Competitive Swimming Styles

There are many different styles of competitive swimming with four forms being predominant. In races, the competitor uses one method, unless they are taking part in a medley race. All strokes have evolved over time, to give the swimmer a faster and smoother style.


This stroke uses both arms at the same time, along with a butterfly kick. This is sometimes referred to as the dolphin kick. It is swum on the chest, and it is considered to be one of the most challenging strokes, as it requires strong arms. This swimming stroke was only developed in the 1930s, competitively swum first in 1933. It is a stroke that evolved from the breaststroke.


The backstroke is the only competitive swimming style swum on the back. It is more comfortable for the swimmer when it comes to breathing, but also harder because they can’t actually see where they are going. A backstroke race even starts differently, with swimmers already in the pool when the race begins. It is the second style used in an individual medley, but in a medley relay, it starts the event.


In the breaststroke, the competitor swims on their chest, but there is no rotational movement in the torso. This style also means that the swimmer’s head is out of the water most of the time. For beginners, it is an excellent stroke, as it can be learned at a relatively slow pace. When being used competitively, it requires a lot of strength and stamina. The movements are reminiscent of the action of a frog, and some people call it the frog style. It is thought that this was the first swimming style used.


This is also referred to as the front crawl stroke, and it is one of the fastest used in swimming. Freestyle competitions are one of the most common races. The arms are circled forwards alternately, with the feet being kicked up and down. It is part of medley races and was first developed by Richmond Cavill, an Australian, from the trudgen stroke. At the end of each length of the race, the swimmer must touch the wall of the pool.

Swimming competitions were held initially in open water rather than in pools, and the techniques were affected by the full body suits that were worn up until the 1940s. Today’s swimsuits are designed to give the swimmer an aerodynamic advantage.