What Are the Competitive Swimming Strokes?

Kevin Smith

There are 4 competitive swim strokes, the Freestyle, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Butterfly. Swimming events provide swimmers with a combination of swimming stroke events for each style, and also the Medley, a combination of the 4 stroke styles.

4 Competitive Swim Strokes

1. Freestyle

Using alternating arm movements, and flutter kicks with the legs to advance the body position in the water, this stroke is usually first, and the fastest of all the strokes.

What About the Front Crawl?

That’s just another name for the Freestyle stroke!

2. Backstroke

Some swimmers regard this as an easier style to learn than the freestyle. The backstroke is literally an upside down version of the freestyle! This stroke is less demanding physically and is often good therapy for those with back problems.


3. Breaststroke

The slowest of all strokes, but highly regarded as the easiest to learn. Many inexperienced swimmers unsuspectingly use this style or some variation. By moving your arms in a half circular motion, and whip kicking your legs, this stroke imitates the movement of a frog. 


4. Butterfly

A rigorous stroke that is physically demanding. Beginner swimmers rarely can swim a few meters before exhaustion. Usually the last stroke a swimmer learns, this style requires the dolphin kick with the legs with simultaneously working both arms. A speedy butterfly requires perfect body undulation and arm movement to gain speed necessary to be competitive.


Medley - Combination of the 4 Styles

This event incorporates all four strokes into one race. A swimmer may participate as an individual or part of a relay team.

How is a Medley Contested?

Four competitors swim a single lap, each swimming a different stroke for their lap. Lap sequence for competitions is the backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle. 


Freestyle Event - Competitor choice!

The freestyle event is not a stroke but rather a swimmer’s choice event. The swimmer may choose their fastest stroke to compete in the event.

*Freebie! The Side Stroke ~ a Non Competitive Swim Stroke!

While the Side Stroke is not a competitive swim style, it is a very important stroke for young swimmers and swimmers older in age. This is an important stroke for safety, as lifeguards use this style when rescuing distressed swimmers. 

The side stroke allows you to lay on your side, scissor kicking and alternating your arm movement to propel forward.

These are just a few swim strokes that are available to swimmers, but are the core of competition swimming. 


Learn to Swim Competitively with the STAC Swim Team at the JAC

Streamline Aquatics Club or STAC is the competitive swim team of the Jersey Aquatic Center. The team competes against the best local swimmers. Many of the New Providence area swimmers use the JAC during their off season to stay in shape for competition.

Give our team a call at 973-487-6954 or register online to join the best swim club in New Providence!