Swimming Strokes


 Features common to all strokes:
a. Curved pathway the hands are pulled in a curved pathway in order to contact 'still water'. If a hand pulls or pushes in a straight line little propulsion will result because the hand is moving against water which is already moving. If a pitched hand is used as well a more efficient forward movement is produced.
b. Pitch of ands in all strokes efficient swimmers use sculling actions, as they pull through the water in a curved pattern. The hands should be:
- Flat not cupped
- Pitched at an angle of 30 4 5 degrees in relation to the path through the water
c. Hand entry and exit:
The hands should enter and exit the water cleanly. The hands should enter the water at an angle to prevent dragging air bubbles under the water as this will decrease the lift which can be obtained. Hands should enter the water cleanly to avoid pulling the water down.
d. Pull and Push Phase:
The arms should progressively bend and straighten during these phases. There should be a high elbow when swimming on the front and a low elbow when swimming on the back.
e. Streamlined body position:
A horizontal, straight and streamlined body position should be maintained to reduce water resistance. Lateral movement [sideways movement] should also be kept to a minimum - this is often is caused by having a wide arm recovery.
Front Crawl (Freestyle)
Body Position
a. Body is on the front, flat, streamlined
b. The water line should be the top of the forehead
Leg action
The main functions of the leg action are to hold the body in a stable streamlined position and to help with forward propulsion. The main features of the leg action are
a. Rhythmical up and down movements from the hip
b. Legs are relaxed, slightly bent and toes pointed.
c. Ankles are kept flexible and loose
d. Feet should just chum the surface of the water - heels to the surface
 Arm action
The arm provides the most propulsion in the front crawl.
The main features are:
a. One hand enters the water in front of the 'same' shoulder, thumb first and pitched at an angle of 45 degrees to prevent pulling bubbles under the water
b. The hands pull backwards in an 'S' shaped pathway. At the end of the pull phase the elbow should be bent at approximately 90 degrees
c. Throughout the pull the elbow is higher than the hand
d. After half way the elbow is straightened by pushing the hand backwards and outwards past the hips
e. In recovery the elbow is carried high with the hand close to the body and the water surface. Keep the wrist under the elbow
 The main feature is that the head should roll with the body rather than be lifted out of water:
Breathing should be
 A. Started as the recovery arm enters the water
B. Be through the mouth and the nose
Breathing out should be
 a. Start immediately the mouth leaves the surface
b. Continue non-stop until the mouth returns to the surface.


Front crawl basics:


Front crawl is the fastest stroke and gives you the feeling of being powerful in the water. It is often hard to get the hang of at first because fitting in the breathing can be difficult.


Swim with all of your body close to the surface of the water, keeping your hips and legs behind your shoulders. Imagine you are trying to swim through a narrow tube without touching the sides. A good way of doing this is to put your face in the water and keep your legs kicking all of the time.

Try to use long fast kicks, making sure all of your leg is moving up and down. Your knees should bend a little bit and your feet should make a small splash. Try counting to six quickly and kicking your legs in time with this.


Your arms provide the power for the stroke, so one arm should follow the other through the water and over the top.
Try putting your hand into the water in front of your head and stretch it forwards as far as it will go, slicing it into the water with your thumb first - the less splash the better.

Increase your speed by bending your elbow and pushing your hand towards your feet, keeping it going until it reaches the top of your leg.
Lift your arm out of the water and try to control it as it goes back to the starting point.


Breathe regularly. Your face is in the water so you need to remember to turn your head when you want to take a breath.
Try to turn your head smoothly, leaving the side of your head resting in the water.


This is the oldest of the four modern competitive strokes and one which is used by swimmers of all abilities. However, for various reasons it is the slowest of the strokes.
Unlike the other competitive strokes, breaststroke derives great propulsive effect from the strong thrust of the legs against the water.
Body Position:
For most effective streamlining a near-horizontal body position is desirable. However, to permit the leg action in breaststroke to take place beneath the surface of the water, some adjustment has to be made to this position.
In order to maintain as streamlined a position as possible, as the arm pull takes place the legs should remain in a trailing, extended position (Figure 2).
Leg Action:
Two types of leg action are in use:
a) The preferred action is a narrow whip-like action used by most competitive swimmers and quite naturally adopted by some beginners
b) Recreational swimmers tend to adopt a wide wedge-type action but this is not recommended
Arm Action:
The natural stroke has a continuous circling action without any pause or glide the arm action has two main variations:
a) A bent arm pulls with a high elbow used by most competitive swimmers (Figure 8).
b) Recreational swimmers and beginners tend naturally to adopt a straight arm pull (Figure 9).
There is a wide choice in the techniques of breathing in this stroke. Although this may not be of any great consequence to the average performer, the position of the head during breathing can influence the stroke considerably.
Variations in the timing of the breathing are:
a) Early breathing. The head is lifted as the arms complete the recovery phase and inhalation takes places during the glide or at the beginning of the arm pull.
b) Mid-way breathing. In this pattern of breathing the head is lifted in the mid-way part of the arm pull.
c) Late breathing. This is the one invariably used by competitive swimmers, inhalation taking place between the end of the propulsive phase and the start of the recovery phase.
Basic breaststroke

Breaststroke is a traditional stroke popular with people who like to swim for fitness.
It is the slowest stroke, but that does not mean it cannot be swum powerfully and at speed.

The most important thing about breaststroke is to keep your body level at the surface.
Your shoulders need to be in line and your hips also need to be flat in the water.
Now move your feet and legs together like a frog - this is usually the most troublesome area of breaststroke.

It is the only stroke which uses these movements and can be difficult to get both legs to do the same thing at the same time.
Here are a few tips to help synchronize your legs:
  Bend your knees and lift your feet up to your bottom
  Turn your feet out so that you can push back with the bottom of your foot
  Move your feet out and in again to meet each other
  Straighten your legs with your knees touching
  You can try this sitting on the side of the pool with your legs dangling in the water
Alternatively, you can do it in the water holding on to the rail with your legs stretched behind you.

Take long stretches between each stroke with your arms.
A really good tip is to make sure you can always see your hands. This will help to get the arm action right.
Start by stretching your arms out in front of you, just under the surface of the water.
Then press both hands out and round to draw a full circle, making sure your hands stay in front of your shoulders.
Your hands should finish by stretching forwards again.
Your arms and legs should stay in the water all of the time, making no splash at all.


Breathe in as you finish the circle, lifting your face out of the water.
Put your face back into the water as you stretch your arms forward to begin the circle again.

The last step is to put the stroke together, so:
• Pull with your arms and breathe in.
• Kick your legs.
• Stretch out with your body level in the water.

• start again

A good stroke for learners because breathing is simple and face is clear of water.
Body position
 a. Body is stretched on the back in a streamlined position, hips are high
b. Tilting the head adjusts body position
c. Head should be steady but good backstrokes roll - lift shoulder out of water
Leg Action
1-Should be continuous, alternating wave action
2-Only toes, not the knees break the water
3-Ankles and knees flexible
Arm Action
 a. Back of the hand comes out of water first
b. Hand re- enters the water little finger first, directly behind the 'same' shoulder
c. The shoulder roll will assist hand 'depth' Orientation Curriculum Guidelines
d. At the beginning of the pull the elbow begins to bend, pointing downwards
e. As the hand passes the shoulder the elbow bend is approximately 90 degrees. And this is when the push starts
f. Elbow straightens during the push which is backwards and downwards.
g. Recovery over the water is relaxed, but with a straight arm, palms facing sideways.
Should be natural with inhalation and exhalation with alternate arms.
Backstroke for beginners

The back crawl is different to most strokes because you cannot see where you are going.
It is a good idea to count how many strokes it takes you to swim a length so you will know when you are getting close to the end of the pool.
Try and swim with all of your body close to the surface of the water, almost like you are lying on your back in bed with your head on a pillow.

It is difficult to keep your body travelling in a straight line if you don't kick your legs.
Use long fast kicks, making sure your legs are moving up and down.
Keep your knees underwater and bent a little, and your toes should make a small splash when you kick.

The arms provide the power in back crawl, making a circling action as they move in and out of the water.
You start by putting one arm in the water in a straight line above your shoulder.

Once your hand is in the water it should push down and towards your feet. Bend your elbow slightly and pull your arm by your side to your thigh.
Keep pushing your hand towards your feet until your elbow is straight. Then lift it out of the water, back to its original position and repeat the motion again.
Keep the arm straight all of the time it is out of the water.

The left and right arms do the same movement, but not at the same time. One should come out of the water at about the same time as the other enters it.

Intermediate back crawl

You can improve upon the basic crawl by changing your body position and using the arms more.


Keeping your chin tucked in close to your chest will help to improve speed.
Keeping your head still will also increase your speed through the water.
Some coaches will put a pound coin on your forehead to see if you can keep it there for a whole length.

Letting your shoulders and hips roll slightly will help to keep your body streamlined.
When you put your hand in the water, lean towards it with your shoulders and hips.
You can help achieve this by letting the opposite shoulder lift as your hand leaves the water.
Even when you are rolling, you should be more on your back than your side.

Keep your legs close together throughout the stroke using the long shallow kick described in the basic back crawl.
If you imagine being able to feel your knees and big toes touching as they kick, this should help.

The way you use your arms will make a real difference to the power of your back crawl Use the alternating action described in the basic back crawl, bending your elbow and pushing your hand towards your feet.
You can improve this action by bending the elbow more so that the hand is close to the side of the body.
Pointing your elbow down towards the bottom of the pool will ensure your hand is doing most of the work and give you a stronger pull.

Lifting your hand out of the water, with your palm facing your leg (thumb first), turn it so the little finger will go into the water first.
Keep the legs moving all the time and the arms following each other. Breathe in every time your left or right arm goes over the water.