Learn 8 Different Swimming Styles, Strokes, & Techniques – God of Small Thing

Swimming is both a popular sport and recreational activity. Since the Stone Age, human beings have known how to swim. Soon swimming became a part of military training in ancient naval warfare. Later, swimming helped several important scientific discoveries, including the theory of buoyancy. Nonetheless, it became a competitive sport in the 1800s, and by 1896, it gained recognition as an Olympic sport. Numerous swimming strokes and styles emerged after it became an international competitive sport. Many experts identified easier ways of swimming, leading to the introduction of innovative swimming styles. Therefore today, we shall focus on all the popular swimming techniques which are widely practiced in the swimming world. Here are 10 Different Swimming Strokes and Styles with techniques:

Serial No.Swimming Strokes and Styles
1. Front Crawl
2.Backstroke
3.Breaststroke
4.Butterfly Stroke
5.Sidestroke
6.Trudgen
7.Combat Sidestroke
8.Snorkeling
9.Fins Swimming
10.Corkscrew Swimming
Swimming Strokes and Styles

1. Front Crawl (Freestyle)

Front Crawl Swimming
Swimming strokes and Styles: Front Crawl

The fastest and considered the most efficient form of swimming, Front Crawl, also known as Freestyle swimming is where a person swims with his body straight and moves forward in the water. Moreover, it is also the most common style of swimming as every amateur trains first in freestyle and then moves on to other techniques. During freestyle competitions, very few restrictions are put in place. Freestyle races usually occur with distances ranging from 50 meters to 1500 meters. Counting for the benefits, swimming experts recommend freestyle to begin with as it offers a complete workout for the body and also using front crawl strokes, a person can cover a greater distance with less energy spent.

Difficulty Level: Easy

How to do Front Crawl swimming strokes?

How to do Front Crawl swimming strokes
How to do Front Crawl swimming strokes. Image Credits: Pinterest

Body movement

  • During freestyle, the body is in a horizontal position with face down in the water.
  • The head is always in a neutral position, it turns either side for breathing.
  • The body rolls from side to side in order to swim ahead in the water.

Arms movement

  • It starts with one arm extending as other recovers underwater.
  • To perform down-sweep, the forearm goes down and the elbow goes high. Outward and backward movements take place in the upper arm.
  • During In-sweep, one arm pulls the water. Following comes up-sweep, where another arm pushes against the water.
  • During recovery, the forearm relaxes while arms swing forward.

Legs movement

  • In freestyle, a flutter kick is used. It refers to stretched out feet that perform fast movements.
  • The flutter kick goes on in two opposite directions. One leg goes up and another goes down in consistent motion.

Swimming styles: Watch Front Crawl tutorial

2. Backstroke

Backstroke Swimming
Swimming strokes and Styles: Backstroke Swimming

Rarely referred to as Back Crawl, Backstroke is just the opposite of Front Crawl (Freestyle). The Backstroke was popularized by an Olympian named Harry Hebner. Backstroke was recognized as part of competitive swimming in the 1990 Olympics held in St. Louis. One of the main reasons for its discovery rose from the difficulty of breathing during front crawl swimming. Thus, Backstroke became its complete opposite; which is why it is sometimes referred to as Back Crawl. Experts believe backstroke plays role in improving body posture.

Difficulty Level: Medium

How to perform Backstroke swimming styles?

Backstroke swimming styles
Backstroke swimming styles. Image Credits: Swim Teach

Body movement

  • The body is turned backward and floats in a horizontal position.
  • Body rolls from one side to another following arm movements.
  • The head remains neutral while the face is up.

Arms movement

  • Arms are extended and water is pulled backward.
  • An S-shape movement is performed.
  • During recovery, arms move from one hip to another.
  • Arms are positioned straight during recovery.

Legs movement

  • Flutter kick is used while performing a backstroke swimming technique.
  • Pointed feet position
  • Alternative up-down kicks in vertical directions.

Swimming techniques: Watch Backstroke tutorial

3. Breaststroke

Breaststroke Swimming style
Swimming strokes and Styles: Breaststroke Swimming style

It might come to you as a surprise but it’s true what I am about to tell you. Breaststroke, among all the types of swimming strokes and styles, is the most popular one. Here, the body of a swimmer faces down to the water, while the head is up. Therefore, breathing is easy. Many beginners and casual swimmers opt for the breaststroke out of all other swimming strokes. Another interesting fact is that breaststroke is the slowest swimming stroke. So yes, if you’re looking to do some leisure swimming, go for breaststroke. Fitness experts recommend breaststroke for a cardiovascular workout as it strengthens the heart and improves blood circulation. With CardioVascular workout coming up into the picture, we recommend you to check our Best Types of Cardio Workouts for Weight Loss with tutorials & Benefits article for more information around cardio.

Difficulty Level: Easy

How to perform Breaststroke swimming styles?

How to perform Breaststroke swimming styles
How to perform Breaststroke swimming styles.

Body movement

  • Body position keeps changing during breaststroke swimming. It changes from horizontal to inclined when a person starts swimming.
  • As the body moves ahead in the water, the torso assumes a 45-degree angle above water.
  • The Head aligns with the body throughout the swimming process.

Arms movement

  • At first, the arms are extended forward.
  • With the first pull, arms move outwards, followed backward, and then downwards.
  • Elbows reach to the shoulder level.
  • As the arms move backward, then hands move towards each other under the chest.

Legs movement

  • Breast stroke uses frog kick or whip kick.
  • During the pull phase of arms, legs get extended.
  • Following this, the knees bend and move towards the hips.
  • Feet moves outwards and backward throughout breast stroke swimming.

Swimming techniques: Watch Breaststroke tutorial

4. Butterfly Stroke

Butterfly Stroke Swimming style
Swimming strokes and Styles: Butterfly Stroke Swimming style

Out of all types of swimming strokes and styles, Butterfly stroke is the newest one. It originated in 1933 as an offshoot of breaststroke. Australian swimmer Sydney Cavil is credited for introducing this stroke to the sports world. Compared to Freestyle, Butterfly stroke is faster during the peak stage due to the synchronous pull/push of both arms and legs. However, the stroke loses pace during the recovery phase. Thus, butterfly stroke becomes a slower swimming style overall. Experts believe that the hardest stroke in swimming is also the best one for superior toning of the body and building muscles.

Difficulty Level: Hard

How to perform Butterfly swimming strokes?

Butterfly Stroke Swimming
Butterfly Stroke Swimming. Image Credits: Pinterest

Body movement

  • The body begins to float horizontally on the chest as swimming starts.
  • The Head is always in line with the torso with face downwards in the water.
  • As the body gains pace, wave-like movements take place.

Arms movement

  • As the body recovers, arms enter one after another.
  • Due to the downwards chest, arms extend straight for a short amount of time.
  • A catch occurs when palms and forearms are in a line facing backward.
  • Then consistent in-sweep and out-sweep take place.
  • At last, release and recovery facilitate the body to come to rest.

Legs movement

  • Butterfly swimming stroke uses the dolphin kick.
  • With pointed feet, a person begins a whipping movement of legs simultaneously.
  • Legs follow the upward moving hips.
  • The cycle goes on wherein legs follow the hips when hips are straightened, legs execute the whipping movement, and so on.

Swimming styles: Watch Butterfly Stroke tutorial

5. Sidestroke

Sidestroke Swimming style
Swimming strokes and Styles: Sidestroke Swimming style

Usually used for long-distance swimming, the Sidestroke technique is performed when the swimmer’s body lies on one side while motioning with asymmetric arm and legs. After an hour well spent in swimming, swimmers are found using this technique to relax. Even better, the sidestroke is cautiously used as a life-saving technique. Swimming experts encourage sidestroke technique and believe the young swimmers would take the sport to a new level as they master sidestroke, for it provides much needed flexibility. For instance, in his book A Treatise on the Utility of Swimming, author H Kenworth mentions – “Until within the last few years, it was generally assumed that breast or belly swimming was the swiftest process, but this opinion has proved fallacious. The sidestroke is now universally acknowledged as the superior method and young swimmers do well to practice it accordingly.”

Difficulty Level: Medium

How to do Sidestroke swimming techniques?

How to do a sidestroke swimming style
How to do a sidestroke swimming style

Body movement

  • The swimmer starts with his/her body lying on one side, and legs extended out.
  • The upper arm rests flat on the side of the body.
  • The Head is aligned with the spine and half the face is underwater.

Arms movement

  • The lower arm is bent at the elbow and pushed back against water.
  • With an insweep, the hand reaches in front of the chest, and the palm faced upwards.
  • Lower arm extends back to the front, while the upper arm pushes against the water.

Legs movement

  • Sidestroke uses a scissors kick.
  • The upper leg is bent, the knee is brought towards the chest along with the foot.
  • Then, the lower leg bends, and the foot moves towards the rear end.
  • Flexible coordination between arms and legs is very essential.

Swimming styles: Watch Sidestroke tutorial

6. Trudgen

Trudgen Swimming style
Swimming strokes and Styles: Trudgen Swimming style

Popularly known as the Racing Stroke, Trudgen is a swimming technique named after English swimmer John Trudgen. This stroke is an off-shoot of sidestroke. A research paper by Forbes Carlile, discovers how and when John developed his unique Trudgen technique which eventually made him the fastest sprinter of his time. Noting John’s victory in 160 yards handicap on August 11, 1873, at the Lambeth Baths, London, Carlile writes – “Keeping flat on his chest with his head carried high in the air, (John) Trudgen startled onlookers by swinging each arm alternately over the water and making one horizontal breast-stroke kick to each cycle of the arms, so that his body lifted and progressed in jerky leaps. (John) Trudgen said he had learned his stroke from the South African Kaffirs when he had lived abroad with his father who was an engineer.”

Difficulty Level: Medium

How to do Trudgen swimming strokes?

How to do a Trudgen Swimming Style
How to do a Trudgen Swimming Style. Image Credits: Surfreesearch

Body movement

  • The body moves from the stomach to the side.
  • It should be below the water surface.
  • The body only comes up with the arm stroke and for breathing.

Arms movement

  • Arm limbs should hardly come out of the water. 
  • Elbows are positioned towards the surface.
  • Arms are stretched forward while palms facing downward.
  • Arms alternately loop water to the back to move forward.

Legs movement

  • Legs perform scissors and dolphin kicks in succession.
  • Feet are together on a horizontal plane.
  • Legs are brought towards the upper body.
  • Scissor kick occurs when hands move to the front.
  • When the arm strokes start again, a dolphin kick occurs with the feet together.

Swimming techniques: Watch Trudgen tutorial

7. Combat Sidestroke

Combat Sidestroke Swimming style
Swimming strokes and Styles: Combat Sidestroke Swimming style

Combat sidestroke or CSS has also evolved from the traditional sidestroke. It was introduced by the US Navy SEALs. In particular, Former Navy SEAL Stew Smith (CSCS) and Terry Laughlin of Total Immersion Swimming, played a major in this sidestroke’s primary development. Moreover, It’s highly efficient and relaxing, and experts find it to be a mixture of sidestroke, front crawl, and breaststroke. US Navy SEALs learn the combat sidestroke technique to be able to carry heavy equipment underwater.

Difficulty Level: Hard

How to perform Combat Sidestroke swimming techniques?

Combat Sidestroke swimming technique
Combat Sidestroke swimming technique. Image Credits: Art of Manliness

Body movement

  • The body should be flat underwater.
  • While floating, the body switches to either side for breathing.
  • The body should be positioned close to the surface.

Arms movement

  • All of the arm movement occurs underwater throughout the stroke.
  • Arms stretch out together above the head in a streamlined position.
  • Shoulders drop to help rotate the body from one side to another.

Legs movement

  • Legs do the most work during combat sidestroke.
  • Its main focus is to force the body forward with speed.
  • Leg movement starts with a scissors kick.
  • The leg closest to the surface pulls out the body in front, and the bottom leg stretches the body behind.

Swimming styles: Watch Combat Sidestroke tutorial

8. Snorkeling

Snorkeling Swimming style
Swimming strokes and Styles: Snorkeling

Practiced more as a recreational activity, Snorkeling is a type of swimming where a person is all geared up. One needs a diving mask, which has a tube (snorkel) and usually goes with a pair of fins. The mask allows a clear vision underwater, the snorkel helps in breathing with the face submerged by water, and the swim fins to move with less effort. Snorkeling hardly requires any special training or massive physical effort. Many find it similar to scuba diving, however, scuba is more underwater than snorkeling which requires a person to float near the surface. Snorkeling is done mostly done in places like barrier reefs, islands or cays.

Difficulty Level: Easy

How to perform Snorkeling swimming strokes?

Body movement

  • The body has to be straight in a horizontal position.
  • The Head should be down in the water while swimming.
  • Body doesn’t turn to either sides, given that breathing takes place done through the snorkel.

Arms movement

  • It starts with one arm extending as the other recovers underwater.
  • To perform down-sweep, the forearm goes down and the elbow goes high.
  • Outward and backward movements take place in the upper arm.
  • During In-sweep, one arm pulls the water. Following comes up-sweep, where another arm pushes against the water.
  • During recovery, the forearm relaxes while arms swing forward.

Legs movement

  • Just like freestyle, a flutter kick is used. It refers to stretched out feet that perform fast movements.
  • The flutter kick goes on in two opposite directions.
  • One leg goes up and another goes down in consistent motion.

Swimming styles: Watch Snorkeling tutorial

9. Fins Swimming

Fins Swimming style
Swimming strokes and Styles: Fins Swimming style

This is a swimming sport. As per Wikipedia, four techniques are used during Finswimming which involves swimming with the use of fins either on the water’s surface using a snorkel with either monofins or biffins or underwater with monofin either by holding one’s breath or using open-circuit scuba diving equipment. At the international level, Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS) has been organizing Finswimming events 1976. Recently, it was demonstrated in the European Games held at Baku in 2015.

Difficulty Level: Medium

How to do Fins Swimming techniques?

how to do Fins Swimming
Fins Swimming

Body movement

  • This technique requires a streamlined body.
  • Head should be faced downwards.
  • The body has to move from side to side, as so to support proper breathing.

Arms movement

  • Arms function exactly like in the freestyle.
  • It starts with one arm extending as another recovers underwater.
  • To perform down-sweep, the forearm goes down and the elbow goes high.
  • Outward and backward movements take place in the upper arm.
  • During In-sweep, one arm pulls the water. Following comes up-sweep, where another arm pushes against water.

Legs movement

  • Finswimming is all about leg work.
  • Tight-fit fins are alternately flapped in water to push the body forward.
  • Consistent and smooth leg work helps the fins do their work.

Swimming techniques: Watch Fins Swimming tutorial

10. Corkscrew Swimming

Corkscrew Swimming style
Swimming strokes and Styles: Corkscrew Swimming style

It is more or less a drill where a swimmer exercises underwater. It provides more suppleness to the body, due to which performing other swimming styles and techniques become way easy. Corkscrew is a combination of freestyle and backstroke. It goes on with three strokes of freestyle, followed by three strokes of backstroke.

Difficulty Level: Medium

How to perform Corkscrew Swimming strokes?

Body movement

  • The body moves a lot from side to side, given there’s a combo of two opposite styles.
  • One can start swimming either on the back or on the stomach.
  • The head position keeps changing according to the change of styles.

Arms movement

  • Arms stretch out first if the body starts to swim on the stomach.
  • After three arm strokes on the front, the body moves on its back.
  • Then, arms follow the backstroke arm movement for three consecutive times.

Legs movement

  • Corkscrew swimming uses flutter kick constantly.
  • Proper balance is maintained due to continuous flutter kicking.

Swimming techniques: Watch Corkscrew Swimming tutorial

More Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the basic swimming strokes?

There are five basic swimming strokes. The five basic swimming strokes are – Freestyle (Front Crawl), Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly stroke, and Sidestroke. These are the strokes practiced mostly by Olympians and are highly beneficial for the human body. You can switch one stroke after another – it takes time and regular practice to master every stroke perfectly. Just for little hints and a base-level understanding, you may go through the above-mentioned list as to how each of these strokes is performed in water.

What are the 5 basic strokes of swimming?

As mentioned before, the 5 basic strokes of swimming are – Freestyle (Front Crawl), Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly stroke, and Sidestroke. While the backstroke is done by swimming on your back, Butterfly stroke and Breaststroke are done by swimming on your stomach. Each has its own contribution to the health benefits offered to the human body.

What are the four main strokes in swimming?

Among all the basic types of swimming strokes and styles, Sidestroke is the one left out when counting the main strokes in swimming. The other ones, therefore, are essentially the four main strokes. Namely, Front Crawl, Butterfly stroke, Breaststroke, and Backstroke. An amateur swimmer always starts training with the Front Crawl, also called Freestyle swimming.

What is the easiest stroke to swim?

Many believe that Breaststroke is the easiest among the types of swimming strokes and styles to learn, however, Freestyle (Front Crawl) wins the consensus for the easiest stroke to swim. The body should be straight in a horizontal position with the face and parallel to the pool of water while performing freestyle strokes. In international competitions, several authority bodies make minor changes to the Freestyle swimming strokes.

What is the hardest stroke in swimming?

Out of all types of swimming strokes and styles, the Butterfly stroke stands out for being the hardest stroke in swimming. Mainly because it is segmented in three steps and each has to be performed smoothly to get to the next. These steps are namely – Push, Pull & Recovery. The pull part of the butterfly stroke is focused on body positioning and propulsion. The push happens when the palms of your hands force back through the water underneath the body. Both the pull and push increase the speed. Comes the third, Recovery is all about keeping the body straight line and surfacing on the water time and again.

What is a resting stroke in swimming?

Resting stroke is as the name suggests a manner in which a swimmer rests the body while in water. It is in a way halting the above-mentioned basic strokes (competitive strokes). While performing a resting stroke in swimming, the body is somewhat angled parallel to the pool wall. The legs extend one forward and one backward simultaneously. As for arms, those calmly makes way through the water.

What is a butterfly stroke in swimming?

The butterfly stroke is one of the basic swimming strokes performed everywhere in the world. It originated in 1933 as an off-shoot of breaststroke. It is considered one of the toughest strokes in swimming and the hardest among the basic types of swimming strokes and styles. Mainly because it requires strong muscles and follows a three-step process while in water.

What muscles benefit from swimming?

Simply said, the whole body rejuvenates when you swim. However, there are specific muscles in the body that highly benefit from swimming. When breathing, the core abdominal and lower back muscles are at play and thus gain massive strength over a period of time. Glutes at the back ensure the dolphin-like movement of legs and so it becomes flexible. To note the other muscles that benefit from swimming: Pecs, lasts, quads, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and more.

Can I learn swimming at 50?

Practically speaking, swimming gets hard to learn with age. Nonetheless, there are efficient ways to learn how to swim at 50 as well. A first few steps in that regard would be to lose the fear of water and find a will to swim. Following that, swimming must be looked at more like fun for the body than a mere exercise. Experts believe that there are several psychological factors that come at play while training older adults to learn how to swim. One well-designed technique in this case would be – The Water Cure.

Why do Olympic swimmers breathe every stroke?

Most Olympic swimmers breathe after every stroke and on both sides while swimming. The reason behind this technique is, bilateral breathing allows breath control and oxygen intake. It conditions the body to perform better with less so that when it comes to race time one can inhale as much oxygen as possible and fuel the high octane swim.

Which swimming stroke is best for toning?

From the set of types of swimming strokes and styles, Breaststroke is the best for toning. Experts consider it to be a much better cardiovascular exercise compared to others. In addition to strengthening the heart and lungs, Breaststroke tones thighs, hamstrings, lower back, triceps, and more. Moreover, swimmers prefer Breaststroke for toning their chests.

Don’t forget to check our sports section out for some amazing informative yet relevant to you kind of content 🙂 SportsGram at God of Small Thing

Debojeet Chakravarty

I'm a first year grad student and have been exposed to the world of writing for over two years now. Though I'm new to the professional field of writing, I'm confident of finding myself in a suitable position that complements my style, very soon enough.

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