For the swimming workhorses of the world, there is one stroke and one stroke only: the freestyle. However the freestyle is not an easy stroke to sustain. For this reason, having a few recovery strokes in the arsenal is a good idea.
The first and most accessible recovery stroke is the breast stroke. The breast stroke, like the freestyle, keeps the swimmer on his or her stomach. The main differences lie in the motion of the arms and legs. In the freestyle, the arms and legs remain in a state of constant motion. The breast stroke, however, keeps both of the arms and both of the legs moving in unison, which means they work at the same time but also rest at the same time. Even though this actually requires more energy per pull, the reward is a full-body rest achieved between pulls, allowing for a more complete and rapid recovery.
Another stroke that is excellent for recovery is the back stroke. Although this stroke requires a full-body shift in positioning, placing swimmers on their backs instead of stomachs, the reward here is the ease of floating. This stroke works the legs and arms about equally as much as the freestyle, however it allows for almost a total rest for the abs and core, which are usually busy maintaining the body’s parallel position to the water during freestyle. Although this stroke is easier, the main disadvantage is a complete loss of navigational sight. So unless there is something fixed and consistent to spot (like the ceiling of a pool), this stroke is not practical for prolonged use.
The final stroke (and a half) is the side stroke. Although this stroke is the least effective, it is also the least tiring, working only half of the body at a time. This stroke is ideal for those determined to keep moving forward despite exhaustion. The best part about the side stroke? It actually serves as two strokes, since it can be performed on either side.
By mastering these strokes, swimmers can minimize time spent in recovery and maximize their over-all efficiency in the water.