A Beginner’s Guide to the Swimming Strokes

Jan 04, 2024 | Blog
Get to know your swim strokes with our handy guide! Whether it's breaststroke, freestyle, butterfly or backstroke, swimming is one of the best exercises for improving circulation, muscle tone and weight loss.

Swimming is versatile sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels. If you're new to swimming or looking to improve your technique, it's important to understand the different swimming strokes.

Read on to learn about the most common swimming strokes, their benefits and a guide on how to perform them effectively.

1. Freestyle (Front Crawl)
The freestyle stroke, also known as the front crawl, is the most common swimming stroke. It is characterized by the alternating arm movements and flutter kicking action.

Benefits of this stoke:

  • Freestyle is the fastest stroke in swimming, which makes this stroke one of the best for calorie burning. Average calorie burn is around 300 calories for 30 minutes swimming.
  • Freestyle swimming tones your stomach, buttocks and shoulders.
  • Freestyle is said to have the greatest impact on toning back muscles.

How to do Freestyle:

Start by extending your arms in front of you. Next, pull one arm down towards your hip while the other recovers above the water. Simultaneously, kick your legs in a fluttering motion. Remember to breathe in through your mouth while turning your head to the side during recovery. Repeat these moves in a continuous and coordinated style to maintain a smooth and efficient stroke.

2. Breaststroke
For many people, Breaststroke is the only stroke that they use regularly, yet it is the most technical of all the strokes. This stroke involves simultaneous arm movements and a frog-like kick.

Benefits of this stroke:

  • Breaststroke is best for casual swimming; however, it is the least beneficial for burning calories. Average calorie burn is around 200 calories for 30 minutes swimming.
  • Breaststroke is fantastic cardiovascular workout, helping to strengthen the heart and lungs.
  • Muscles worked during breaststroke are thighs, upper back, chest, triceps, hamstrings and lower legs.

How to do Breaststroke:

Start by bringing your arms forward in a streamline position. Then, make a sweeping motion out and around towards your chest, while keeping your elbows close to your body. Coordinate this arm movement with a simultaneous, symmetrical leg kick. The breaststroke kick involves bringing your legs in towards your chest and then pushing them out in a circular motion, resembling a frog's kick. Remember to keep your head up and breathe in through your mouth.

3. Backstroke
The backstroke is performed on your back, with your face looking skyward. It involves an alternating arm movement and flutter kicking action.

Benefits of this stroke:

  • Average calorie burn is around 250 calories for 30 minutes swimming.
  • It is a great workout for improving posture, as by practising keeping yourself straight in the water this will help to lengthen your spine, which in turn will help with slouching.
  • This stokes tones the stomach, legs, arms, shoulders and buttocks.

How to do Backstroke:

To start the backstroke, lie on your back with your arms extended at your sides. Your body should be in a straight line. Begin the stroke by pulling one arm down towards your hip, while the other arm recovers above the water. Coordinate this arm movement with a flutter kick, similar to the one in the freestyle stroke. As with the other strokes, remember to breathe consistently and turn your head to the side during recovery.

4. Butterfly
The butterfly stroke is considered the most challenging and demanding swimming stroke. It involves rhythmic arm movements and a dolphin-like kick.

Benefits of this stroke:

  • Butterfly stroke is the best of the four strokes for burning calories. Average calorie burn is around 450 calories for 30 minutes swimming.
  • Muscles worked during butterfly are the core, back, stomach and arms (especially your triceps) – but in general this stroke works all your muscles!
  • It is great for improving posture as it increases your flexibility, suppleness and stretches out the body.

How to do Butterfly Stroke

Start by positioning your body face down in the water. As your arms pass overhead, bring them forward out of the water simultaneously into a streamlined position. As your arms are recovering, initiate a simultaneous dolphin kick by bending your knees and pushing your legs together in a downward motion. This kick generates power for your arm movements. As your arms extend forward again, initiate a dolphin kick to complete the stroke. Remember to exhale forcefully through your mouth and nose during the underwater phase.

Mastering these four swimming strokes will not only enhance your swimming skills but also make your swimming experience more enjoyable and varied. So, put your goggles on and take the plunge, and embrace the world of swimming strokes!

If you are looking to improve your swimming or are a complete beginner, we offer high quality swimming lessons at Bangor Aurora Aquatic & Leisure Complex. These are taught by fully qualified instructors in a relaxed, fun environment. Visit our Swimming Lessons page to find out more.