What is the fastest swimming stroke?

Have you been practising your swimming strokes? Whether you are just getting into swimming or looking to refine your technique, find out the fastest strokes in the pool.

white man in blue swim cap and black goggles doing freestyle swimming in pool

When it comes to swimming, sometimes our kids want to go from zero to Olympic Swimmer in no time. While they may need to put in a bit of practice and a few hours in the pool, there are a few stroke techniques that can help them refine their swimming methods.

An overview of popular swimming strokes: What is the fastest swimming stroke?

In the hours you’ve spent watching your kids while at the pool, or flicking through swimming competitions on the tv, you might have heard some common stroke terms. Freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly are the most common swimming strokes, and you will find there are pros and cons for each of these. 

Your child might have even asked you, “What is the fastest stroke in swimming?”. The answer is freestyle. Apart from being the fastest swimming stroke, freestyle is also one of the first strokes we learn as children. 

Types of swimming strokes

Everyone has a different preference for which swimming stroke they enjoy most, and there are some big differences between each of them. To best break down the most common strokes, we can look at speed, efficiency, muscle usage, breathing patterns, and body position. 


Butterfly stroke is one of the fastest swimming strokes, but it can be hard to learn as it requires a lot of energy and coordination. Often children won’t learn this stroke until they have mastered a basic swimming ability and become proficient at other strokes. 

To perform Butterfly, your child will need to be face down into the water. First they will need to bring their arms above their head simultaneously and pull them through the water in a circle. While they are performing this arm movement, it’s important to kick twice per arm stroke. 

This style of stroke requires a dolphin kick, so ensure your child keeps their toes pointed and bent their legs at the knee. To best help your child master this kick, get them to think of how a dolphin kicks its tail in the water. The action is easier if it is driven by the hips pushing forward and back, to simulate this movement. 


The Freestyle stroke requires more coordination than Butterfly, and is often one of the first strokes children will learn. Freestyle begins face down in the water. Your child will need to move their arms in a catch, pull, push, and recovery motion. 

They need to reach one of their arms forward above their head, and in a smooth motion, catch, pull, and push down along their body, resting parallel to their hip. Then they will switch arms and perform this pull again. When the arms are returning to the entry point, this is  known as the recovery phase of the stroke. Once the freestyle stroke is mastered the arms rotate to almost catch up with each other, before one commences the next stroke and the other completes the stroke.

Their breathing technique will involve synchronising an arm stroke in time with the body roll, and turning their head to take a quick breath. Sometimes this will take a little practice to perfect. One of the best ways to explain the freestyle swimming technique to your child is by practising these motions while out of the water. This is a great way to show them the correct head and arm movements. 

Ensure that their legs are long while kicking, with relaxed feet to create white water.


As the name suggests, the backstroke technique begins while on their back in the water. They’ll need to keep their body flat in the water to create as little resistance as possible at the start of the stroke. Their head will be partially submerged so their ears should be underwater.

To help your child feel comfortable with their head being partially submerged, help them relax and practise floating. The calmer your child is, the better they will be able to keep their body aligned with the water and the easier they will find it to successfully perform the backstroke.

Your child will need to use a flutter kick so they need to keep their legs long, kicking from their hips and with their knees remaining under the water, feet are floppy and creating white water throughout the kick. Their arms will move in opposite strokes to create a circle motion. One arm will swing over their head and catch, pull, and push into the water, while the other arm will leave the water at their hip. 

The best tip for backstroke swimming is to keep the head still while the arms rotate throughout the stroke. 


Did you know that the breaststroke technique is considered one of the oldest swimming strokes? To swim Breaststroke, your child will need to start face down in the water. Both sides of the body work as a mirror image of each other. 

They will start with arms outstretched. The kick commences with the heels moving together toward the body, knees bend and feet are dorsiflexed in the shape of the capital “L”. On the outsweep of the kick feet snap together with toes pointed, feet are in shape of the lowercase ‘l”. The legs pause in a straight position while the outsweep of the arm stroke commences. Their arms will use the hands as paddles and move outwards from the starting point of the stroke. 

To take a stroke your child will need to simultaneously kick and pull their arms. For this stroke, you don’t want their feet to break the water. 

As for the arm movement, they need to begin with pushing outwards forming a Y with their body and hands meeting under the chest and tucking in their elbows. They will continue this pattern and aim to sync their arms and legs.

To make this stroke easier, some people call it the ‘frog stroke’, so keep a frog’s movements in mind. There’s a lot of fun ways you can help your child practise this and you can turn learning to swim into a game. You could even try to practise your frog noises while you swim. 


Sidestroke is a unique swimming stroke that offers a comfortable and efficient way to move through the water, especially for longer distances. Unlike other strokes, Sidestroke allows the swimmer to maintain a lateral position, which can be particularly useful for conserving energy or for situations where buoyancy is a concern, such as in open water or rescue scenarios.

Breathing in Sidestroke is typically relaxed, with the swimmer turning their head to the side to inhale and exhale, ensuring a steady rhythm is maintained. This stroke offers a great opportunity for your child to enjoy the water comfortably while still making progress through the pool.

Combat Side Stroke

This particular stroke was specialised for use by the U.S Navy SEALS, but also makes for a fun stroke to learn. Combat side stroke is an update on a classic stroke technique that makes it easier to swim longer distances without using up all your energy. 

In Combat Side Stroke, your child will start in a similar position to the sidestroke, lying on their side. However, instead of keeping one arm extended, both arms are utilised in a sculling motion, with the downside arm performing a powerful pull while the upper arm sweeps forward to streamline the body. The legs execute a modified flutter kick, providing propulsion and stability.
This stroke emphasises streamlined movement and rhythmic breathing, enabling your child to navigate the water effectively and with minimal effort, whether for recreational swimming or as a valuable skill in emergency situations.

Individual Medley

Has your child mastered all the strokes? If they are up for a challenge they can try the medley. The individual medley is a swimming event in competitions where all four strokes are used. Swimmers will perform one stroke per each lap of the pool in a certain order, beginning with Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly and ending with Freestyle. 

The fastest swimming stroke record in Australia

The key to any swimming stroke is practice, practice, practice. All of the great swimmers in history started out small and had to work their way to the top with a lot of hard work and perseverance. Some of the most notable Aussie record holders include: 

  • The current world record holder for Breaststroke 200m is Zac Stubblety-Cook
  • The fastest 100m Freestyle swimmer is Cameron McEvoy
  • The fastest female swimmer of the 4x100m Freestyle is Emma McKeon
  • The fastest 200m Backstroke swimmer is Kaylee McKeown 

If your child is ready to start breaking some swimming records of their own, they can sign up to our Swim Squad at your nearest available Rackley centre. If your child is still going over the basics, Rackley has classes for all ages, from free Baby Splash to Swimming lessons for adults, find out more today. 


Whether your child is gearing up to compete, looking to enjoy a wide range of water sports, or just be safer the next time they’re in the pool, refining their swimming strokes can require a lot of practice. Help your child improve their technique by searching for local swimming lessons in your area. 

Are you in the sunny state of Queensland? Start by searching for swimming lessons Sunshine Coast wide or locating your nearest Rackley Swimming centre. Don’t forget, the only way to see which stroke technique is best suited, is by trying them out yourself. We’ll see you at the pool!