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3. Fundamentals – Freestyle & Backstroke

There are several types of swimming strokes. Before discussing these, it is critical that you understand measures to remain safe while underwater. One of the most important aspects before you start anything in swimming is being comfortable with putting your face in the water and learning how to breathe.


  • Exhale through your NOSE underneath the water and bring your head out to inhale through your MOUTH.
  • Emphasize the exhale through nose underneath water and inhale through mouth for breath after all the air is released under water.
  • This is what is taught, but not what all swimmers always do. It is acceptable to exhale through the mouth.


The freestyle stroke, also known as the front crawl, is the fastest of the swimming strokes that employs alternating arm movements. Swimming this stroke involves rotation of the body; you should not be swimming flat. In order to perform this movement as quickly and efficiently as possible, learning how to breather and transition are very important.

To perform the freestyle stroke:

  • Breathing: Choose the side you are most comfortable with and turn your head sideways for a quick breath.
  • Body Position: Keep your body flat and in line with the water’s surface.
  • Arm Movement: Pull with your palms facing down and in line with your body.
  • Leg Action: Keep a nice steady kick by keeping the feet together, toes pointed and an up-and-down continuous motion.

Watch the instructional video below by UGA Head Swimming & Diving Coach Jack Bauerle about tips on how to perform the freestyle. 


The backstroke is the only swimming style that is swum on your back, giving an advantage of easy breathing, yet making it more difficult for swimmers to see where they are going.

To perform the backstroke:

  • Head Position: Keep your head in a neutral position, looking at the ceiling, chin off your chest, and your head still.
  • Body Position: Keep your body flat like a plank. Use the markings on the ceiling (i.e. beams, lines, banners, etc.) to guide yourself when you swim.
  • Arm Movement: Your arms will execute in alternating movements. Ensure your little finger enters the water first and your arms do not exceed the halfway point of your body.
  • Leg Action: Have a nice and steady kick and keep your feet together.

The flags that hang across the pool are meant to inform backstrokers that they are approaching the wall. Either roll over onto your stomach as you come in to the wall or stick one hand out and kick into the wall with your hand first.

Watch the instructional video below by UGA Head Swimming & Diving Coach Jack Bauerle about tips on how to perform the backstroke. 


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