SWIMMING STUDY GUIDE

Click for shortcut to specific stroke

AMERICAN (FRONT) CRAWL

BACK CRAWL

BREAST-STROKE

BUTTERFLY

ELEMENTARY BACKSTROKE

SIDESTROKE
 
 


AMERICAN (FRONT) CRAWL

Ability to perform an effective crawl, is the mark of a skilled swimmer. The crawl is not only the fastest stroke but also extremely efficient. The crawl of freestyle is one of the four competitive strokes.

BODY POSITION

The swimmer is in a prone horizontal position with the body flat on the surface of the water. The head and body are aligned with the water line approximately at the middle of the forehead, but this position may be adjusted slightly up or down to compensate for the difference in body buoyancy. The arms and legs are extended.

ARM ACTION

The fingers lead as the hand enters the water in front of the shoulder. The arm is angled forward and downward; the catch is made by flexing the wrist slightly, which positions the palm so that it faces almost directly backward. The palm continues pressing backward until it is approximately in line with the hip joint. The arm pull describes an inverted question mark. The arm recovery should be made with a bent elbow first breaking the water followed by the forearm and hand. An easy rolling motion of the upper body will aid the arm recovery. As the hand enters the water the opposite arm is recovering from the pull. Do not recover with a straight elbow in a wide swinging arc, since this will cause excessive wriggling in the hips.

LEG ACTION

The action of the legs is commonly called the "flutter kick, which is an alternating up and down action of the legs, one leg moves up as the other moves down. The kick originates from the hip and the legs are kept relatively straight, but the knees and ankles are relaxed, not stiff, throughout the action.

BREATHING

A complete breathing cycle, inhalation and exhalation, should take place to each arm cycle. The swimmer inhales as the head is rotated (do not lift) just enough to bring the mouth above the surface. The rotation of the head is started as the arm on the breathing side is finishing the press backward and the opposite arm has just entered the water and is starting to extend downward. After a quick inhalation through the mouth, exhalation is done more slowly through the nose and mouth and should finish just as the head is rotated again and the-mouth clears the surface.

COORDINATION

In a 6-beat crawl, there are three downward beats to one pull of the arm, and the usual timing is that the downbeat of one leg will coincide with the entry of the arm on the opposite side. Since the kick serves to give balance and stability, over-kicking should be avoided. The best coordination of the arms, legs, and breathing is that which develops as a natural response of the individual swimmer. Good coordination should result in a forward motion that is smooth and constant.

Back to top



BACK CRAWL

The back crawl is the most efficient stroke performed on the back and is one of the four strokes in competitive swimming. Since the face is clear of the water, free breathing is easy; therefore, when the arms and legs are properly coordinated, this style of swimming can be useful in swimming practically any distance. Skilled swimmers should be able to perform the back crawl efficiently.

BODY POSITION

The body should be on the back, in a prone horizontal position with the head in line with the spine and submerged to about the level of the ears. The back is kept straight or flat as possible. The hips should be just below the surface and the legs fully extended.

ARM ACTION

As the hand enters the water, the body rolls so that the hand is in line with the shoulder and is lead by the little finger. After the entry the pull is made with the hand describing a flattened "S" pattern. The first push of the hand is downward toward the bottom of the pool. The arm is recovered with the little finger leading and is kept straight but not rigid. As the hand enters the water, the opposite arm is recovering.

LEG ACTION

The kick is similar to the flutter kick on the front crawl in that it is an alternate up and down motion of the legs originating from the hip. The legs and feet are kept relatively straight, but not stiff. Overkicking and pumping should be avoided since they will cause fatigue.

BREATHING

Since the face should be out of the water at all times, free breathing causes no difficulty. However, a regular cycle of inhalation through the mouth and exhalation through the mouth and nose should be maintained on every complete arm cycle.

COORDINATION

Arm and leg coordination is achieved by developing a regular stroke rhythm. As

one arm moves upward in recovery, the opposite leg is kicking upward at the same time.

Back to top



BREAST-STROKE

The breaststroke is one of the oldest forms of propulsion and for many years was considered the best stroke to teach non-swimmers. Today it is one of the routine strokes used in competition. It is also very useful in lifesaving and survival swimming.

BODY POSITION

The body should be in a streamlined prone horizontal position, with the back flat. The arms are extended in front of the head with the hands together and the palms slanted slightly downward. The legs are extended with the feet and hips just below the surface of the water. The head is positioned so that the water level is about or slightly above the eyebrow level.

ARM ACTION

The arm pull is made in a heart-shaped pattern. The pull begins with the palms of the hands facing outward and the elbows fully extended. As the hands are pressed outward and back, the elbows bend. The pull should be wide enough so that the hands are in line with the elbows at one point, but the hands should not pull beyond the elbows. During the last part of the arm action, the hands are brought fairly close together in a rounded motion and lead the elbows in the recovery to an extended position. The pull consists of an outward, then inward sculling action and the pitch of the hands change from facing outward on the outward press to facing slightly inward on the inward sculling action. During the pull the arms should be carried in a high elbow position and not pull them into the ribs.

LEG ACTION

The most effective breaststroke kick is the whip kick. The legs are together and fully extended in line with the body and just below the surface. When the heels have been drawn to a point almost over the knees, the feet are flexed in a hooked position and the toes are pointed to the side. At this point, the knees will be spread slightly and the feet are rotated to a position outside the knees.

Without pause, the hips, knees and ankles are extended forcefully, thus bringing the feet slightly outward and backward through an arc. As the sole, instep and the inside of the calf are pressed almost directly backward against the water the resulting pressure provides the propelling force. The kick finishes with the extension of the ankles into a streamline position. The important aspect in developing power in the whip kick is the emphasis on pressing as directly backwards as possible and not on the width of the kick. A wide kick will result in a less effective squeeze kick.

BREATHING

The swimmer inhales through the mouth during the positive action of the pull by lifting the head just enough for the mouth to clear the surface. The head is then dropped to the starting position and exhalation occurs during the extension and glide.

COORDINATION

The arms start the action, and the legs start to recover as the arms are pressing through the last part of the positive action. The legs kick as the arms are recovered to their extended position. A moderate gasp follows but should not be prolonged to a point where forward momentum is lost.

Back to top



BUTTERFLY

The butterfly is probably the most difficult stroke for most swimmers to master.

It uses simultaneously over-the-water arm recovery and a double (dolphin) kick for each arm cycle. The butterfly is one of the four competitive strokes and one the most fascinating to watch when executed properly.

BODY POSITION

The swimmer is in a prone horizontal position with the body flat on the surface of the water. The head and body are aligned with the forehead below the surface of the water. The arms and legs are extended.

ARM ACTION

The arms are fully extended and the hands enter the water in front of the body, about shoulder width apart. The fingertips enter the water first with the thumbs slightly down and palms facing out, at this point the elbows are kept slightly above the hands. The hands follow a keyhole pattern, that is a spread of about two and a halt to three feet, then they are brought inward until they are almost touching with the palms pressing backward. The finish of the pull is made with a vigorous thrust and continues until the hands go beyond the bottom of the suit. This action should provide enough momentum so that the arms can easily recover over the water simultaneously, with both arms straight and little fingers leading.

LEG ACTION

The dolphin kick is used in the butterfly and the legs are kept together throughout the kick which originates from the hip. The knees are bent on the downward thrust of the legs and straight on the upward thrust. There should be two kicks for every arm cycle. The first as the hands enter the water and the second and most powerful at the finish of the pull.

BREATHING

The swimmer should attempt to breathe every second arm stroke and should concentrate on not lifting the head too far out of the water, but should keep the chin in the water. However, many swimmers find it necessary to breathe every arm stroke. Once the breath is taken the head is placed so that the swimmer is looking at the bottom of the pool.

COORDINATION

The breathing pattern is very important in the development of rhythm in the butterfly. At the beginning of the pull the chin should lift forward and toward the surface. Inhalation should be through the mouth with the chin on the surface. The forehead should drop at the finish of the pull and beginning of the recovery so that the arm may be more easily recovered over the surface. A breath for every two arm strokes should be taken and two kicks for every arm stroke.

Back to top


ELEMENTARY BACKSTROKE

The elementary backstroke is primarily a resting or survival stroke. Since it requires little effort and permits easy and uninterrupted breathing, it can be used whenever the swimmer wants to recover from strenuous effort and still make some moderate type of progress through the water. It employs a relaxed, paired movement and, is easy to learn. The kick, if done properly, can be very useful in some lifesaving skills.

BODY POSITION

The body is in a horizontal position (on the back) and is submerged except for the head. The head is submerged to the ears, thus leaving the face completely out of the water with no hindrance to normal inhalation and exhalation. The back should be almost flat, with the legs and hips slanted down slightly lower than the head and shoulders. All arm and leg action is performed beneath the surface of the water. The arms are extended at the sides with the palm touching the thighs, and the legs are fully extended.

ARM ACTION

From the glide position, the hands are drawn slowly along the side by flexing the elbows, and the hands and elbows remain close to the body throughout this movement in order to cut down on resistance. When the hands have reached a position just below the shoulders, the fingers are turned away from the body and the arms fully extended, still under the water, to a point slightly above shoulder level. With the arms fully extended and the palms facing the feet, the hands and arms then press simultaneously toward the feet in a broad sweeping movement until the hands reach the thighs. The arms are now in the glide position of the stroke.

LEG ACTION

In the glide position the legs are together and fully extended. The recovery is started by flexing the knees and the ankles so that the heels drop down and move back toward the hips. The thighs should be kept fairly straight and in line with the body. Then the heels have dropped directly below the knees, the feet are rotated to a hooked position and toes are pointed to the side. During this action the knees will spread slightly and the feet are rotated to a position wider than the knees. This recovery action should be made slowly and easily to lessen resistance.

At this point the legs are in a position for the whip kick. Without pause, the thrust is made by pressing backward and upward against the insides of the lower leg and feet. The legs are fully extended until they are back in the glide position with the toes pointed. The entire leg action is performed in one continuous and flowing movement.

BREATHING

Since the face is out of the water during the entire stroke, breathing presents no problem. Inhalation should occur during the recovery and exhalation during the positive action of the arms and legs.

COORDINATION

With the swimmer in the glide position, legs extended and arms at the side, the recovery of the arms is started. When the hands have been drawn to about the waist, the legs start to recover. When the legs and arms are fully recovered, the pull and the kick are made at the same time.

The length of the glide will vary, but the recovery of the following stroke should start before momentum is lost.

Back to top



SIDESTROKE

The sidestroke is relatively simple to learn. The head is carried in a position that allows free breathing. The kick used is important as a basic leg action in lifesaving carries and has additional use in variations of the sidestroke, underwater swimming, treading water and survival swimming. The action of the lower arm is also important when learning lifesaving carries.

BODY POSITION

The head is cradled against the water, aligned with the body and is rotated just enough so that the nose and mouth are clear of the water.

In the glide positions the lower arm is fully extended below the surface and beyond the head. The upper arm is extended along the side, with the hand on the thigh.

ARM ACTION

To start the arm pull the lower arm is extended palm downward and the swimmer is resting his head on the extended arm. To start the positive action (pull), the elbow is flexed so that the palm and inside of the arm start pressing backward almost directly toward the feet. As the arm and the hand have pressed back, to a point just past the shoulder, the palm continues to press back, with the elbow staying fairly close to the body. In a smooth, easy, continuous motion the arm is kept close to the body, with the hand, palm down leading the elbow and arm to the original extended position.

The upper arm is recovered from its extended position at the thigh by drawing the hand to a point approximately in front of the shoulder. In the recovery, the arm is kept close to the body to minimize resistance. The wrist is slightly flexed in a position that allows the hand to then press almost directly backward and downward as the elbow extends, bringing the arm to the position of the thigh.

LEG ACTION

The leg action described is called the scissors kick. From the extended

position, with both legs together and in line with the body, the recovery is started by flexing the hips, knees, and ankles, keeping the heels in line with the back.

Next, the legs are separated in a flexed position, with the top leg extending in front of the body, keeping the foot hooked. At the same time the lower leg extends to the rear with the toes pointed. The positive action is started by pressing the legs together at the same time to the midline of the body. The legs finish together and are fully extended for the glide position.

BREATHING

The recommended technique calls for the swimmer to exhale as the arms and the legs are going through their positive actions. If the proper head position is maintained, free breathing during the entire stroking movement will result.

COORDINATION

Since the movement of the top arm and that of the legs coincide in with the recovery and the positive actions, this is the key to coordinating the stroke. The lower arm or extended arm starts the pull while the top arm and legs are recovering. As the top arm presses backward to the hip, the legs are brought together to finish the kick. This is followed by a moderate glide.

Back to top