5 Common Swimming Techniques
February 9, 2024

Swimming, as an activity, requires moving the entire body to move forward in a body of water. Because of the viscosity of water, the ease of motion in the water isn’t as easy as imagined. This is why there are different techniques used to achieve movement. The differences in the techniques (called strokes) are due to the different muscles used to achieve motion. Below are five swimming techniques and their benefits

1. Breaststroke

Breaststroke is a beginner-friendly stroke, and it is the slowest swimming stroke. It involves using the pectoral and latissimus dorsi muscles and the glutes and quadriceps to move. It is usually taught to beginners because the head is above the water surface majority of the time. The body is horizontal, and the feet make frog-like movements underwater and simultaneous hand movements to propel the body.

2. Freestyle/ front stroke

Freestyle is a swimming stroke, and it gives the maximum speed with minimal effort. In the front stroke (also called front crawl), the body faces down horizontally, and the legs move quickly, kicking flutter-like in the water with the feet pointed while the arm alternately pulls back the water. Doing this creates a thrust that moves the body forward. Swimmers breathe when the arm is out of the water as the head comes out sideways. In freestyle stroke, you intensely use the core, abdomen, forearms, glutes, armstrings, and shoulder muscles.

3. Backstroke

The shoulder and lower leg muscles and the muscles of the rotator cuff are majorly used in this swimming technique. It is the only competitive stroke done on the back. It shares many similarities with the freestyle, except the back faces the water. The muscles of the shoulders and back get a good workout with this swimming stroke, and this is why doctors sometimes advise patients with back problems to swim backstroke to relax and straighten their back muscles.

4. Butterfly stroke

This is quite a strenuous swimming technique. However, it is the fastest competitive stroke. In butterfly stroke, the body does wave-like movements by moving both the chest and the hips up and down the water surface. The legs stay together straight underwater, moving in a dolphin-like fashion, while the arm moves from an extended position towards the hips with each stroke. The main muscles used in the swimming butterfly technique are the glutes, pecs, quads, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, biceps, triceps, core abdominal, and lower back muscles. When swimming in the butterfly stroke, breathing occurs when the head and the chest are lifted above the water surface.

5. Sidestroke

It requires using only one arm, and the scissors kicks of the legs propel the body. This swimming technique is particularly useful to rescue a person from drowning. One arm (the lower one) is used to move underwater, while the upper hand above the water level holds the person from drowning. The muscles on the side of the body below water are used for movement during sidestroke. Physically challenged individuals can also enjoy swimming by utilizing this technique.

While there are many variations of these five swimming techniques, the 5 listed above are the major ones.