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Breaststroke vs Freestyle: What’s The Difference?

Breaststroke and freestyle are two popular swimming strokes.

Swimming has a lot of benefits and each stroke also has its own unique benefits. 

Below we’ll cover the differences between these two popular swimming strokes. 

What Is Freestyle Swimming?

Freestyle is one of the most common types of swimming strokes.

This swimming technique is often seen in swimming competitions and requires use of the arms in alternating positions in the water.

Keep reading to learn more.

freestyle swimming

How to Do the Freestyle Stroke

Freestyle is also known as the front crawl.

When you are swimming using this stroke, you have your body positioned on your stomach and your face is toward the water.

Your legs and arms pull you through the pool and your torso remains still.

Your arms move in an alternating fashion.

One arm arcs up out of the water while the other is close to your body in the water.

Each arm reenters the water at an angle.

You want to keep the fingers together and straight in order to minimize resistance.

Even though your arms are doing a lot of the work pulling you through the water, the legs are working hard too.

You are using a flutter kick when you are doing the freestyle.

In order to do a flutter kick, you need to constantly move your legs in a scissor-like motion beneath the water.

Your legs are going to remain parallel to the bottom of the pool and your knees are slightly bent.

Depending on how fast you want to swim, you can adjust the number of kicks.

Even though your legs are going to be an important part of this stroke, they are only about 10% of the movement.

Freestyle can often be an intimidating stroke to many inexperienced swimmers since your face is in the water.

However, once you get used to having your face in this position then freestyle is actually pretty easy.

When you swing one arm up and out of the water then you turn the face to the side in order to take a breath.

When your arm comes down then you put your face back in the water again.

Some swimmers will alternate the sides when it comes to breathing and others will just stick with one side. 

Benefits of Freestyle Swimming

If you are swimming freestyle, you can burn hundreds of calories even with just a half-hour swim.

Freestyle is considered one of the most efficient swimming strokes so it is favored by many long-distance swimmers.

It can take your farther with just one stroke without expending too much energy.

If you are doing lap count workouts then you will reach your goal faster.

It’s also a full body workout and you are working your back, core, legs, and arms.

If you want a swimming stroke that helps you tone your back muscles then freestyle can be the best choice.

Even though there are a lot of benefits to freestyle swimming, it can be one of the harder strokes to master. 

What Is The Breaststroke In Swimming?

If you are a new swimmer then breaststroke can be an easy place to start and is also a great alternative to the more complicated freestyle.

Many non-swimmers or first-time swimmers like the breaststroke since there are more breathing chances and it’s easier to master the breathing. 


How to Do the Breaststroke

Just like freestyle, breaststroke involves separate motions for your legs and arms.

Your body will be in a similar position as the freestyle but you are going to use a different motion in order to move yourself through the water.

Your arms instead will go together at the same time using a half-circular gesture under the water.

You bend your arms at the elbow and sweep them apart and then together, moving toward the chest.

You remain underwater the entire time you are swimming this stroke.

When your arms are moving in this motion, your legs are pushing you forward using a frog kick or whip kick.

With this type of kick, your legs are behind you about hip distance apart.

You keep your feet flexed and knees bent and kick the legs apart, then sweep together in order to form a smooth line.

You are repeating this motion at the same time as the arm movement to be the most efficient.

With this optimal rhythm, the arms are allowed to rest when you are kicking.

Breathing can be done in two different ways.

You can complete the leg and arm motions with your head completely above the water, allowing you to breathe when necessary.

However, if you want to add in the breathing technique while doing this stroke then you duck your head beneath the water during each cycle of the stroke.

You then use your shoulders to lift the head out of the water in order to breathe.

When your arms sweep forward then your shoulders drop and your head moves under the water again.

The timing of the breathing can be hard to master at first so sometimes it can be considered one of the harder strokes. 

Benefits of Breaststroke

There are many different advantages to the breaststroke.

You are going to burn approximately 200 calories for every half-hour of swimming.

It is the easiest swimming stroke to learn so you are able to concentrate on getting a workout in, instead of worrying about whether or not you are getting the movements right.

This is a better stroke for someone who isn’t comfortable putting their face in the water.

Just like all the swim strokes, you will work multiple muscle groups when you are doing the breaststroke.

This style works your hamstrings and chest muscles.

Your core muscles and thigh muscles, as well as arms, also benefit from the breaststroke and it’s overall a great cardio workout.

The only con is that the breaststroke is one of the slowest swimming strokes so it’s not the best option for those who prefer speed.

However, this can be a positive for some people.

Since it’s much slower it can be done for long periods of time and you can use the breaststroke as an endurance workout.