The Different Strokes in Swimming and Which One is Right for You

Swimming is a great way to get a good cardio workout and keep your body in shape. While swimming, you can use the different strokes to help you work on different muscle groups or just for fun. 

It’s also important to know which stroke is right for you so that you can do it effectively and efficiently. In this post, we’ll go over all of the different strokes and how they’re used:

Why You Need To Swim All 4 Strokes Every Workout – YouTube
Understanding the different swimming strokes is important for choosing the right one for you.
The four main swimming strokes are freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly.
Each swimming stroke has its unique technique and benefits.
Consider your swimming goals, fitness level, and comfort in the water when selecting a swimming stroke.
Experimenting with different strokes can help you find the one that suits you best.
Seeking guidance from a swimming instructor can greatly assist in learning and refining your chosen stroke.
Regular practice and proper technique are key to improving your swimming skills.
Enjoy the process of learning and exploring different swimming strokes.

Front Crawl Stroke

Front crawl is the fastest swimming stroke, and it’s a great all-round stroke that can be used by beginners as well as triathletes.

If you’re looking for speed, front crawl will give you that in spades. As long as you have strong arms and shoulders, this is an excellent choice for those who want to get their heart rate up during their workout without having to think too hard about which muscle groups they should target during their swims.

If you’re a beginner looking to learn swimming techniques, our comprehensive guide on the basics of swimming techniques for beginners will provide you with essential knowledge to get started in the pool.

Back Crawl Stroke

The backstroke is a swimming stroke in which the swimmer lies on his or her back, facing the direction of motion. The swimmer lifts his or her head and shoulders above the surface of the water at the start of each new arm cycle. The arms are extended at all times.

Backstroke (also known as Back Crawl) is one of four competitive individual medley events: butterfly, breaststroke, freestyle and backstroke.

Swimmers are generally not permitted to touch their feet or any other part of their body to anything but water during this event; exceptions include using a kickboard or pulling buoy as an aid in developing leg strength.

Standard Back CrawlThe basic and most commonly used variation of the back crawl stroke.
Back Crawl with Flutter KickPerforming the back crawl stroke while utilizing a flutter kick for added propulsion.
Back Crawl with Whip KickUsing a whip kick instead of the traditional flutter kick in the back crawl stroke.
Back Crawl with Alternating Arm MovementsExecuting the back crawl stroke with alternating arm movements for improved speed and efficiency.
Back Crawl with Sculling MotionIncorporating a sculling motion with the hands during the back crawl stroke to enhance stability and control in the water.
Swimming is all about feeling comfortable


The breaststroke is a front crawl stroke. It’s also known as the “frog” stroke, because it resembles how a frog moves through water. 

This style of swimming is characterized by its shoulder-high position and leg action that alternates between kicking and pulling.

The breaststroke is a great way to work on your upper body strength, as well as improve your flexibility, coordination and endurance in the pool.

Getting started with swimming can be overwhelming, but our guide on swimming for beginners offers step-by-step instructions and tips to help you dive into the water with confidence

Butterfly Stroke

Butterfly stroke is a swimming stroke.

The butterfly stroke is a swimming style in which the swimmer’s body is horizontal and relaxed, and the arms alternate between being above and below the surface of the water. 

The butterfly has been around since ancient times, but it wasn’t until 1926 that it was first recorded by George Fitch. In addition to having its own specific rules for competition, this style requires great flexibility as well as strength in order for swimmers to perform well.


The sidestroke is a stroke that’s a variation of the front crawl and backstroke. It can be used in triathlons, open water swimming, or as a warm up for other strokes.

The stroke begins with the arms extended out in front of you with palms facing forward. Then you bring one arm to your side while keeping the other extended forward until both arms are parallel to each other at about shoulder height with palms facing down (like an airplane). 

After this point your body will rotate around 180 degrees so that now both feet are pointing towards where they started and your face is looking back over one shoulder versus straight ahead (or behind if you’re doing it correctly). 

Then simply repeat this motion with each arm alternating sides so that each time through constitutes one complete cycle: left arm goes down then right arm comes up; right goes down then left comes up again etcetera ad infinitum until such time as either death takes us or we decide to stop swimming!

American SidestrokeSidestroke variation with a modified scissor kick and one-arm pull.
Combat SidestrokeMilitary swimming technique utilizing a modified sidestroke for efficiency and stealth.
Trudgen SidestrokeSidestroke variation with a combination of scissor kick and alternating arm movements.
Single SidestrokeSidestroke technique performed using only one arm and one leg for propulsion.
Australian SidestrokeModified sidestroke technique commonly used in Australia, featuring a modified scissor kick and a simple arm movement.

Elementary Backstroke

The elementary backstroke is a swimming stroke that is used in competition for both swimming and water polo. It is a variation of the backstroke, performed on the back and uses the arms to pull the body through the water. 

The elementary backstroke can be performed using either one arm or two arms simultaneously (known as “frog kick”).

Building confidence in the water is crucial for beginner swimmers. Explore our insightful tips for beginner swimmers on building confidence in the water and unlock your potential in the pool.

Trudgen Stroke

The trudgen stroke is a variation of freestyle and a popular choice for swimmers with shoulder injuries. 

The style involves using one arm at a time to pull through the water, with each arm alternating strokes every few strokes. As such, it can be difficult for beginners who are used to using both arms together in other styles like the butterfly or backstroke.

The trudgen is also known as “the breaststroke without touching,” because there’s no kick involved in this style–you just go straight forward with your arms pulling you along instead!

Scissor Kick Style

Scissor kick is the most common style for beginners. It’s also used in breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly strokes. The name comes from the way you alternate your legs when you swim: one kicks forward while the other is extended behind you, then vice versa. 

This helps keep your body straight instead of swaying side-to-side as some people do when they first learn how to swim.

It can be difficult at first because it requires coordination between both arms and legs–but once mastered (and with practice), scissor kick can become an effective way of getting around the pool quickly without tiring out too quickly!

BreaststrokeTraditional swimming style that utilizes a scissor kick.
Water PoloScissor kick technique commonly used in water polo for quick movements.
Synchronized SwimmingArtistic swimming discipline that incorporates scissor kick movements.
Fin SwimmingUnderwater swimming sport that employs a scissor kick technique with the use of fins.
Rescue SwimmingScissor kick technique utilized in lifeguard and rescue swimming scenarios.

Whip Kick Style

The whip kick style is a great way to build your endurance, and it’s also good for helping you learn the basics of freestyle swimming. 

To do this stroke, you’ll need to kick your legs in an alternating rhythm: one leg goes up while the other comes down, then vice versa. As you get more comfortable with this motion, try kicking faster until both feet are coming out of the water at once–that’s how “whipping” comes into play!

The benefits of learning this style include improved balance and coordination as well as better core strength. And because you’re using both arms simultaneously (one hand on top of the other), it will help improve your overall technique for swimming all types of strokes!

As a beginner swimmer, improving your endurance is essential for longer and more enjoyable swims. Discover effective strategies in our guide on how to build endurance as a beginner swimmer and take your swimming abilities to the next level.

Breaststroke Pull-Out

The breaststroke pull-out is a great exercise for strengthening the muscles in your upper back and shoulders. To do it, start by swimming freestyle with a streamlined body position: keep your head above water at all times and don’t flare your elbows out to the sides. 

Then, once you have established this streamlined position, begin pulling on one arm at a time while maintaining proper body alignment with the other arm extended straight out behind you (you should feel like an “L” shape). 

After completing 10 strokes on each side of your body, switch back over to freestyle swimming until you reach the end of your workout or decide that it’s time for another set!

You can modify this exercise if necessary by holding onto something stable like an immovable object near where you swim; this way if something goes wrong during any part of this movement pattern–such as losing control over which direction was going–you won’t lose balance completely because there’s something nearby preventing such occurrences from happening too often. You could also use fins instead

Teaching swimming skills to young children can be a rewarding experience. Learn valuable techniques and approaches in our article on how to teach a two-year-old to swim and introduce your little one to the joy of swimming.


We hope this article has given you a better understanding of the different strokes in swimming and which one is right for you. 

If there’s one thing we want you to take away from it, it’s that there are no wrong choices when it comes to stroke selection. 

Ultimately, what matters most is finding something that works well with your body type and goals as an athlete.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources for further reading on different swimming styles and strokes:

  • 8 Different Swimming Styles and Strokes: Explore this blog post to learn about eight different swimming styles and strokes, including freestyle, breaststroke, and backstroke, with descriptions and technique tips.
  • Various Types of Swimming Strokes and Styles: Dive into this article that discusses various types of swimming strokes and styles, such as butterfly stroke, sidestroke, and individual medley, providing insights into their unique characteristics.
  • The 4 Swimming Styles You Need to Know: Discover the four essential swimming styles—freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly—in this informative blog post, which includes information on each stroke’s technique and benefits.


Here are some frequently asked questions about swimming strokes and styles:

What is the most common swimming stroke?

The most common swimming stroke is the freestyle stroke, also known as front crawl. It is widely used in competitive swimming and is characterized by the alternating arm movements and flutter kicking.

Which swimming stroke is the fastest?

The butterfly stroke is considered the fastest swimming stroke. It involves simultaneous arm movements and a dolphin kick, resulting in powerful propulsion through the water.

What is the easiest swimming stroke for beginners?

The easiest swimming stroke for beginners is usually the breaststroke. It features a simple and symmetrical arm and leg movement, making it relatively easy to learn and maintain a consistent rhythm.

How can I improve my technique in the backstroke?

To improve your technique in the backstroke, focus on maintaining a streamlined body position, using a steady flutter kick, and refining your arm movements. Regular practice and feedback from a qualified coach can also help enhance your backstroke technique.

Are there any specific breathing techniques for different swimming strokes?

Yes, each swimming stroke has its own breathing technique. For example, in freestyle, swimmers typically breathe to the side during the recovery phase. In contrast, the butterfly stroke involves a coordinated breathing pattern with the arm movements, while the breaststroke allows swimmers to take a breath during the glide phase.