The world of competitive swimming includes four distinct strokes. The strokes include freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Some swimmers are better at some strokes than others. That can be due to the swimmer’s physiology, flexibility, strength and natural aptitude.
The freestyle stroke is the fastest of the four disciplines, followed by butterfly, then backstroke and finally breaststroke.
For perspective, let’s look at the reigning World Record times for the shortest competitive distance, 50 meters. The men’s 50m freestyle World Record sits at 20.91, followed by the 50 fly WR of 22.27. Backstroke is next in 24.00 and finally breaststroke in 25.95.
The women’s World Record times follow suit. The 50m free WR is currently 23.67, with the next fastest being 50m fly in 24.43. Backstroke is the next fastest in 26.98, while breaststroke is the slowest in 29.40.
Swimming is most often a balance between propulsion and drag. At least thus far, the stroke of freestyle enables a swimmer to balance these two forces in the most efficient way.