Learn 8 different swimming strokes and styles

by Catalin Andries on September 24, 2019

Like with any other skill you want to learn, you have to be really interested in what you’re doing in order to get a good grasp of the techniques. If you’re not that into it, then learning the new skills required will just be a difficult and tiresome chore. In this Ninja Shark article, we’ll teach you some different strokes and styles that you can start practicing to diversify your swimmingskill set! So let’s get into it!

1. Freestyle or front crawl

The other name for freestyle swimming is the front crawl, and this is probably what most people imagine when they think of swimming. It’s called the freestyle because most swimmers choose to use front crawl in freestyle events because it’s the fastest way to swim. 

To do freestyle, start by floating on your stomach and then propel yourself forward by using alternating arm movements in a clockwise windmill motion. Start by pushing your hands underwater and bringing them back up around you.

At the same time, kick your legs up and down in alternating movements while keeping your feet slightly pointed. As you move your right arm, look to the right, and vice versa with the left. Be sure to breathe in time with each stroke. 

2. Backstroke

For backstroke you use similar movements to freestyle, but while laying on your back. This stroke is often recommended by doctors for patients with back issues as it’s a great way to exercise your back without putting any strain on it.

To do the backstroke, start by floating on your back and then alternating your arms in large circular motions to move your body backwards. Just like freestyle, you want your arms to first push into the water and then be brought back to the surface from behind you. Keep your legs engaged in a flutter kick like in freestyle, and your face above the surface of the water as you breathe.

3. Breaststroke

Source Image: ProTips

Breaststroke is the slowest swimming stroke, but one that is most commonly taught to beginners as it doesn’t require you to put your head underwater. 

To do breaststroke, start by floating on your stomach while facing down. Let your arms move at the same time underneath the water’s surface in a half circle movement. At the same time, you want your legs to perform what’s called a ‘whip kick’.

A whip kick is kind of like the way a frog moves their legs. Start by having your legs extended straight behind you, then bring them close to your body by bending at both your knees and your hips. Move your legs out to the side, and then stretch them back out behind you. 

4. Butterfly

Once you’ve mastered the first few strokes, you can attempt butterfly. This is an advanced swimming stroke, but boy does it give your body a great workout! You probably know butterfly as it’s a favourite of Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. We won’t lie, butterfly is hard to learn and will tire your body out, so make sure you’ve developed enough muscular strength before you attempt this one.

To do the butterfly, you’ll want to start by floating face down on your stomach with your arms by your side. Bring your arms over your head at the same time, and then push them into the water to propel you forwards. Rinse and repeat! Essentially, your arms are serving as wings that move your body ahead in the water. While you move your arms, you want to also keep your head and shoulders above the surface of the water. Yes, difficult!

While you do butterfly stroke, you want your legs to be performing a ‘dolphin kick’. This involves keeping your legs together and extended straight, just like a dolphin’s tail. 

5. Sidestroke

This is a lesser known stroke that’s not used as often as other swimming styles, but used a lot by lifeguards while rescuing someone. It’s a good stroke to learn for safety reasons as it lets you easily pull someone or something along with you as you’re swimming. 

To do sidestroke, you will swim on your side, propelling your body forwards with a scissor kick and alternating arm movements. Sidestroke isn’t as difficult to learn as some of the other swimming styles out there, and can be a fun one to practice when you’re looking to change up your routine and try something different! Why wait until you actually have to pull something along to give it a go?

6. Elementary backstroke

This is just like the backstroke, but some consider it even easier (hence the name ‘elementary’). To do this movement, you’ll use a reverse form of the breaststroke kick while moving your arms simultaneously underwater. This is another swimming style that’s quite easy to learn and is often taught to new swimmers for that reason.

7. Combat sidestroke

If you want to swim like a Navy SEAL, this is how to do it! Combat sidestroke is learned by all US Navy SEALs and is super efficient while also helping you conserve your energy (useful when going long distances). The combat sidestroke is basically a mix of breaststroke, freestyle, and sidestroke, and makes you less visible in the water.

Want to learn how to swim combat sidestroke? Who are we kidding, we may be Ninjas but we’re not that pro! To get the full details – and we’ll be honest, they are complicated details – read up on combat sidestroke here.

8. Trudgen

Another stroke that evolved from the old sidestroke, this swimming style is named after famed English swimmer John Trudgen. To do this stroke you’ll be swimming on your side, lifting each arm alternately as they go out of the water and up over your head. Again, you’ll want to keep your legs engaged in a scissor kick for this stroke, but only kick with every second stroke. While you have your left arm over your head, spread your legs apart, and as your arm comes down, straighten your legs and snap them together. 

The easiest way to learn how to swim is with a snorkel mask

When you’re trying to learn the proper movements and physical techniques for swimming, focusing on your breath can be a distraction that gets in the way. That’s why snorkels are the best tool you can have to help you work on your swimming strokes. 

Here’s why learning to swim with a snorkel mask is the easiest and best method: 

  • Wearing a snorkel lets you keep your head still so you don’t have to worry about how and when to breathe, 
  • With your head straight, you’ll have less stroke imperfections that are usually caused by your head moving around a lot. This will help you swim straighter and perfect your alignment,
  • With a snorkel mask on you can keep your back and spine completely straight and avoid putting strain on your neck or lower back, 
  • It also keeps your hips higher in the water so that there’s less resistance, making swimming easier to master,
  • Focusing on your body roll is easier when wearing a snorkel mask, giving you faster, stronger, and more powerful strokes, 
  • You can also watch your hands as they move underwater, helping you generate more power, speed, and minimise the risk of injury.

And once you’ve mastered the strokes and can do them like second nature, then you can worry about how and when to breathe. 

What kind of snorkel should I use when learning how to swim?

The best snorkel to use when learning to swim is a full-face snorkel mask that lets you breathe naturally, the same as you would above the water. 


1. What are the 8 different strokes in swimming?

Freestyle or front crawl





Elementary backstroke

Combat sidestroke


2. What is the easiest method to learn how to swim?

When you’re trying to learn the proper movements and physical techniques for swimming, focusing on your breath can be a distraction that gets in the way. That’s why snorkels are the best tool you can have to help you work on your swimming strokes. 

Wearing a snorkel lets you keep your head still so you don’t have to worry about how and when to breathe. With your head straight, you’ll have less stroke imperfections that are usually caused by your head moving around a lot. This will help you swim straighter and perfect your alignment. 

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