Freestyle vs. Backstroke

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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Freestyle and backstroke are very different swimming techniques. The freestyle is a fast stroke that is fairly easy to learn. It swims on the stomach using alternating arm motions. The backstroke is swimming on the back and is difficult to learn as well as perform.

They are different in their movements, timing, and physical demand. In addition, each swimming technique has its benefits and difficulties.

Depending on your preferences, one might be better for you than the other. Keep reading to find out more about freestyle and backstroke swimming.

Woman with blue swimming cap swimming in a pool - Freestyle vs. Backstroke.

What are the Differences?

The main difference between freestyle and backstroke is that one swims on the stomach while the other swims on your back.

In addition, both freestyle and backstroke require separate arm movements and the consistent kicking of the legs. But that is where their similarities end.

How your arms move and when you kick are different. Your breathing technique is also different. The freestyle is swum on the stomach, with the head facing your direction. The backstroke is swimming on your back with your eyes facing the ceiling.


Pros and Cons of Freestyle vs. Backstroke

Freestyle and backstroke are both very different swim styles. Each is better for different things, depending on your preference.


Freestyle Pros:


  • It is the easiest swim style to learn.
  • It is a great, full-body workout.


Freestyle Cons:


  • The breathing techniques can be difficult to master.
  • This is one of the more exhausting swim styles.


Backstroke Pros:


  • It is very easy to breathe.
  • It provides a great leg workout.


Backstroke Cons:


  • You cannot see which direction you are swimming.
  • It is a difficult style of swimming to learn.


Which One Helps You Swim Faster

The freestyle helps you swim much faster than the backstroke. Freestyle is known for being the fastest way to swim. It is faster because it is also the easiest swim style to learn. The movement of the arms with the legs is how our bodies naturally tend to want to swim.

The freestyle reduces drag and resistance from the water to create a faster swim. Backstroke, on the other hand, is known for being a slower swim.

You are on your back and cannot see where you are going. Swimming on your back also goes against how our bodies want to swim, slowing you down and creating a longer swim time.


Which One is More Physically Demanding?

Freestyle is more physically demanding than backstroke. Backstroke is a difficult workout, just like any other swimming technique. It requires strong leg muscles and high stamina.

However, backstroke is mostly reliant on the leg muscles, and it is easier to breathe on your back. Freestyle is more physically demanding because it requires more muscle groups to work together at the same time.

Freestyle swimming more evenly distributes the muscles needed, which makes it a more difficult workout. Freestyle also offers less access to air throughout the swim, adding to its physical demands.


Which One Can Beginners Learn Faster?

Beginners learn freestyle swimming much faster than backstroke. As mentioned, freestyle lines up more with how our bodies naturally want to swim than backstroke does.

It is one of the easiest ways to swim in general. The most difficult thing about mastering the freestyle is getting the breathing down. After that, however, the swim itself is easy.

The backstroke, on the other hand, goes against our instincts. You swim on your back and can’t see as you swim. Backstroke is known for being one of the more difficult swimming techniques to master, especially as a beginner because of this.


Final Thoughts on Freestyle Vs. Backstroke

The freestyle is a swim that is easy to learn. It is intuitive for the body and uses movement that we naturally want to do when swimming. It is the fastest swimming technique. While it may be easy to learn, it also takes the most physical effort to do it correctly.

The backstroke is much more difficult to learn. It goes against what our bodies want to do. You can’t see while you swim. Doing anything against what your body wants can make it extremely difficult. It puts strain on the legs but helps to support the breath.

Depending on your preferences, one may be better for you than the other. Overall, the freestyle has the most benefits as it is the best workout, the easiest to learn, and the fastest swim. However, check out the backstroke if you are looking for a challenge.