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:
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.
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 click here 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.
Read more Mental Health Effects of a Stroke
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
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.
— Update: 03-01-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Comparing and Contrasting: The Four Main Swimming Strokes from the website www.swimmingworldmagazine.com for the keyword four types of swimming stroke.
Comparing and Contrasting: The Four Main Swimming Strokes
By: Daniel Zeng, Swimming World Intern
Swimming obviously has its four main strokes: Butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. Some are swum moving both arms together. Some are swum moving each arm separately. But there are many more distinctions and commonalities within the strokes, as well as the individuals that swim them.
Here, we break down each of the strokes.
Might as well start with the first invented stroke.
- Commonly swum by “non-swimmers” at pools since there are more breathing chances when you pick your head above the water
- You rise highest out of the water (whole upper body)
- Holding a tight line is crucial
- No repeated dolphin kicks off the walls, instead replaced by a pullout
- Kick is what provides the forward propulsion, rather than the pull
- Widely considered the hardest stroke purely for its hard-to-master timing
- Quite unnatural frog-like human movement causes knee problems, with some swimmers having to take time out of the pool as a result
- Unable to kick with normal fins on
The Bright Side
- Longer recovery time between cycles
- Swimmer always at the back of the lane on best-stroke sets can use their sharp, piercing kick to signal their fearful presence
Similarities to the Other Strokes
Butterfly – worthwhile glide & two-hand wall touch, slower stroke rate than backstroke and freestyle
Peculiarly respected for their toughness, flyers develop an iron heart.
- Occupy a full lane width with their outstretched arms
- One-arm stroke is expected when someone comes down the lane past you, but is not as common now due to COVID-19 obliging teams to switch to one-way lanes
- Anyone will surely think of Michael Phelps if you say you swim butterfly
- Hate best-stroke sets
- Mass fatigue to shoulder muscles, forcing their arms forward over the water too many times
The Bright Side
- Gain strong shoulder, arm, and abdominal muscles
- Earn respect by everyone from being able to power through the pain
The only stroke not swum on your stomach.
- Constant air access
- Ironically hyperventilate at meets due to not really having a set breathing pattern
- Practice outdoors when sunny causes the sun’s glaring rays to blind your eyes, rendering it near impossible to swim straight
- 200 backstrokers truly know what dispair feels like when the race is nearing conclusion but the wall seems an eternity away, and your legs are comparable to sinking ships
- Strong leg muscles
- Can pull on the lane line to propel you forward if you’re tired (only in practice)
- Everyone can “become” a backstroker on best stroke sets, no freestyle, because you can float on your back and breathe
Similarities to the Other Strokes
Freestyle – Same flip turn, but a flag count to determine when to flip onto your stomach and turn
Freestyle – More body rotation than breaststroke and butterfly
- Aggressive and detail-oriented since every little mistake wastes valuable time
- Prioritizes kicking over pulling, opposing distance freestyle
- Fatigue quicker due to faster lactic acid buildup
- Go out too fast sometimes on longer events
The Bright Side
- Participate in more relays, meaning more fun and team bonding
- Walls are your friends
Similarities to the Other Strokes
Butterfly – Possibly not breathing for a few strokes
Backstroke – Pull on the feet of the person in front to mess with them or signal they want to overtake
Swimmers that like these races deserve their own separate category from the sprinters.
- Freestyle is the only stroke that has races longer than 200, namely 400, 500, 800, 1000, 1500, and 1650
- Breathing patterns vary widely, although a loping stroke has seemingly taken over, specifically breathing every two strokes
- Thrive during pull sets
- Splits are precisely memorized
- Red sparks joy, even though blood is red, and you’re mentally-spent by the end of a lengthy swim
- No chances are taken on reacting early after the beep
- Less talkative to teammates
- Difficult to remain focused on long swims
The Bright Side
- Turns not as important compared to sprints, so a bad turn won’t derail you
- Don’t have to sprint every leg, unless you are Katie Ledecky
- Get to really know yourself since you have to keep yourself company for a while
All Four Strokes
Differences aside, we can all agree that all the strokes are connected in many ways. If you practice one, it will help your other strokes since they all share some basic components. Swimming any of them ideally requires a tight core and high body position to keep stiff but also loose. Swimming “forward, not up” is also shared amongst the strokes, so your effort moves you closer to the finish, not straight up and ultimately sinking you. We all also need to do drills and sets to maintain and improve our stroke, because keeping our feel for the water is crucial to grow as swimmers. At the end of the day, all we do is kick and pull.
— Update: 03-01-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Tips for learning the four swimming strokes from the website www.swimming.org for the keyword four types of swimming stroke.
Learning the four swimming strokes comes after you have mastered the basic skills of swimming.
If you have reached this point then we have collated some tips below to help you learn the four swimming strokes: front crawl, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly.
Tips for learning the four swimming strokes
- Float on your front with your face in the water, stretching your body as long as possible.
- Keep your legs long with toes pointed. Kick your legs up and down (alternating) making your ankles as floppy as possible, using your feet like flippers. Kick your legs fast and continuously.
- Start with your arms stretched out long in front of your head. Pull one arm under your body all the way to the thigh. Bring your arm out of the water and sweep it over the water stretching it ready to enter the water in front of your head. Keep pulling your arms in a continuous movement so that as one arm enters, the other is ready to exit at the thigh.
- Turn your head to the side to breathe in. Turn as one arm is stretched in front and one at the thigh. Try to keep one ear in the water as you turn your head. As the arm sweeps over the water return your face back into the water and breathe out.
- Float on your front with your face in the water, stretching your body as long as possible. Keep your hands together.
- Keep your legs long and stretch your toes. Bend your knees slowly and bring your feet towards your bottom. Bend at the ankles to point your feet outwards then kick back and slightly downwards and snap your feet together.
- Keep your head in the water and stretch your arms out in front. Turn your hands so that the thumbs point down with both hands pressing out and round. Turn your hands so the thumbs point up and draw the hands together in a small circular action in front of the shoulders.
- Lift your head to breathe in as the arms start to come together, stretch your arms out and return your head to the water to breathe out. Breath every stroke: “Pull, Breathe, Kick, Glide”.
- Float on your back, with your ears just in the water and eyes looking up; stretch your body as long as possible.
- Keep your legs long with pointed toes; kick your legs up and down (alternating) making your ankles as floppy as possible, using your feet like flippers. Knees should be kept under the water with your toes making a small splash. Kick your legs fast and continuously.
- Start with your arms stretched down the side of your body. Your arm should be kept straight bringing it out of the water over the top in an arc action. Enter your hands into the water with your little fingers first, keeping your arm straight. Pull your arm under the water all the way to the thigh. Keep pulling your arms in a continuous movement as one arm enters, the other is ready to exit at the thigh.
- A breath is taken regularly as and when required and at least once during the stroke.
- Float on your front with your face in the water, stretching your body as long as possible.
- Undulate your body from head to toes, in a whipping motion, bending and straightening your knees. Keeping your legs and feet close together, push down on the water with the top of your feet and keep your feet just under the surface of the water.
- Enter both hands in the water at the same time, in line with your shoulders. 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; the breath should be taken towards the end of the pull. As your arm sweeps over the water return your face back into the water and breathe out. Perform two kicks to each arm cycle, kicking at the start of the arm pull and towards the end of the pull “Kick your arms in, kick your arms out”.
For advanced technique on learning the four swimming strokes head over to the swimming.org Masters Hub here.
— Update: 03-01-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Overview of Common Swimming Strokes / Styles from the website www.enjoy-swimming.com for the keyword four types of swimming stroke.
The swimming strokes used in competition are the front crawl or freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly stroke.
Lesser-known swimming strokes are the sidestroke, elementary backstroke, trudgen, and combat sidestroke.
In this article, we will cover these swimming techniques.
Front Crawl (or Freestyle Stroke)
The front crawl (often referred to as freestyle stroke or simply freestyle) is the fastest swimming stroke used in competition.
The front crawl is swum in the prone position. The body rolls from side to side, always turning to the side of the arm that enters the water. The head is kept in a neutral position with the face down unless a breath is taken.
The arms perform alternating movements. While one arm sweeps in the water from the forward extended position back to the hip, the other arm recovers above water from the hip back to the forward extended position.
The legs perform an alternating flutter kick, moving rapidly up and down with the feet extended and where the movement is initiated from the hips.
To breathe, the swimmer turns his head to the side of the arm recovering forward. Once the mouth is above the water’s surface, the swimmer inhales quickly before turning the head back down. Exhalation begins once the mouth is underwater and continues until the next arm recovery with breathing begins. Inhalation usually occurs on every second or third arm stroke.
The front crawl is the fastest, most efficient swimming technique for the following reasons:
- An arm is always in the water, providing propulsion.
- Front crawl technique provides a powerful, efficient arm stroke.
- The arm recovery above water minimizes water resistance.
- The alternating flutter kick contributes to continuous, even propulsion.
The front crawl is used almost exclusively in freestyle swimming because it is so efficient. Triathletes and fitness swimmers often prefer the front crawl for the same reasons.
Learn the front crawl here.
The breaststroke is one of the most popular swimming strokes. In Europe, this technique is often the first one taught to novice swimmers. However, it is the slowest swimming stroke used in competition.
The breaststroke is performed in the prone position. The body alternates between a streamlined horizontal position and a more inclined position. The head is held in a neutral position and follows the body’s movements.
The arm movements are simultaneous and symmetrical. At the end of the glide phase, the arms are extended forward in the water. The arms then execute an outsweep followed by an insweep until the hands meet below the chest. From there, they are stretched forward again.
The legs also perform simultaneous symmetrical movements. Initially, the legs are straight and held together. Then the knees are bent, and the feet are brought toward the buttocks. Subsequently, the legs are spread and begin to extend again. Finally, the legs come together and finish to extend.
The inhalation occurs when the hands meet below the chest and the head and shoulders rise out of the water.
Beginners can keep their heads above water with breaststroke, which makes breathing easier and helps with orientation.
Learn the breaststroke here.
The butterfly stroke is the second fastest of the swimming strokes used in competition. However, it is quite strenuous and usually only swum over short distances.
The butterfly stroke is swum in the prone position. The body performs an undulating movement, with the head, chest, hips, legs, and feet moving up and down in the water in succession.
The arm movements are simultaneous and symmetrical. The hands perform an hourglass-shaped movement in the water from the forward extended position back to the hips. At the hips, the hands leave the water. The arms are swung forward sideways over the water, dipping back into the water in front of the swimmer.
The legs perform the so-called dolphin kick. This entails keeping your legs together and striking up and down simultaneously from the hips with outstretched feet. As a rule, two kicks are performed per stroke cycle.
To breathe, raise your head and shoulders a little more as the arms push back in the water, allowing the face to rise above the surface and a breath to be taken. As a rule, the swimmer breathes only every second or third arm stroke.
Butterfly swimming is one of the most challenging strokes to learn. The undulating movement of the body and synchronized movements of the arms and legs require strength, good timing, and a clean technique.
Nevertheless, the butterfly stroke is an interesting stroke that, once mastered, can add variety to your training.
Learn the butterfly stroke here.
The backstroke is the only one of the four main swimming strokes that, as the name indicates, is swum on the back.
The backstroke is the third fastest stroke in competition—faster than the breaststroke but slower than the butterfly.
The backstroke is swum in the supine position. The body rolls from side to side in the direction of the arm entering the water. The head remains in a neutral position with the face turned upward.
The arms perform alternating movements. One arm is brought to the hip from the forward extended position with an s-shaped movement in the water, providing propulsion. The other arm leaves the water at the hip and is swung forward in an extended manner over the head.
The legs perform an alternating flutter kick. This involves moving the legs up and down alternately in small, quick movements with pointed toes.
Since the face is directed upward and remains above the water’s surface, breathing can occur freely. However, it makes sense to synchronize the breathing with the arm movements—for example, inhaling during the pulling phase of the left arm and exhaling during the pulling phase of the right arm.
Backstroke contributes to a balanced musculature and should be an integral part of any training plan.
For the same reason, doctors often recommend backstroke to patients suffering from back pain.
The backstroke can also be helpful in open water competition to catch your breath or take a short break.
Learn the backstroke here.
The sidestroke is an old swimming stroke that is no longer used in competition and has been somewhat forgotten. However, since this technique allows you to swim in a very relaxed and efficient way, it is worth rediscovering.
The sidestroke is swum in the lateral position. The swimmer remains on the same side throughout the entire stroke cycle. The head is turned to the side and slightly upward, with the face remaining above water the whole time.
In the lateral starting position, both legs are extended and held together. The upper arm rests on the side of the body, while the lower arm is extended forward.
In the first stroke phase, the hand of the lower arm is pulled backward in the water, from the forward extended position to the chest, providing propulsion. Meanwhile, the hand of the upper arm is moved forward along the body until both hands meet in front of the chest.
In the second stroke phase, the lower arm is brought forward again, while the upper arm pushes back against the water, providing propulsion until it is fully extended and placed back on the side of the body.
In the sidestroke, the legs perform a scissor kick. In the first stroke phase, the knee of the upper leg is bent and pulled towards the chest; the knee of the lower leg is also bent, but the hip is slightly overextended so that the foot moves toward the buttocks.
In the second stroke phase, the legs are extended and brought together again, providing propulsion. Thus, the back of the upper leg and front of the lower leg push against the water. A short glide phase follows this before the cycle starts anew.
Since the head remains above water, breathing can occur freely. However, similarly to the backstroke, synchronizing breathing with arm movements is helpful. For example, one can inhale during the pull phase of the lower arm and exhale during the pull phase of the upper arm.
- The sidestroke is easy to learn and can be a welcome alternative to more familiar swimming strokes.
- A slightly modified form of the sidestroke is still used today in rescue swimming to tow away victims.
Learn the sidestroke here.
The elementary backstroke is swum in the supine position. It uses an inverted breaststroke kick and a simple arm stroke.
In the starting position, the swimmer is supine with the head in neutral position and the face turned upward. The arms are at the sides of the body, and the legs are extended and held together.
To start the stroke cycle, the hands are drawn to the armpits. From there, the arms are extended to the side at a 90° angle to the body. Finally, the extended arms are brought back to the side, creating propulsion.
The leg movements are synchronized with the arm movements. The legs are first spread with knees bent, then stretched again and brought together. In doing so, the insides of the legs and feet press against the water and provide additional propulsion.
Breathing can occur unimpeded, as the face is always kept above water. Again, it makes sense to synchronize the breathing with arm and leg movements. For example, one can inhale during the preparation phase of the arms and legs and exhale during the pressure phase of the arms and legs.
Despite its simple technique, the elementary backstroke allows efficient swimming with unrestricted breathing and is interesting for beginners.
However, it requires a reasonably good supine position, which can be a hurdle for beginners.
The Combat Sidestroke / Combat Swimmer Stroke
The combat sidestroke is a sidestroke variant used by US Navy SEALs; it is particularly efficient and can be used for long-distance swimming.
The Trudgen Stroke
The trudgen stroke is an older precursor of the front crawl. It consists essentially of a combination of the arm stroke of the front crawl and the scissor kick of the sidestroke.
This concludes our overview of the most common swimming strokes. Other swimming strokes usually combine the individual arm and leg techniques of the above swimming strokes, so we will not cover them here.
- Top of Swimming Strokes
- Learn How to Swim
- Basic Swimming Techniques
- Learn How to Tread Water
- Swimming Tips
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— Update: 04-01-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Various Types of Swimming Strokes and Styles from the website www.swimrightacademy.com for the keyword four types of swimming stroke.
Whether you want to learn to swim for competitive swimming, exercise, survival, self-improvement, entertainment, or just to get over your embarrassment at pool parties, then you need to learn the best strokes and styles. These are some of the best-developed methods for swimming in virtually any body of water.
Here are some of the most common swim strokes and styles, followed by detailed descriptions, and information on when each style would be appropriate to use.
Also known as the front crawl, this is the classic swimming posture. Lie on your stomach and flutter your legs while alternating the arms in a windmill motion. You propel yourself forward with moderate speed in a specific direction. The freestyle is a great competitive and exercise stroke, and allows you to swim longer distances without exhaustion.
Lie on your back and flutter your legs while circling your arms in a windmill motion. It’s very similar to the freestyle, but you swim on your back and propel yourself backwards. Many doctors recommend this technique to those who have back problems, or to develop stronger back muscle. This can be a more difficult stroke, though, so consider getting private swim lessons to learn the proper technique here.
Float with your stomach facing down, then move your arms in a half-circle motion in front of the body. Bend your legs, then kick back with good timing, and you’ll propel yourself up and forward. This is a great workout and is recommended for those who swim for exercise.
An excellent workout and common competitive stroke–possibly because it tests a mature swimmer–the butterfly is performed by bringing your arms up above your head, then pushing them down into the water to propel yourself forward. Your legs perform a dolphin kick, in which they stay together and kick simultaneously in a bobbing fashion. This is a very difficult stroke to learn, but if you take swimming classes in private, you can work diligently to learn this challenging stroke. A swimming teacher will help you learn proper technique and guide you until you perfect it.
Although not one of the official four strokes in competitive swimming, the sidestroke is a great survival technique. This is commonly used by lifeguards because you can hold onto another person and keep them above water while you swim. Lie on your side and scissor your legs to propel yourself forward. It’s a great leg workout because your legs do most of the propulsion. Alternate by meeting your hands in front of your chest, then darting your arms outward, one back and one forward. This can be challenging to learn, but important for helping others.
If you’re ready to learn the best techniques for strokes like those above, then swimming lessons are your best bet. Swimming classes offer professional and guided instruction as well as supervision so you can safely learn the proper technique. At SwimRight Academy, we offer high-quality, affordable swimming classes. We even offer personalized, private swim lessons for babies! Contact SwimRight Academy today to schedule private swim lessons in Los Angeles for the whole family.