I am a triathlete, but I started as a swimmer. Before I ever rode a bike or ran, I swam. So now I am a rare breed of triathlete who LOVES to swim, and can swim all 4 competitive strokes, butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. Most triathletes just learn freestyle (or front crawl it is actually called) because that is what you would swim in a triathlon, because that is the fasted of all 4 strokes.
So if that is what a triathlete swims in competition, why would he need to learn the other strokes??
The “complaint” I hear most from my triathlon clients about swimming is that it is BORING!! Basically as a swimmer, you swim back and forth in a swimming pool for an allotted time or distance. Sometimes it’s slower, sometimes faster, sometimes doing drills, and sometimes doing intervals. But essentially all you are doing is swimming back and forth, which could get boring to some (I actually LOVE it, but again, I’m the minority here).
When you know all 4 strokes, it gives you 4 times as many options when completing a swim workout.
Doing different strokes in your workouts not only make it more fun, but you are also working different muscles so it’s like cross training while still becoming a faster and more skilled swimmer.
These 2 reasons alone are good enough to get out of your comfort zone and learn the other strokes, but the main reason I use all 4 strokes in triathlon training is to keep from getting injured.
As a triathlete, we bike a run…a lot! Biking and running are very similar movements and use many of the same muscles. I like to use breastroke kick to help strengthen the adductors and abductors (inner and outer thighs) and hips (these don’t get worked much with biking and running) and I like dolphin kick to stretch my hip flexors which get very tight with biking and running, and to strengthen my core.
I also use butterfly and breastroke pull to work opposing muscles to freestyle in my upper body and give my shoulders and rotator cuffs the break they deserve after lap after lap of turning over my arms.
All in all I attribute my variety of swimming strokes, drills, etc to no injuries over the past 4 years of triathlon training. When I started increasing my biking and running, I also increased my swimming.
If you want a great place to start learning to swim other strokes, we have instructional videos on all 4 strokes here…
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