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teachers recommend that children learn to swim when they are as young as possible, because they will learn more easily and quickly than do adults. Flotation devices can assist the learning process, helping swimmers overcome any fear of water. Kickboards and water wings, pictured here, are common flotation devices used with small children.

Swimming, art of self-support or self-movement, using arms or legs, in or on the water, usually for sport or recreation. Because human beings do not swim instinctively, it must be learnt. Unlike other land animals that propel themselves through water by what is essentially a form of walking, human beings have developed a variety of strokes and body movements that propel them through water with speed and power. They are the basis for the evolution of competitive swimming as a sport.

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may take place in any body of water large enough to allow free movement and not too hot, cold, or turbulent. Currents and tides may render swimming hazardous, but they also serve as a challenge to the strength and courage of swimmers, as in the many successful efforts to swim the English Channel.
Swimming was highly esteemed in ancient Greece and Rome, especially as a form of training for warriors. Competitions were held in Japan in the 1st century bc. Swimming fell into disuse almost entirely, however, in Europe in the middle ages when immersion in water was associated with the recurrent epidemic diseases of the time. By the 19th century that prejudice was dispelled, and by the 20th century swimming had become known not only as a means of survival or saving lives in emergencies, but as a valuable tool in physical therapy and as the most beneficial form of general exercise. No other form of exercise uses so many muscles in the body so fully. In addition, greater affluence and improved building and heating techniques have enormously increased the number of indoor and outdoor swimming pools constructed for public use worldwide; and the private pool, once a symbol of exceptional privilege, is now more common.


The chief
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obstacle to learning to swim is fear of the water or extreme nervousness, which produces muscular tension. Considerable progress has been made in developing methods to reduce this psychological barrier. Teaching often now begins with very young children. Although it is possible to teach people of an advanced age, the earlier a person learns to swim, the easier it is. Formal swimming instruction is important in order to learn how to correctly coordinate arm and leg movements and breathing. The teaching of swimming has been widely incorporated into the school curriculum in many parts of the world. Techniques for mass teaching were developed during World War II, when courses were developed for teaching troops functional swimming as part of their battle training.
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recognized strokes have evolved since the late 19th century. They are the crawl (also known as freestyle because it is the stroke of choice in freestyle competition), the first version of which was developed in the 1870s by the English swimmer John Arthur Trudgen; the alternating arm backstroke, first used in the 1912 Olympic Games by the American swimmer Harry Hebner; the breaststroke, the oldest style of swimming (known since the 17th century); the butterfly, developed in the 1930s by Henry Myers and other American swimmers and recognized in the 1950s as a separate kind of stroke; and the sidestroke,which was the basic stroke in the early years of competition but is now used only in non-competitive swimming.


This interactive illustration captures four moments in the crawl stroke, which is the fastest swimming stroke.
The crawl is often called the freestyle because in freestyle races any stroke is allowed, and racers always choose to swim the crawl. In the crawl, the swimmer’s position is streamlined. The arms pull down through the water as the legs move continuously in a flutter kick. In this diagram, the swimmer is moving to the right.
In the crawl, one of the swimmer's arms moves through the air, the hand turning palm downwards ready to catch the water, elbow relaxed, as the other arm pulls back under the water. The legs move in what has evolved in recent years as the flutter kick, an alternating up-and-down movement from the hips, legs relaxed, toes pointed, feet turned inwards. Four to eight kick strokes per single arm movement are used. Proper breathing is very important in this stroke. One full breath can be taken in each arm cycle, with the swimmer inhaling through the mouth by turning the head to the side as the arm passes, then exhaling underwater as the arm comes forward again.


This interactive illustration captures four moments in the breaststroke. The breaststroke is the slowest competitive stroke, and during races the technique of the swimmers is strictly regulated to ensure a fair contest. In this diagram, the swimmer is moving to the right.


In the variation of the breaststroke known as the butterfly, both arms are brought forwards together over the water and then brought backwards simultaneously. The movement of the arms is continuous and is accompanied by an undulating movement of the hips. The leg kick, called the dolphin kick, is a whip-like downward motion of the un-separated feet.
This is a stroke where timing of the kick and the arm cycle are paramount. An inadequate butterfly technique can waste a huge amount of energy because of the double arm movement on recovery and propulsion, and the double leg kick. Practice makes permanent and the more efficient you can make this stroke the more power you will be able to generate where it is needed. Both arms break the water simultaneously, hand and forearms first, the arms swing outwards, elbows slightly flexed as they both continue to swing round and meet forward of the head, thumb and fingers first. As the hands come close to the body, they then press towards the feet, fully extending the arms at the elbow in preparation for the quick "flick" out of the water and to recovery (the big kick starts).


This interactive illustration captures four moments in the backstroke.
In the backstroke, a swimmer’s face remains above the water at all times, which allows the swimmer to breathe naturally throughout the stroke. The arms pull through the water as the legs move continuously in a flutter kick. Because backstroke swimmers cannot see ahead of themselves, they must look at objects in the pool area to determine their location, especially during races. In this diagram, the swimmer is moving to the left.
The backstroke is essentially the crawl stroke but with the swimmer's back turned to the water. Alternately, one arm is lifted, palm facing outwards, from beside the leg and is brought up behind the head while the other arm pulls the body through the water. The legs flutter kick.


This interactive illustration captures four moments in the sidestroke. The sidestroke is efficient and allows the swimmer to cover long distances without tiring. The face remains out of the water at all times, which permits the swimmer to breathe naturally. The sidestroke is not a fast stroke and is not raced in competition. In this diagram, the swimmer is moving to the right.
The sidestroke has many uses in non-competitive swimming.
It is helpful as a lifesaving technique and, because it is less physically demanding than other swimming strokes, is appropriate for long-distance swimming. It is also popular for recreational swimming because the head remains constantly above water. The swimmer, lying on either side of the body, moves the arms alternately. The arm under the water pulls from below the body, up above the head, forwards and out, and then back down to the thigh; the upper arm sweeps down to the thigh and then pulls forwards again up to the chest. The legs open slowly and then come together sharply, giving a propelling scissor kick before extending straight out.


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