The backstroke is swum on your back, while the freestyle is swum on your stomach. The main difference between the two strokes is the position of your arms and legs. In backstroke, your arms move together in a synchronous motion while your legs kick alternatively. Freestyle, on the other hand, involves a flutter kick with your arms moving independently from each other.

What is backstroke?

(Image by David Mark from Pixabay )

Picture of a swimmer doing the backstroke

Backstroke is a swimming stroke performed on the back, with the swimmer facing upwards. It is one of the four main swimming strokes used in competitive swimming, along with freestyle, breaststroke, and butterfly.

In backstroke, the swimmer lies flat on their back, with their arms extended straight out behind their head. They use a rotating arm motion to propel themselves through the water, alternating between each arm for continuous movement. The legs move in a flutter kick motion, similar to that used in freestyle.

Backstroke can be a challenging stroke to master, as it requires coordination and balance to maintain a straight body position and an efficient stroke technique. It is often used in individual medley events, where swimmers compete in all four strokes in a single race.

What is freestyle?

(Image by genielutz from Pixabay )

Picture of a swimmer doing the freestyle

Freestyle, also known as front crawl, is a swimming stroke that is swum on the chest with the face down in the water. It is one of the most common swimming strokes and is often used in competitive swimming.

In freestyle, the swimmer propels themselves through the water using an alternating arm motion, pulling one arm back while simultaneously reaching the other arm forward. The legs move in a flutter kick motion, with the feet pointing straight back and the toes pointed.

Freestyle is often the preferred stroke for longer distance swimming events, as it is the most efficient stroke for swimming long distances. It is also a popular stroke for recreational swimmers, as it is easy to learn and can be a great way to improve overall fitness and cardiovascular health.

Backstroke Vs. Freestyle – Key differences

Backstroke and freestyle (also known as front crawl) are two of the most common swimming strokes, but they differ in several key ways:

Body Position: In freestyle, the swimmer is positioned face down in the water, while in backstroke, the swimmer is positioned face up. This difference affects how the swimmer propels themselves through the water and can impact speed and efficiency.

Arm Motion: The arm motion in freestyle is an alternating windmill motion, with the arms pulling through the water while the other arm recovers. In backstroke, the arms move in a continuous circular motion, with the arm rotating through the water and then recovering over the head.

Leg Motion: The leg motion in freestyle is a flutter kick, with the legs kicking up and down in a rapid motion. In backstroke, the legs kick in a whip-like motion, with the legs rotating and flexing at the knee.

Breathing: In freestyle, the swimmer breathes by turning their head to the side while pulling with one arm. In backstroke, the swimmer breathes by rotating their head back while one arm is recovering over the head.

Coordination: Backstroke requires a higher degree of coordination than freestyle, as the swimmer must maintain a straight body position while rotating their arms and legs in a circular motion. Freestyle, while still requiring coordination, is generally considered to be easier to learn and perform.

Speed: Freestyle is generally considered to be faster than backstroke, particularly over short distances. This is due to the more streamlined body position and more efficient arm and leg motion.

Both strokes have their unique benefits and challenges, and swimmers often train in both strokes to improve their overall swimming abilities.

Which is faster backstroke or freestyle?

In general, freestyle is considered to be faster than backstroke, particularly over short distances. This is because freestyle allows for a more streamlined body position, with the swimmer’s face down in the water, reducing drag and allowing for a more efficient stroke.

Backstroke, on the other hand, is swum on the back, with the swimmer’s face up and body position not as streamlined as in freestyle. This can result in more drag and a less efficient stroke, which can make it slightly slower than freestyle.

However, it is worth noting that individual swimmer’s abilities and strengths can vary, and some swimmers may be faster in backstroke than others are in freestyle. Additionally, the distance and conditions of the race can also impact which stroke is faster. For example, in open water swimming where waves and currents are a factor, backstroke may actually be faster than freestyle because the swimmer can see the waves coming and adapt their stroke accordingly.

In general, both backstroke and freestyle are important swimming strokes and have their own unique benefits and challenges. Swimmers often train in both strokes to improve their overall speed and efficiency in the water.

Is backstroke easier than freestyle?

The answer to whether backstroke is easier than freestyle depends on the individual swimmer and their swimming abilities. For some swimmers, backstroke may be easier than freestyle, while for others, it may be more challenging.

Backstroke can be easier in some ways, as swimmers do not need to worry about breathing while swimming and can maintain a more relaxed and comfortable body position. Additionally, the backstroke does not require as much upper body strength as freestyle, as the arm motion is generally less strenuous.

On the other hand, backstroke can be more challenging in terms of coordination and technique, as swimmers need to be able to maintain a straight body position and a consistent stroke rhythm while swimming on their back. Additionally, because swimmers cannot see where they are going while swimming on their back, they need to rely on their sense of direction and may have difficulty navigating the course.

Freestyle, while requiring more upper body strength and effort, may be easier for some swimmers in terms of technique and coordination. The front crawl arm motion is generally easier to learn and maintain than the rotating arm motion used in backstroke, and the body position is generally more streamlined and efficient.

Ultimately, the ease or difficulty of each stroke will vary from person to person, and it’s important for swimmers to train and practice both strokes to improve their overall swimming abilities.

Can you swim backstroke in a freestyle race?

No, backstroke cannot be used in a freestyle race. In competitive swimming, freestyle refers specifically to the front crawl stroke, where the swimmer is face down in the water and propels themselves with an alternating arm motion and flutter kick.

Swimmers are allowed to swim any stroke they choose in the individual medley (IM) events, which consist of all four strokes (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle) swum in a specific order. However, in freestyle events, the front crawl stroke must be used.

It’s worth noting that in open water swimming, there may not be as strict rules about which stroke is used, as the focus is often more on completing the distance rather than adhering to specific stroke rules.


Photo by Talahria Jensen on Unsplash

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