke The Freestyle Stroke

Freestyle is fast and efficient. In fact it is the fastest of all swimming strokes. That's why it is used in freestyle competitions and in the swimming leg of triathlons.

Breaststroke

Breast stroke is the most popular swim stroke of all. In breaststroke, both arms execute half-circular arm movements at the same time under water in front of the swimmer. The arm recovery also occurs under water. The legs simultaneously execute a whip kick.

A young man swimming breaststroke Breaststroke

Breaststroke is often the first swimming stroke taught to beginners. In fact, many occasional swimmers can only swim this stroke.

The advantage of breaststroke is that beginners can keep their head above the water. This avoids breathing and orientation issues. More experienced swimmers however submerge their head during the stroke cycle to improve efficiency.

Breaststroke is the slowest of the competitive strokes.

Backstroke

As its name suggests, backstroke is swum on the back. It uses alternating circular arm movements and an above water recovery. The legs execute a flutter kick similar to the one used in freestyle.

A man swimming backstroke with arm extended overhead Backstroke

Backstroke is faster than breaststroke but slower than butterfly. Physicians often prescribe backstroke swimming to people experiencing back problems because it gives the back an excellent workout.

Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly stroke stands out among the competitive strokes because of it's unique and spectacular technique. It uses a symmetrical arm stroke with an above water recovery. It also uses a wave-like body undulation and a dolphin kick.

A man swimming the butterfly stroke The Butterfly Stroke

Butterfly is the second fastest swim stroke after freestyle. It has a reputation of being hard to learn and is quickly exhausting. But once you have mastered it, swimming a few lengths of butterfly can be a lot of fun!

Sidestroke

The sidestroke is an old swim stroke swum on the side that uses a scissor kick and asymmetrical under water arm movements.

A man swimming sidestroke Sidestroke

Side stroke is not used in swimming competitions and is therefore swum less often nowadays. Nevertheless it is easy to learn and can be an interesting alternative to the popular swim strokes. It is also used by lifeguards to rescue victims.

Elementary Backstroke

Elementary backstroke is a swim stroke that is swum on the back, using a reversed breaststroke kick and a simple synchronous under water arm stroke.

A man swimming elementary backstroke Elementary Backstroke

Elementary backstroke can be used as a first swim stroke with children (or adults) that learn how to swim because its technique is very simple.

Conclusion

The most popular swimming strokes are listed on this page, but there are a lot more. Learning several of these different swimming strokes can be quite interesting.

As a beginner, you should first learn a few basic swimming techniques to get comfortable in the water. You will then be well-prepared to learn how to swim these popular swim strokes.

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