The Most Popular Stroke in Swimming: A Ranking of Swimmers' Favorite Techniques

Choose the stroke you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Feb 12, 2024 06:36
Dive into the world of water wonders as we embark on an exciting quest to discover the ultimate swimming stroke! At StrawPoll, we have curated a thrilling ranking for "What is the most popular stroke in swimming?" – a battle of aquatic prowess where you, our esteemed voters, decide the reigning champion. With thousands of polls and rankings on a myriad of topics, we now invite you to make a splash and cast your vote for your favorite stroke or suggest a hidden gem that's missing from our list. From the elegant Freestyle to the powerful Butterfly, the choice is yours – so come on, take the plunge and let the waves of wisdom wash over you as we unravel the most beloved stroke in the swimming world together!

What Is the Most Popular Stroke in Swimming?

  1. 1
    Also known as the front crawl, this is the most popular stroke in swimming because it is the fastest and most efficient. It is used in freestyle races and is also commonly used in triathlons.
    The freestyle stroke, also known as front crawl, is a swimming stroke that is commonly regarded as the fastest and most efficient technique for swimming. It is characterized by the alternating arm movements combined with a flutter kick. The swimmer propels themselves through the water mainly on their stomach, with the face submerged, periodically turning the head to breathe. The freestyle stroke is highly versatile and can be used for various distances and swimming styles.
    • Arm Movement: Alternating arm movements in a windmill motion, with one arm extending forward while the other arm recovers.
    • Breathing Technique: The swimmer turns their head to the side during the recovery phase to inhale, and exhales underwater.
    • Kick Technique: A flutter kick is performed, with quick and continuous movements of the legs.
    • Body Position: The body is streamlined with a horizontal position, allowing for reduced drag in the water.
    • Hand Entry: The hand enters the water in front of the head, extending the arm forward.
  2. 2
    This is the oldest known swimming stroke and is often used in recreational swimming. It is also used in breaststroke races and in the individual medley.
    The Breaststroke is a swimming stroke that requires simultaneous movement of the arms and legs. It is known for its distinctive frog-like motion, with the arms and legs moving in a symmetrical pattern. The swimmer starts in a prone position, with the arms extended forward and the legs extended back. The arms then sweep in a wide circular motion outwards and back towards the chest, while the legs execute a dolphin kick, where the legs move in a simultaneous outward and then inward motion.
    • Arm Movement: Sweeping circular motion
    • Leg Movement: Dolphin kick
    • Breathing: Inhale during arm pull, exhale during the kick
    • Body Position: Head elevated, body parallel to the surface
    • Arm Recovery: Above water
  3. 3
    This stroke is swum on the back and is used in backstroke races and in the individual medley. It is often used in recreational swimming as well.
    The backstroke is a swimming stroke performed on the back, where the swimmer lies flat with the face upwards and arms outstretched. This stroke consists of an alternating motion of the arms while the legs perform a flutter kick.
    • Body Position: Swimmer lies on their back with the face upwards.
    • Arm Movement: Alternating movement of the arms with fingertips entering the water first.
    • Leg Movement: Flutter kick performed by kicking the legs up and down.
    • Breathing: Breathing can be done at any time during the stroke, keeping the face above the water.
    • Stroke Rate: Typical stroke rate is around 60 strokes per minute.
  4. 4
    This stroke is often considered the most difficult but is used in butterfly races and in the individual medley. It is also used in some distance events.
    Butterfly is a beautiful and ethereal song by the South Korean boy band BTS. It was released on their second mini-album, 'The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 2', in 2015. The song showcases the group's emotional vocals and introspective lyrics, carrying a message about seeking comfort and strength in oneself despite facing hardships. The melancholic melodies and soft harmonies create a dream-like atmosphere, evoking a sense of hope and resilience.
    • Release Date: November 30, 2015
    • Album: 'The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 2'
    • Genre: K-pop, Ballad
    • Lyricists: Slow Rabbit, Rap Monster, Suga, J-Hope
    • Composers: Slow Rabbit, Rap Monster, Suga, J-Hope, Pdogg, Supreme Boi
  5. 5
    This is a combination of all four strokes (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle) and is used in individual medley races.
    The Individual Medley is a swimming stroke that combines all four competitive swimming strokes in a specific order. It requires swimmers to swim equal distances of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle in that order without interruption.
    • Order of strokes: Butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle
    • Distance: Typically 200 or 400 meters in competitive swimming
    • Number of strokes: Each stroke must be completed for a specified distance before moving onto the next stroke
    • Transitions: No pauses or interruptions are allowed between different strokes
    • Start: Swimmers start in the water, holding onto the poolside or starting blocks
    Individual medley in other rankings
  6. 6
    This is a relay race where each swimmer swims freestyle. It is used in many relay events in competitions.
    Freestyle relay is a swimming event in which a team of four swimmers compete together in a relay race. Each swimmer swims one-fourth of the total distance, with the swimmers taking turns to complete their respective laps. It is considered the most popular relay event in swimming.
    • Number of swimmers: 4
    • Total distance: usually 400 meters in international competitions
    • Swimming stroke: Swimmers are allowed to use any stroke they prefer, but freestyle is the most commonly used.
    • Swimming order: Teams can decide the order in which their swimmers participate.
    • Exchange zones: Each swimmer must touch the wall within a designated exchange zone in order to start their lap.
  7. 7
    This is a relay race where each swimmer swims a different stroke in order (backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle). It is used in many relay events in competitions.
    The Medley relay is a popular swimming event in which a team of four swimmers each swim one of the four different strokes in a set order. The four strokes in the Medley relay are backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle. Each swimmer must swim one-fourth of the total distance and complete their designated stroke before passing the race to the next swimmer. The Medley relay combines elements of different swimming techniques, showcasing the versatility and teamwork of the swimmers.
    • Number of swimmers: 4
    • Order of strokes: Backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle
    • Distance: Usually 4x100 meters or 4x200 meters
    • Start: Each swimmer starts from the starting blocks
    • Transition: Swimmers must touch the wall to signal the start of the next swimmer
  8. 8
    Open water swimming
    Steven Fruitsmaak · CC BY-SA 3.0
    This is a long-distance swim in open water and can use any stroke.
    Open water swimming is a type of swimming that takes place in outdoor bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, or oceans, as opposed to the controlled environment of a pool. It involves swimming long distances without the aid of lane markers or walls.
    • Distance: Open water swimming events can range from 1 kilometer to marathon distances of 10 kilometers or more.
    • Navigation: Unlike in a pool, open water swimmers must navigate using landmarks, buoys, and sometimes GPS devices.
    • Temperature: The water temperature can vary greatly depending on the location and season, ranging from cold to warm.
    • Tides and Currents: Open water swimmers need to account for tides, currents, and waves, which can affect their speed and direction.
    • Hazards: Open water swimming may involve encounters with marine life, seaweed, rocks, or debris.
  9. 9

    Synchronized swimming

    Katherine Curtis
    This is a combination of swimming, gymnastics, and dance and involves performing synchronized routines in the water.
    Synchronized swimming is a sport that combines elements of swimming, dance, and gymnastics. It involves a team of athletes performing a synchronized routine to music in the water. The athletes must incorporate precise movements, intricate choreography, and synchronized formations while maintaining a high level of breath control and underwater stamina.
    • Number of Participants: Teams of 8 athletes for team events, and duets for two athletes in duet events
    • Pool Size: 25m x 20m
    • Competition Time: 2-4 minutes per routine
    • Music: Pre-recorded music is used to accompany the routines
    • Technical Elements: Required figures, patterns, and movements performed with precision
    Synchronized swimming in other rankings
  10. 10
    Water polo
    Marie-Lan Nguyen · CC BY 3.0

    Water polo

    William Wilson
    This is a team sport played in the water and involves swimming, passing, and shooting a ball into a goal.
    Water polo is a highly demanding team sport that combines elements of swimming, soccer, and basketball. It is played in a pool with two teams of seven players each, who aim to score goals by throwing a ball into the opponent's net.
    • Pool dimensions: 25-30 meters (length) x 20-25 meters (width)
    • Goal dimensions: 3 meters (width) x 0.9 meters (height)
    • Game duration: 4 quarters, each 8 minutes long
    • Ball weight: 400-450 grams
    • Player positions: Goalkeeper, center forward, center back, two wings, and two drivers
    Water polo in other rankings

Missing your favorite stroke?


Ranking factors for popular stroke

  1. Versatility
    The stroke's usefulness in different swim distances, from sprints to long-distance events. 2. Olympic recognition: The stroke's inclusion in Olympic competition and its popularity among elite swimmers. 3. Ease of learning: The stroke's difficulty level for beginners and the time it takes to master it. 4. Physical demands: The stroke's required muscle groups, cardiovascular endurance, and technical skills. 5. Enjoyment: The stroke's popularity among recreational swimmers and fun factor while swimming.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular stroke in swimming. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or stroke is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 171 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each stroke once every 24 hours. The rank of each stroke is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


More information on most popular stroke in swimming

Swimming is a sport that requires a combination of physical strength, endurance, and technique. There are four main strokes in swimming: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly. Each stroke has its unique characteristics and challenges, making it a popular choice among swimmers of all levels. The most popular stroke in swimming varies depending on the level of competition and personal preference. However, freestyle is generally considered the most popular stroke due to its simplicity and versatility. It allows swimmers to move quickly and efficiently through the water, making it ideal for long-distance swimming and sprint events. Despite its popularity, swimmers often train in all four strokes to improve their overall technique and performance.

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