Swimming is great for fitness - we asked personal trainers what their favourite swimming stroke is and why.
There’s no doubt that swimming has amazing health and fitness benefits as a sport and exercise method for young and old. We asked Advantage Sports UAE swimming personal trainers what their favourite swim stroke is and why/how does it help with overall fitness, burning calories, endurance and more?
Valentina - Female Swim Coach
Freestyle is a much loved swim style for adults and children in the UAE and also my favourite. It is the most complete and is the one that best strengthens the whole musculature of the body, in a complete and balanced way.
Freestyle requires a great capacity for coordination: it is necessary to correctly coordinate arms and legs by performing simple twists of the body at every stroke, while avoiding excessive rotations of the torso.
The action of the legs is continuous and the forward pulse is provided by the back of the foot, which requires good ankle flexibility.
As for the movement of the arms, it is the fingers that enter first into the water and push back, creating the propulsion to advance.
Freestyle swimming involves all the muscles, helping the body to be tonic. The crawl particularly engages the dorsal muscles, the biceps and the abdominals in the arm movement, and the quadriceps, biceps and femoral muscles (back thigh) in the movement of the legs; improve the ability to coordinate movements, also because it is an asymmetric style (in which the right side of the body makes the inverse of the left side and vice versa).
Freestyle can be practiced both in the pool and at the sea; the sea water keeps more afloat because it is salty and therefore swimming can be less tiring. At the same time currents and waves they have impact to the movements of free style and the rhythm of the strokes that, may be less precise, and trajectories not perfectly correct.
For these reasons, if you really want an indication, a useful advice for beginners can be to learn the correct technique in the pool and then to apply it, with pleasure and fun, even to the sea.
Will - Swimming Coach in Abu Dhabi
For me there is no competition, Breaststroke is the most superior of all of the 4 strokes, when done correctly. Breaststroke is the most technical of all of the strokes, not only with the complexity of the arms and legs when done correctly, but also with the timing of the stroke and maximizing the length of the glide. Many people perceive Breaststroke as being a “slow stroke” or “recreational stroke” and they would be right, however when done correctly Breaststroke is much faster than most people believe.
Being one of the 2 symmetrical strokes (Butterfly being the other), children and adults can be “naturally” better than others as it uses different parts of the brain than the asymmetrical strokes, Front crawl and Back crawl. “Natural” Breastroker’s feet turn outwards, whereas some children and adults struggle with this and begin their learning with a Screw Kick, which is quite common. These children need a lot of work with their feet and coordination and most require a teacher to manipulate their feet when they are swimming, so they can learn the correct kick in a kinaesthetic way.
Breaststroke teaches children discipline through timing and also the FINA rules that govern the stroke too in competition. These rules put pressure on the swimmer to achieve the perfect dive, underwater “keyhole”, stroke, turn and finish. There are many ways you can get disqualified from a Breaststroke race, and in order to do well at the stroke, it isn’t just a case of moving your arms and legs faster, as timing plays a massive part in speed.
Breaststroke builds up the adductor muscles very well and also the muscles in the upper legs and back especially, and due to hitting these muscles it is good for toning up and losing weight. It is also a really good stroke for people that are not confident in putting their head in the water or exhaling out, as you are facing the direction of travel and can keep your face out of the water if you are only using the stroke for toning and weight loss. This is not the ideal body position but you will burn more calories this way as you are swimming against more water resistance due to your body position being too deep and will be unable to glide through the water through lack of streamlining, especially with the glide.
Breaststroke when swam with the head out of the water constantly is also a good recreation stroke for people who want to have a talk and chat to someone beside them who is also swimming the same stroke. This is the only variation of a stroke that you can do this with and allows swimming to be what is usually for adults a non-social sport, to a resistance activity people can choose to do with friends. However, Breaststroke is not advised for anyone with knee trouble or groin pain.
Whatever stroke you choose to do, just remember that water has over 1000 times more resistance than Air so whatever movement you choose to do will be more beneficial to you than land training, it has less impact on the joints and is a sport you can do all year round. Have fun and stay safe!
Jason - Swimming Coach in Abu Dhabi
I wouldn’t say I have a single favourite stroke, but more a least favourite stroke Breast. Fly and free I would say are my favourite strokes as they both have great qualities that appeal to me in terms of fitness and how they are performed while doing the strokes.
In terms of knowledge in the action of performing the stroke there is a lot of information that can be brought forward with this stroke as it’s the one that is mostly taught and the easiest to teach I find with swimming. The lovely thing with freestyle is that if you want to cover distance in the pool or race, this is the one that uses the least amount of energy, if it is done right. Even though breast stroke, most will say is easier and less effort, they probably are swimming this stroke wrong as if it is done correct it becomes a hard stroke to swim. If you cover more distance with this stroke your overall fitness will improve and you will burn more calories in an hour of swimming. So with freestyle, you can build strength easy and fast.
The hardest of all the strokes and the newest to swimming as it comes from breast stroke. Butterfly burns the most calories and builds strength but unless you are really strong and fit you cannot cover large distances with it being hard. If butterfly is done correctly it’s the most beautiful stroke to watch and looks like the swimmer can keep on going forever.
Free, fly and back are all classified as arm strokes, so your arms and back can become well define if you have been swimming for a long time. Studies have shown that your legs only help you to move forward by +-15%, whereas breast stroke is more of a leg stroke, so most of your movement through the water comes from your kick.
The lovely thing with these all the strokes , it’s all about timing and keeping a rhythm. You will always hear a teacher when teaching swimming will teach with a rhythm so the student will pick up on a rhythm and hopefully make it easier to pick up the timing.
All the strokes if it is done correctly, the person watching the swimmer will think it looks easy.