Understanding basic swim strokes and techniques opens up doors to sports, summer pool outings and vacations on the beach. Four basic swim strokes dominate the swim world and all four incorporate simple motions that make them easy for children and adults to learn.
Otherwise known as the Front Crawl, this is the easiest to master. Position yourself flat on your stomach, kick your legs in a flutter kick that uses very quick alternate motions without lifting your legs very high and rotate your arms forward one at a time. The arm motion poses the most difficulty. Your arm starts out in front, pulls back to the hip, rises up out of the water, arcs over your head and dives back in to the front position. Do the same with the other arm as soon as the first returns to the front position. Keep your fingers together to reduce friction. Because your head is in the water, you must turn it to the side that is out of the water at least every 3 strokes and take a breath.
Children learn this slow stroke first because it is easy to learn the breathing pattern. Put your palms together in front of your breast with the elbows out. Pull your heels together and knees splayed out. Then extend the hands out front, sweep them to the sides and pull them back into the breast. Keep them beneath the water at all times. At the same time, perform a frog leg kick with your legs by kicking them around and out so that they are straight behind you when your arms are spread to the sides. Bring them back in together at the heels as you bring back your arms. Children and beginners can keep the head above water the whole time, but professionals duck the head by bringing the chin down towards the chest when the arms and legs extend. Bring it back up as the hands and legs return to starting position.
The Backstroke is simple but difficult due to the inability to see behind you. Start on your back. Like the freestyle, the legs flutter kick the entire way in short, fast, alternate kicks. The arms start stretched out above your head and then rotate one at a time in a circle. Pull the arm under the water to the hip, then up and out in a high arc and back behind your head. Repeat this pattern with the opposite arm.
This stroke requires the most upper body strength and requires excellent coordination. The body imitates a wave with its undulating motion that begins at the head and ends at the feet while the arms windmill to propel it forward. With your legs zipped together, perform the first undulation with your whole body. The legs kick like a mermaid’s tail with your arms extended forward shoulder’s width apart. Then angle up to the surface with your head, bring your torso slightly out of the water, but not vertical with the undulation movement, carry it down through your legs and then snap your feet. At the same time, both arms come around down to the hips, up into the air behind you, arc out to the side and dive back down into the water as your finish your undulation. They should be up in the air when your hips angle up and hit the water when you finish a second kick. Keep your elbows angled out and above your wrists. Breathe every other stroke.