Know your swimming strokes

Know your swimming strokes
BY Virgin Active South Africa
Posted On 5 January, 2023

Whether you want to learn to swim for competitive swimming, for exercise, for self-improvement or for fun, then you need to learn the best strokes and styles. ​​As a low-impact physical activity, swimming differs from other available options. Apart from enjoying the soothing nature of water, you are also provided with a variety of ways to swim called strokes.

Let’s explore the four different strokes – front crawl, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly stroke. They have a distinct cycle of movements that involve using the arms, legs, and many body muscles for thrust and balance.

Front Crawl

Also known as Freestyle, this is the classic swimming posture. Lie on your stomach and flutter your legs while alternating the arms in a windmill motion. You propel yourself forward at a moderate speed in a specific direction. The freestyle is a great competitive and exercise stroke, and allows you to swim longer distances without exhaustion.


Lie on your back and flutter your legs while circling your arms in a windmill motion. It’s very similar to the Front Crawl, but you swim on your back and propel yourself backwards. Many doctors recommend this technique to those who have back problems or to develop stronger back muscles. This can be a more difficult stroke, though, so consider getting private swim lessons to learn the proper technique here.


Float with your stomach facing down, then move your arms in a half-circle motion in front of the body. Bend your legs, then kick back with good timing, and you’ll propel yourself up and forward. This is a great workout and is recommended for those who swim for exercise.


An excellent workout and common competitive stroke, the butterfly is performed by bringing your arms up above your head and then pushing them down into the water to propel yourself forward. Your legs perform a dolphin kick, in which they stay together and kick simultaneously in a bobbing fashion. This is a very difficult stroke to learn, but if you take swimming classes in private, you can work diligently to learn this challenging stroke. A swimming teacher will help you learn the proper technique and guide you until you perfect it.

Each stroke works the muscles differently, making swimming a whole-body exercise. However, some strokes are more intense than others. The front crawl is a great cardio workout, while the breaststroke is good as a low-intensity workout option.

You can connect with your Swim Coach to chat about coaching and squad training. Dive in by connecting with them via the Virgin Active app or and they’ll hook you up.