Swimming Strokes and Styles Around the World Throughout History

By now most of us are familiar with the different swimming strokes and techniques as they’ve been around for hundreds of years. But most of us aren’t familiar with the history of swimming and swimming strokes.

The Breaststroke

The Breaststroke is the most commonly known swimming technique. It was introduced to us in 1956 when Japanese swimmer Masaru Furukawa won the Olympic gold medal in the event by staying largely underwater.
When swimmers who adapted his technique began passing out due to a lack of oxygen, new regulations had to be set in place requiring that swimmers break for air after each complete stroke cycle.
Once the breaststroke was refined and people were able to practice it properly, it led to the birth of other techniques such as the butterfly.

Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly stroke was not created by one individual person. Many swimmers were responsible for this technique, which was inspired by the breaststroke. David Ambruster used underwater photography to analyze the breaststroke to help show bringing the arms out of the water increased its speed.
By 1938, the stroke was used by most competitive breaststroke swimmers according to the Halton Swimming Club. Though the technique was eventually banned during breaststroke competitions, it was officially recognized as new stroke in 1953. It was first used in the Olympics during the 1956 games in Melbourne, Australia.
The Butterfly stroke is much like the breaststroke as both had to overcome some obstacles before being recognized as a valid swimming technique.
It’s hard to believe they ever endured any problems as they’ve both been around for what seems like forever!


The backstroke was derived from what was called the front crawl.
Freestyle swimming events were introduced to the Olympic Games in 1896. That encouraged swimmers to experiment with variations of the breaststroke and the front crawl. The backstroke developed from the front crawl, as it is essentially an upside down version of the stroke.
But it was the Australians who perfected the backstroke!
The backstroke was eventually perfected by Australian swimmers, who bent their arms underwater to increase the horizontal, forward push.
While the backstroke had always included a straight arm during the underwater push, from 1935 to 1945, this new technique became a swimming style that is now practiced all over the world. Since this innovation made it a quicker swimming stroke, it became widely used everywhere.
As you can see there is a long and interesting history of how swimming strokes began! And we’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg with this subject. Hopefully learning these new facts have sparked your interest and inspired you to learn more about the exciting history of swimming!

Tell Us!

After talking about all these different strokes, I’m ready to jump in the pool with my Underwater Audio Waterproof iPod Shuffle. I want to practice them all!
What are some interesting facts you know about the history of other swimming strokes that were not covered in this blog?

Reading next

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.