Different Strokes for Different Folks: 4 Swimming Strokes and Their Benefits

As a child, you may have learned the most basic “dog paddle” technique to stay afloat in the pool. You’d splash around for a little until the effort exhausted you, and then you’d spend the rest of the time floating and relaxing on your back.

But as an adult, you need to refine your technique. Though the dog paddle works fine for beginners, more precise strokes help you glide beautifully through the water. Better still, each stroke offers different health benefits that can help you build muscle and burn fat.

Not sure which stroke you should try first? Take a look at the following to see what they can do for you.

1. The Breaststroke

If you haven’t spent a lot of time in the water, the breaststroke is a great place to start. With the stroke, your face stays above the water, so you know where you are in the pool, and you don’t have to panic about putting your head under the water. The breaststroke allows you to adjust your pace easily, so you can casually move through the water to build muscle or amp up your efforts to enjoy a good workout.

Although the breaststroke requires a strong kick to move you through the water, it primarily works the upper body, strengthening your forearms, upper back muscles, and chest. And as you sweep your hands outward and then pull them again inward, you also exercise your biceps, triceps, and trapezius muscles.

2. The Backstroke

Once you’ve mastered the breaststroke, why not flip over and give the backstroke a try?

The backstroke allows you to keep your face above the water, though your ears will submerge, helping you to slowly adjust to swimming under water without panicking. Should you tire during your swim, you can stop the stroke at any time and allow yourself to float on your back at your leisure.

If you spend a lot of time staring at a computer screen, the backstroke can help alleviate your back pain by improving your posture. It opens the chest muscles while strengthening the lats and upper back muscles. It pulls your shoulders back, and it tightens your entire core.

3. The Butterfly

If you feel ready to take your swimming to the next level, don’t feel shy with the butterfly. This powerful stroke is one of the best calorie-burning workouts you can do, and it quickly propels you through the water at an intense pace.

The butterfly stroke requires a lot of coordination between the arms and the legs. As your arms rotate through the water, you build powerful deltoid, trapezius, and bicep muscles. As your legs kick together, you strengthen your glutes and hamstrings. And the entire swimming motion develops your ab and back muscles simultaneously.

4. The Freestyle

Despite its name, the freestyle stroke doesn’t involve you freely kicking your arms and legs in whatever motion feels natural to you. Rather, this precise stroke is the fastest, most efficient stroke in competitive swimming.

Also known as the front crawl, the freestyle requires that you take a prone position, with your head in line with your trunk and your face looking downward. Though you can turn your head to breathe, your face will remain mostly underwater, so don’t attempt the freestyle unless you feel completely comfortable swimming.

But once you feel ready to tackle this stroke, you can expect an amazing workout. As your arms push and pull underwater, you work your triceps, deltoids, and biceps. To keep your torso in a straight position, you work all of your core muscles. As your legs kick to propel you forward, you build strong hamstrings, glutes, and quads.

Feel Free to Switch Up Your Swim

As you can see, each of these swimming strokes offers a lot of benefits, so feel free to try them all. If you need help perfecting your technique, don’t hesitate to talk to a swimming instructor for advice.

As these strokes take a lot of time to perfect, you may want to have a personal swimming pool to practice your technique. If you don’t have one, hire a reliable pool contractor to install a pool that helps you feel safe learning new strokes.