Oldest Swim Strokes Ever Popularized

4 Oldest Swim Strokes Ever Popularized

Everyone loves to swim, and everyone has their favorite strokes to get from point A to point B. The butterfly, the breaststroke, and the backstroke are all well known and widely practiced throughout the world. But what about these other weird-sounding swimming strokes? Are they even real? And if so, how old can a swimming stroke possibly be?

If you’re a swimmer, you know that there are many different kinds of strokes out there. But do you know their history? If not, don’t worry; we have you covered! Read on for more information on the four oldest swimming techniques that have ever been popularized.

4. Backstroke

Year Started: Late 1930s
Former/Other Name: Back Crawl
Purpose: Allow you catch breath; lower your heart rate
Popularized By: Yujiro Morningstar

video source: Sikana English
Early in the 20th century, the backstroke started to take shape. The swimmer’s body is held as flat and streamlined as possible when doing that stroke while lying on their back. The little finger of the palm is the first to touch the water when the arms alternately extend over the head and dip into the pool in a straight line with the shoulders. Backing up to the thigh, the arm is raised.

The backstroke has a slight body roll, and it is performed by kicking up and down with each stroke. This allows swimmers to rest from other strokes. It is also used as a competition stroke, but it can also be used for recreational swimming when other strokes are too tiring.

Did You Know?

Backstroke is actually the only stroke in swimming where you are allowed to touch the wall with your hands during a race. This can give you a bit of an advantage if you need to stop and catch your breath, or if you need to make a quick turn.

3. Butterfly Stroke

Year Started: 1933
Former/Other Name: Dolphin Kick
Purpose: Simplify the breathing process
Popularized By: Sydney Cavill

video source: SpeedoInternational
Only employed in competition, the butterfly stroke is distinct from the breaststroke in terms of arm motion. The butterfly’s arms are raised above the water in front of it. During a race in which Henry Myers, who utilized the stroke, participated, the stroke was brought to the notice of American officials. He steadfastly maintained that his stroke complied with the definition of breaststroke at the time.

The butterfly became a recognized competitive stroke in 1953 after some dispute. Instead of continuing to employ the frog kick as before, dolphin kicks that simply need up-and-down leg movement were adopted. A dolphin kick and an arm pull were later swimming techniques. Every second or third stroke, the head is raised to allow for breathing in sprint competition.

Did You Know?

It is often considered to be the most difficult of the four main swimming strokes, due to the coordination and strength required to perform it correctly.

2. The Crawl Stroke

Year Started: Late 1890s
Former/Other Name: Unknown
Purpose: Allow you improve speed and stroke efficiency
Popularized By: Henry Wickham


video source: Simply Swim
The quickest swimming stroke by far is the crawl, a freestyle maneuver employed in competition. The end of the 19th century saw the usage of this stroke in the Pacific, and Australian swimmer Henry Wickham adopted it in 1893. The stroke gained popularity thanks to the Cavill brothers in 1902 in Europe and 1903 in America.

The arm movement of the crawl is similar to an ancient sidestroke and involves dragging one arm up and down alternately with the other, while the leg action involves fluttering up and down twice for each arm stroke. An additional pair of leg movements were then added by early American imitators, and eventually up to six goals were utilized on each side.

Did You Know?

The crawl stroke is often used in competitive swimming as it is one of the fastest strokes and can help you win races.

1. Breaststroke

Year Started: 1600s
Former/Other Name: Sidestroke
Purpose: Improve chest muscles and hamstrings
Popularized By: Melchisédech Thévenot


video source: Global Triathlon Network
The breaststroke is said to be the oldest of all swimming strokes. In choppy water, the stroke is very effective. The phrase “frog kick” originated at the end of the 17th century when the stroke was characterized as a broad draw of the arms and symmetrical leg action that mimicked the motion of a swimming frog.

Popularized by Melchisédech Thévenot, the stroke is executed while submerged face down in the water with the arms always submerged. At the end of the frog kick in the early breaststroke, there was a brief glide. Later, the glide was replaced by the competitive breaststroke. The breath was inhaled at the start of the arm stroke in the traditional breaststroke, but at the conclusion of the arm pull in the later type.

Did You Know?

Breaststroke is the most efficient way to swim because it uses the least amount of energy and moves your body in a straight line.

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