Swimming is an individual sport in which one requires to move the entire body inside(through) water. Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? However, in reality, a lot of effort goes into countering the drag that water produce due to its viscosity. Although a person would feel lighter inside water, the drag will never let your muscles relax while moving. This helps in exercising the muscles without putting the load on bone joints. There are basically 5 types of swimming or strokes in which you can swim. Let us discuss each type’s technique, benefits, muscles involved, etc in detail.
This stroke is also known as ‘Freestyle’. It gives maximum speed with minimum effort. Freestyle swimming includes a Prone horizontal (face down) position. Flutter kicks and alternate arm move movements helps create the thrust needed to push the body.
Legs move alternately with quick and compact kicks in the water keeping the feet pointed. Arms are used to pull the water back alternately. While one arm pulls the water from an extended forward position towards the hip, other recovers outside water from hip to the extended forward position.
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Breathing is done sideways when an arm is brought out of the water for recovery. Head comes out of the water sideways with the shoulder as the air inhalation happens quickly. Air is exhaled inside the water itself to ensure enough intake in the fractional time of inhalation.
Front Crawl is the fastest and most efficient stroke in swimming because:
- a) Drag is minimum during the arm recovery because of the pointed hands.
- b) There’s always one arm pulling the water.
Muscles used in front crawl are:
- Core and abdominal muscles in keeping the body streamlined and lifting it while breathing.
- Forearms muscles are used in pulling the water back.
- There is the utilization of glutes and hamstring for the propulsion through legs and maintain a balanced position.
- Hand’s entry underwater and reaching out also requires involvement of shoulder muscles.
This type of swimming stroke also occurs in a prone position. In Breastroke, the body is forced into an inclined position from a horizontal position to do the movement. Frog-like kicks and simultaneous hand movement inside the water helps the body glide through the water.
Legs are bent and kicked out inside the water to propel the body forward. This frog-like movement (symmetrical whip kick) happens underwater.
Arm movements are symmetrical and simultaneous. An arc is made by the hands from an extended forward position to below the chest. But unlike the freestyle stroke, hands move in a straight line during the recovery phase.
Breathing is done at the end of propulsion when the hands are beneath the chest and the head is above the water surface.
Breaststroke is the slowest one among all the 5 types of swimming strokes. Generally, the beginners are taught this technique first since the head is above the water for most of the time.
Muscles used in Breast Stroke are:
- To move the arms inward against the water, Pectoral and Latissimus Dorsi muscles are used.
- Glutes and Quadriceps are used to kick the legs inside the water.
The butterfly stroke involves a prone position. It is quite exhausting and strenuous relative to other types of swimming strokes. In this stroke, the body executes wave-like movements, moving chest and hip up and down the water surface.
Legs undergo dolphin-like motion which means both the legs stay together and straight as you kick them in the water.
Arms movements are symmetrical again tracing an hourglass motion underwater. They start from an extended forward position to beneath the chest toward the hips.
Breathing occurs while recovery when both head and chest are lifted above the water.
The butterfly stroke is one of the most difficult strokes to master. The undulations, dolphin kick and the arm movements are all not so easy to learn. It is very tiring and therefore not usually used for recreational or fitness swimmers.
- There is a high utilization of the core abdominal and lower back muscles which lift the body out of the water when breathing.
- Glutes are used in the leg-movement like a dolphin.
- Pecs, lasts, quads, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, biceps, and triceps are all needed extensively in this powerful stroke.
Backstroke is the only type of competitive stroke that on the back. The head is in a neutral position facing up. It is very similar to the Front Crawl type except for one major difference: the back faces down.
Legs do flutter kicks with quick and compact movements.
Arms are used to pull the water beneath the back such that the body moves backwards. Competitively, backstroke is third fastest behind Butterfly and Front Crawl.
Breathing is free from movements in this type of swimming stroke as the head never goes inside the water.
The shoulder muscles have to dominate more in this move than they do in other strokes. The muscles in the lower leg also play a critical role in the backstroke. There is an extensive use of small muscles of the rotator cuff, especially the subscapularis and the teres minor. Doctors advise patients with back problems to try this swimming stroke as it will help in relaxing the muscles and straightening it.
One of the oldest types of swimming stroke that can be used to rescue someone who is drowning. It requires only one arm with asymmetrical underwater arm movements and scissor kick. The body is in a sidewards position during the whole stroke. The head is above the water all the time.
Legs do the scissor kicks with the upper leg pushing against the water with the back of the leg, while the lower leg pushing with the front of the leg.
Arms movement is asymmetrical and random. The lower arm moves underwater from an extended forward position to the chest and the upper arm, which was resting on the side, bend at the elbow and recovers toward the chest.
Breathing is free of movements again as the head is above water throughout the stroke.
Muscles on the one side of the body undergo more exercise more than the other at a time. So, the physically challenged individuals use it to perform swimming.