The 4 Swimming Styles You Need To Know

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September 28 2018

When you’re starting to learn to swim, it can be hard to remember all the names and techniques of the styles of swimming.

But each is a useful skill to know. Whether you’re social swimming or primed for competition, each stroke has its own pros and cons.

Here’s a quick intro to the four main styles of swimming – and tips and tricks to getting your technique correct.

Front Crawl/Freestyle

The front crawl is what you picture when you think of swimming. It is one of the first strokes learnt by young swimmers. Front Crawl is also known as freestyle, as it is the most used stroke in freestyle events. This is because it is the fastest and most efficient of all the strokes.

To perform the front crawl, lie on your tummy in the water. You begin by alternating your arms forward like a windmill. This pushes the water behind you, propelling you forward. Your legs should be kicking in a flutter movement, and you should be breathing with your strokes.

Tips:

  • Stretch your body out and float on your front, with your face in the water.
  • Keep your ankles floppy like flippers and alternate your kicks up and down. Legs should be long with toes pointed, with continuous kicks.
  • Stretch out your arms in front. Pull one arm under your body all the way to the thigh. Repeat with your second arm, as your first exits the water to return to its starting position.
  • Turn your head to the side to breathe in when you have both arms stretch in opposite directions. One ear should be out of the water as you turn your head.

Backstroke

The backstroke is the opposite of the front crawl. It is the same set of movements, but on your back.

It is a useful stroke for safety, as it keeps your head above water. It is also useful to improve the strength of your back muscles, particularly if you have injury.

To start the backstroke, begin on your back. Your arms will windmill away from your body to propel you backwards while they are under the water. Your legs should be kicking in a flutter movement.

Tips:

  • Stretch your body out and float on your back, with your face out of the water looking up.
  • Keep your ankles floppy like flippers and alternate your kicks up and down.  Legs should be long with toes pointed, with continuous kicks. Keep your knees under the water with your toes making a small splash.
  • Stretch your arms down the side of your body. Bring one arm out of the water in a windmill motion. Pull one arm under your body all the way to the thigh. Repeat with your second arm, as your first exits the water to return to its starting position.
  • Take a breath when required.

Breaststroke

The breast stroke is the slowest stroke, but also the easiest. It is one of the first strokes taught to young swimmers. This is also because you don't have to put your head underwater.

To perform the breaststroke, start with you tummy facing down in the water. Move your arms in a half-circle in front of your body. It will look a bit like a frog.

Your legs will perform a whip kick. Bring them toward your body then move them in a half circle outward.

Tips:

  • Stretch your body out and float on your front, with your face in the water. Arms should be in front with your hands together.
  • Keep your legs long and stretch your toes.
  • With your head in the water, stretch out your arms in front. Point your thumbs down as you stroke.
  • Lift your head to breathe as you bring your arms together.

Butterfly

The butterfly is the hardest of the four swimming strokes.  It gets its name from its movement – that looks like the wings of a butterfly. It developed out of an adaptation of the breaststroke

The butterfly is also the most tiring stroke, but provides and excellent workout. It is the second fastest competitive stroke, and at times, can reach a top speed faster than the front crawl.

To butterfly, start on your stomach facing the bottom of the pool. Bring you arms, at the same time, over your head. Push them into the water to propel yourself forward. Then repeat. Your head will rise up and down above the surface of the water.

Your legs should stay together and straight as you kick. This is a dolphin kick, which looks like the tail of a dolphin.

Tips:

  • Stretch your body out and float on your front, with your face in the water. 
  • Your body will move in a wave from head to toe, bending and straightening at the knee.
  • Pull your arms under the body through to your hips. Recover your arms over the water surface ready to begin again.
  • Push your chin forward to take a breath near the end of the arm pull.
  • Kick twice per arm cycle, one near the start, one near the end.

 

These are the four main swimming strokes. If you are looking to learn to swim, start with breaststroke and the front crawl. If you are looking for a challenge, jump to the butterfly.

And if you'd like to develop your style, speak to our friendly swim staff and book into swim classes with us.

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