The 4 Swimming Strokes: Can You Master Them All?

by | Feb 12, 2022 | Swimming, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Have you ever watched a swimmer and been struck by the sheer force, grace, speed and efficiency with which they rip through the water?


Do you know how old is swimming and swimming strokes? Archaeologists have discovered evidence of recreational swimming in prehistoric times, and the earliest known evidence can be traced back to Stone Age paintings dating back approximately 10,000 years ago.

Do you know when swimming emerged as competitive swimming? Well, not very long ago. It was in the 1830s when swimming emerged as a competitive sport in England.

So the thing is, it’s been hundreds of years, and you are still missing out on the fun. There’s nothing more exhilarating than hitting your stride in the water, becoming one with it, and pushing yourself beyond your limits… it almost feels like flying!


In addition to the fun factor, the art of diving and gliding through water, aka swimming, has many health benefits. Some of them are 


  • Works with your whole body
  • Tones muscles
  • Builds strength and endurance
  • Best exercise for people with arthritis, asthma, MS, etc.
  • Burns out calories and helps in weight loss
  • Improves sleep
  • Boosts mood
  • Manages stress
  • Safe in pregnancy

But like all things which look easy, the swimming strokes aren’t at all easy to master. Here are some tips to perfect your technique and boost your power in the water!

Kid Swimming

What are Swimming Strokes?

To move through the water, humans typically repeat a specific body motion or swimming stroke that helps them propel their bodies forward. This repetitive specific body motion is called a swimming stroke.

With the passage of time spanning over hundreds, and even thousands, of years, humans have invested considerable effort into perfecting the art of swimming. This dedication has led to the establishment of the four competitive strokes, which represent the culmination of our understanding of the most effective ways to navigate through water.

These strokes are

  • Butterfly stroke
  • Breaststroke
  • Backstroke
  • Freestyle stroke

Benefits of Mastering Swimming Strokes:

  • The benefits of are twofold: They provide an excellent cardiovascular workout and help reduce the overall stress impact on the body, making it a highly recommended form of exercise.

  • Including strokes in your workout routine can develop core strength, enhance upper body endurance, and improve overall fitness.

  • Engaging in each stroke is a surefire way to maintain a healthy body and heart. It is also an activity you can enjoy for the rest of your life, all while keeping the stress on your joints to a minimum.

  • Swimming is an exceptional daily workout that strikes the ideal mix between muscular toning and cardio conditioning.

But like all things that look easy, swimming strokes aren’t easy to master. Here are some tips to perfect your technique and boost your power in the water!

Butterfly Stroke:

It seems impossible, right? Well (with tremendous amounts of practice), it isn’t! Here are some tips to help you nail the most challenging and impressive stroke.


On your chest, initiate a dolphin kick with your core by pressing your chest down and lifting your hips. As your dolphin kicks down with your legs, incorporate the arms by pulling your hands into your chest and then out to your sides, accelerating towards a strong push-up.

As you are about to bring your arms up out of the water and over your head, give the second dolphin kick and push your body up. Lift your head above the water, keeping your chin close to the surface, and take a quick breath. Your head should be back in the water as the arms end the recovery phase and begin the pull, so it’s a rapid inhalation!


  • Keep to the two-kick, one-arm-cycle rhythm. Kick once as the hands enter the water, then again just as they exit it. The timing of the pull and kick is crucial, as it determines the fluency of your whole stroke.

  • Imagine you are a dolphin. Get your body flowing in a fluid up-and-down wave motion, engaging the core with every kick. Remember that your hips and core power this movement, not the arms. The arms follow.

  • Aim to keep your body high and the undulating motion shallow.

  • When ready for a breath, resist the urge to tilt your head up and keep your headset solidly in a downward-facing position
The 4 Swimming Strokes: Can You Master Them All?

Health Benefits of Butterfly Stroke:

The only thing necessary to execute this stroke is focus and coordination of the whole body. It’s undoubtedly one of the most complex strokes you can learn to level up your game. 

The Butterfly stroke relies on the involvement of the upper body’s core, overhead arm movements, and continuous dolphin kicking of both legs, engaging multiple muscle groups, including the arms, chest, stomach, and back. This synchronised effort contributes to these muscle areas’ overall toning and strengthening. 

Furthermore, using swim training equipment may let you exercise for extended periods while concentrating on particular arm, core, or leg motions to enhance technique, effectiveness, and endurance.


Swimming backstroke has the advantage of easy breathing but the disadvantage of not being able to see where you’re going! It’s a relaxed stroke, which is easy to learn but tricky to master.


Start by floating on your back with the water level covering your ears. Look up and back at the ceiling. Keeping your legs close together and lined up below your hips, do flutter kicks (from the hips rather than the knees; send a smooth, whip-like ripple through your toes). As you kick, lift one arm out of the water over your head, leading with your shoulder. Keep your arm straight, and circle it back into the water (your thumb should leave the water first and enter it last). 

When your arm hits the water, bring it down, rotating your palm outwards, downwards, and back to your side, ready to be lifted out of the water again. As you do this, raise the other arm and repeatedly perform the same fluid motion.


  • Don’t let your hips drop too low: keep your body close to the water’s surface.

  • Keep your neck relaxed and head still.

  • Don’t hold your breath. Deep steady will help the rhythm of your stroke: ideally, you want to breathe in as one arm leaves the water, then breathe out as the other leaves the water.

  • Generate momentum by rotating your shoulders and your hips.

  • Keep your ankles relaxed.

  • Use the ceiling as a guide to ensure you don’t veer off course!
Back stroke

Health Benefits of Backstroke:

If you have trouble with your back or struggle with submerging your face in the water, backstroke could be the perfect remedy. The backstroke tones the buttocks, shoulders, arms, legs, and stomach. Maintaining a regular backstroke form will counterbalance your freestyle muscular gains by using a more extensive range of your shoulders, chest, and back muscles.  


Despite its reputation as the slowest competitive swimming stroke, breaststroke is known for its ability to generate significant power. It is also regarded as the most basic stroke and is frequently taught as a survival skill first.


Start by floating on your belly with your arms stretched out in front. Pull your arms back in a shallow, outward sweeping motion, then give a powerful symmetrical kick out to the side with both legs (called a ‘whip kick’; imagine you are a frog!). Continue to sweep your arms and legs in a circular motion, bringing them together again (your legs under your hips and your arms ahead of you). 

As you bring them together, lift your head and breathe in. Let your body relax and glide forward for a few seconds before you start losing momentum, then pull and kick again.


  • Keep your body as close to the surface and as streamlined as possible.

  • Work on coordinating your arms and legs to work together. It’s common to have one side of your body more substantial than the other; try to balance this out with practice.

  • Remember, breaststroke is meant to be slow – don’t rush it!

Health Benefits of Breaststroke:

The best swimming stroke for growing muscle is breaststroke. The stroke movement, commonly referred to as a “short axis” stroke, involves the compression and extension of the body through the hips and torso. Since your legs provide the majority of the energy for this stroke, every repeat of the stroke involves activating your most significant muscles. 

With your legs burning so much energy, you can increase the duration of your workout and even concentrate on specific strategies that will boost endurance and performance. Equipment for swim training must thus be in your bag.

Front Crawl stroke:

The front crawl, or freestyle stroke, is the quickest and most effective swimming stroke used in competition. Because of this, it’s frequently the preferred stroke for seasoned swimmers and is utilised in freestyle competitions.


Start on your front, doing steady flutter kicks with straight legs close together. Reach one hand forward over your head, with the elbow slightly bent, to enter the water. ‘Catch’ the water by applying downward pressure; with the palm facing down and out, the thumb enters the water first. Then, pull your arm back (with a slight bend in the elbow) and sweep it out of the water. Please bring it back overhead and repeat with the opposite arm.

To breathe in, turn your head smoothly to one side as your body rotates with the stroke. As you inhale, keep your opposite arm extended in front of you. After taking a breath, turn your face quickly and smoothly back into the water in time with the rotation of your shoulders. Exhale underwater before inhaling again after 3-5 strokes.


  • Swimming with paddles on your hands will help you get a feel for the water, slow the stroke down so that you can focus on the technique, and increase the strength in your pull phase!

  • To perfect your pull phase, imagine the line at the bottom of the pool is a ladder, and you have to pull yourself up this ladder, with each hand applying downward pressure on and tracking this line.

  • As you pull your arm back beneath you in the pull phase, imagine your hand sweeping your hip out of the way to rotate your body to the side during the stroke.

  • Keep your body and stomach flat: try not to lift your head too much out of the water – the more your head raises, the more your feet and legs will sink in the water.
Front crawl

Health Benefits of Front Crawl Stroke:

This stroke has the most potential to burn calories because it is the quickest of all strokes. Freestyle swimming tones your shoulders, buttocks, and stomach. 

The particular stroke that also significantly affects the toning of the back muscles is freestyle. In addition to your inherent talents, these vital swimming pool goods improve your technique, efficiency, and productivity.

Benefits of Swimming With All Four Strokes:

You are a superhero if you know how to swim with all four swimming strokes. Swimming with all four strokes gives you more choices for training and lap swimming, and it also targets slightly different muscle regions, providing excellent full-body exercise.

Enhances Your Water Experience:

Varying your strokes or focusing on a kick or technique practice will make you feel more relaxed and confident in the water. It will also enhance your body alignment, breathing abilities, and pull.

Improves Your Freestyle:

When you dedicate time to perfecting your non-dominant strokes like breaststroke or backstroke, you allow your body to activate and strengthen different muscle groups, ultimately leading to improved overall fitness.

Strength training exercises targeting various muscle groups can significantly improve your freestyle stroke. So, all of your strokes will benefit from it!

Boosts Energy & Increases Calorie Burn:

Every swimming session provides excellent full-body exercise while you learn new strokes and engage new muscle groups. When you incorporate this endurance work into your routine, you will notice positive effects, including a boosted heart rate, improved aerobic capacity, and greater calorie burn. 

The new strokes will encourage you to concentrate on other parts of your body, allowing you to strengthen muscles, including your hip flexors, abs, glutes, lats, and hamstrings.

These new workouts make you feel more confident and strong in the water.

The 4 Swimming Strokes: Can You Master Them All?

Prevents Injury:

Incorporating various swimming strokes into your routine can significantly lower the chances of sustaining swimming injuries as this approach prevents the body from enduring repetitive movements and promotes a well-balanced musculature. 

The observation has been made that swimmers who diversify their training by practising different strokes decrease their susceptibility to injuries and achieve remarkable success in their races.

Makes Swimming More Fun:


A prolonged period of back-and-forth freestyle swimming can get monotonous. Mix things up! Your workouts will be a lot more engaging if you try new exercises. You’ll learn a new skill and engage your body and mind simultaneously. 

It will add a whole new level of enjoyment to your swim training!

Bottom Line:


Swimming is a very healthy, fun activity. The repetitive specific body motion that helps propel the body forward is called swimming stroke. The four primary swimming strokes – butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle – offer a comprehensive full-body workout while reducing joint stress. Each stroke provides unique benefits, from toning muscles to improving cardiovascular health and mental well-being. However, mastering these strokes requires dedication and practice.

The butterfly stroke demands coordination, focusing on the core and fluid motion akin to a dolphin’s. Backstroke offers easy breathing but challenges navigation, emphasising streamlined body position and rhythmic breathing. Breaststroke, despite its slower pace, builds significant power and muscle strength, particularly in the core and legs. The freestyle stroke, renowned for its speed, targets various muscle groups and enhances overall fitness.

Swimming with proficiency in all four strokes amplifies benefits, providing a diverse workout and preventing injury by promoting balanced muscle development. Incorporating different strokes boosts energy and calorie burn and makes swimming more enjoyable. Mastering these strokes transforms swimming into a fulfilling and stimulating activity, enriching physical health and overall well-being.

Let us know in the comments or by connecting to our website and Facebook page.

Are you new to this sport? Would you like to learn about the four swimming strokes? 

Book a trial Swimming Session at one of our private pools in London and master the four swimming strokes today! For more info, click here.


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