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This is the most recognized of swimming strokes and first to learn, as it incorporates all the essential swimming techniques needed for all strokes. The freestyle stroke, as it's name implies, is not limited by any particular technique. The stroke we now call freestyle, which is also known as the front crawl or Australian crawl, has been used since early last century. Only 15 meters can be swum underwater (from the start and from each turn), otherwise some body part must always be above the water. Some believe that the freestyle stroke was developed by Richard Cavill, an Australian who combined the overarm stroke with the up and down kick motion.
Two Principals of Freestyle
Body position - Head, hips & feet at surface, streamlined. Training fins will help achieve correct body position at the surface of the water.
Lengthening of the Body - While keeping one arm out front, rolling your torso from side to side will allow body position to stretch to maximum length and lead to less body resistance in the water.
Timing is very important, pull with your arms first and following with a strong "frog" kick. This is an excellent stroke to warm up or cool down with, as it is less taxing on your body. Swimmers of the breast stroke must follow strict rules when performing the stroke.
Their shoulders must be kept in line with the water, arm and leg movements must be pushed forward together, and brought back under the surface of the water. At the turn and finish, both hands must touch the wall together. At the start and first stroke and kick after a turn, the swimmers are allowed one arm stroke and one leg kick. At all other times the swimmer's head must be kept above the surface of the water. No dolphin, scissors or flutter kicks are allowed, nor tumble turns.
When swimming the backstroke, the swimmers remain on their back. This technique was first swum with a frog kick (like the breaststroke) then the up and down form that is used now.
Similar to the freestyle, only 15 meters can be spent underwater from the start or from each turn. In 1991, the rules were changed so that when turning, the swimmers did not have to touch the wall with their hand, enabling them to do a much faster turn. Much of the focus on the back stroke is leg propulsion; so choose this stroke for the most powerful leg workout. Using training fins here will give you more kicking thrust. Using a tinted set of goggles is recommended to protect your eyes from bright light.
Swimming will lead to a well rounded fitness program, while incorporating less physical damage to your joints and tendons as other more physically punishing fitness programs do.
*As with all swimming strokes, it is best to learn by working with a qualified instructor at your local pool.