The Most Common Types of Swimming Strokes

You've probably seen the different types of swimming strokes being swum in your local pool or on TV, but which one is which?  Where did they come from, what are the differences  and how difficult is each one to learn?

All is revealed right here...

Different Swimming Strokes

Which one is which? 

different types of swimming strokes

Front crawl, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly stroke.  You have heard of these referred to as certain styles of swimming or as a particular swimming technique, but what make them different from each other?

These four different swimming strokes can be classified into two groups:

  • alternating strokes
  • simultaneous strokes


Alternating Strokes

Front crawl and backstroke can be referred to as alternating strokes.  This is due to the alternating action of the arms and legs.  One arm pulls through the water as the other recovers over the water surface, therefore their actions alternate.  

It can be argued that this alternating action is faster and more efficient when it comes to moving through the water.  

Apologies for stating the obvious but that the main difference between between these two strokes is that one is swum on the back whilst the other is swum on the front. The clue is in the name.  

For more in-depth information about these two strokes and how to swim them, click the one below. 

front crawl swimming stroke
backstroke swimming stroke

Simultaneous Strokes

Breaststroke and butterfly are both simultaneous strokes because of their arm pull and leg kick actions occurring together.  In other words, both legs kick together at the same time and both arms pull and recover together simultaneously.

The main difference between these two strokes is how the arms and legs move.  For breaststroke, the arms pull in a circular motion whilst the legs kick  around in a circular motion and everything takes place under the water surface.  This makes breaststroke the inefficient of the four basic strokes. 

Butterfly legs kick together but in an up and down motion, driven by the undulating body movement, whilst the arms pull back and recover over the water.  This stroke is more efficient than breaststroke but requires a considerable amount of power and stamina.  

For more detailed information about either of these two strokes, click below. 

Now you can learn all types of swimming strokes

My best-selling book, simply titled 'The Swimming Strokes Book' is your best friend when it comes to learning the different swimming strokes.  It breaks down each technique into parts and the photos and diagrams make learning them easier than ever. 

Click below and download a copy to your computer, tablet or mobile device.  Or, click here for more details

The swimming strokes book for perfecting basic swimming techniques

$9.99




click cover to preview

Buy a PRINTED copy from: 

You can also download from:


  1. Swim Teach Home
  2.  ›
  3. types of swimming strokes