Breaststroke Vs Freestyle (Front Crawl) – Muscles Worked, Calories Burned and Speed

breaststroke vs freestyle (front crawl)

Choosing the right swimming stroke has a huge impact on your overall experience in the water.

From burning calories, to strengthening specific muscles, different strokes bring with them unique benefits.

In the splashy showdown between breaststroke vs freestyle (front crawl), we’re diving into every detail, including the muscles each stroke works, their unique benefits, calorie metrics, speed benchmarks, and even recommending who each style is most suited to.

We’ll make sure you’re not treading water when it comes to deciding if you should glide gracefully with the breaststroke or power through with the energetic freestyle.

Quick Summary

  • Breaststroke – Rhythmic and gentler, it’s great for joint mobility, targeting the chest and legs, with an average burn of 200 calories in 30 minutes.
  • Front Crawl (Freestyle) – The speedy choice, it emphasizes the deltoids, lats, and core, burning up to 300 calories in 30 minutes.
  • Speed & Suitability – Breaststroke offers a calming glide ideal for beginners; front crawl gives an energetic sprint suited for speed enthusiasts.
  • Mechanics – While breaststroke utilizes symmetrical arm and frog-like leg movements, front crawl employs alternating arm strokes with a flutter kick.

Breaststroke Vs Freestyle (Front Crawl) – TL;DR

Breaststroke offers a rhythmic, joint-friendly swim, mainly targeting chest and legs, burning roughly 200 calories per 30 minutes.

Front crawl (freestyle) is the pool’s speedster, firing up the deltoids and core, while blazing away around 300 calories in the same time.

Breaststroke is probably more suitable for beginners and those just getting started.

Breaststroke Overview

Breaststroke is unquestionably the most common stroke you’ll see in local swimming pools because of its simplicity.

Swimmers employ a coordinated and simultaneous sweeping motion with their arms, paired with a circular, whip-like kick from their legs. The head rises above the water to breathe in sync with every arm cycle.

This distinct motion offers the swimmer a regular, rhythmic, face-above-water experience.

Muscles Worked

Jump into breaststroke and you’re diving into a full body workout as the motion targets major muscle groups.

Your quads and hamstrings get the burn from the powerful kicks, while your chest, shoulders, and triceps are engaged during the pulling motion.

Imagine merging the effects of a gym session consisting of squats, bench presses, and lat pull-downs, but in the refreshing setting of a pool.

Muscular Balance

With breaststroke targeting the chest, triceps and quads, it’s often useful to ensure you’re engaging the opposing muscle groups in your dryland workouts. Pull ups, hamstring exercises, and glute workouts can be worth considering.


Breaststroke doesn’t just offer visual elegance… it’s loaded with perks.

The stroke naturally enhances joint mobility, with an emphasis on the hips (this can be a great way to complement hip mobility exercises).

As for the ticker and lungs, they get a robust workout, improving cardiovascular health and lung function.

The rhythmic and steady nature of breaststroke can also be likened to a swimming meditation, promoting mental tranquillity with each stroke.

Calories Burned

You’re steadily chipping away at those calories with breaststroke.

A 30-minute session sends around 200 calories packing (on average, this ultimately depends on your speed).

So, if you ever indulge in an extra cookie or two, remember a breaststroke session can balance the scales, both mentally and physically.

Speed Benchmarks

While breaststroke prioritizes grace over speed, it’s no slouch in the pace department. For the everyday swimmer, cruising through the pool lanes using breaststroke averages around 30-40 seconds per 25 meters.

It’s the aquatic equivalent of a brisk walk/jog in the park, steady and purposeful.

Who Is This Stroke Suited To?

Breaststroke is the welcoming committee of the swimming world. It’s a favorite for beginners thanks to its straightforward rhythm and the frequent opportunities to breathe.

It’s also the preferred choice for those not too keen on having their face submerged for extended periods.

If you’re aiming for a rhythmic, full-body workout without the urgency of a race, the serene embrace of the breaststroke awaits.

Freestyle Overview

Front crawl, the superstar of the freestyle event, is characterized by its fluid and alternate arm strokes combined with a flutter kick.

As one arm reaches forward, cutting the water’s surface, the other pulls underwater, propelling the swimmer ahead.

All this is paired with a side-to-side breathing technique, making it a rhythmic and powerful stroke.

Muscles Worked

Choosing the front crawl? Prepare to light up a host of muscles. Predominantly, your deltoids, lats, and core do the heavy lifting. Your glutes, calves, and quads feel the kickback from the constant fluttering of the legs.

Imagine a workout that’s a cocktail of rowing, lateral raises, planking, and leg fluttering… all while making waves.

Muscular Balance

With front crawl targeting deltoids, lats and core, it’s often useful to ensure you’re engaging the opposing muscle groups in your dryland workouts. Chest exercises, pushing movements and full range of motion leg exercises can be worth considering.


Front crawl is swimming’s answer to a high-intensity workout. It boosts cardiovascular endurance, enhances lung capacity, and hones your core strength.

With the continuous arm rotation and flutter kicks, it’s both a muscle endurance test and a fat-burning fiesta.

Mastering the side-breathing technique can also elevate your overall swimming prowess… although it might take some practice if you’re new to the stroke.

Calories Burned

Turn on the burn with front crawl! A vigorous 30-minute session can torch upwards of 300 calories, depending on intensity.

This makes it one of the best strokes for those looking to burn calories.

Speed Benchmarks

Front crawl is the speed demon of the swimming world. Casual swimmers, with some practice, can achieve timings of around 20-30 seconds per 25 meters.

If breaststroke is a brisk walk, front crawl is your sprint, zipping you from one end of the pool to the other.

Who Is This Stroke Suited To?

While the front crawl’s mechanics might seem complex, it’s versatile, suiting both beginners and pros.

It’s ideal for those who crave speed and efficiency. If you’re all about maximizing your workout and love the sensation of surging forward with power, then the front crawl is calling your name.

But, mastering the breathing technique can be a tad challenging for some, but once aced, it’s smooth sailing… or rather, swimming.

So, Which Stroke is “Better”?

BreaststrokeFront Crawl (Freestyle)
Muscles WorkedEngages the chest, quads, and hamstrings more.Targets the deltoids, lats, and core intensively.
BenefitsEnhances joint mobility and offers a meditative rhythm.Boosts cardiovascular endurance and sharpens core strength.
Calories Burned~200 calories in 30 minutes.~300 calories in 30 minutes.
Speed30-40 seconds per 25 meters.20-30 seconds per 25 meters.
Who’s it Suited For?Beginners and those seeking a rhythmic, serene experience.Those chasing speed, efficiency, and a more robust workout.
Main Mechanical DifferenceSymmetrical arm movements and frog-like leg kick. Head rises for air with each arm cycle.Alternate arm strokes, flutter kick, and side-to-side breathing.

Which stroke works more muscles, breaststroke or front crawl?

Both strokes offer a full-body workout, but they emphasize different muscle groups. Breaststroke particularly engages the chest, quads, and hamstrings, while the front crawl (freestyle) lights up the deltoids, lats, and core more intensely.

So, while both are comprehensive, they have unique muscle focal points.

Breaststroke vs. Front Crawl: Which one has more benefits?

It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Breaststroke enhances joint mobility and offers a meditative rhythm, while front crawl boosts cardiovascular endurance and sharpens core strength. Each has its standout benefits based on individual goals.

Which burns more calories: Breaststroke or Front Crawl?

The front crawl takes the lead here. A vigorous 30-minute session of front crawl can burn upwards of 300 calories, while the same duration of breaststroke averages around 200 calories. But remember, intensity and technique can influence these numbers.

Between Breaststroke and Front Crawl, which is faster?

Front crawl wins the speed race. Casual swimmers can achieve around 20-30 seconds per 25 meters in front crawl, while breaststroke swimmers often take 30-40 seconds for the same distance.

Who should choose Breaststroke and who should go for Front Crawl?

Breaststroke is ideal for beginners and those seeking a rhythmic, serene experience without prolonged face submersion. Front crawl, on the other hand, caters to those chasing speed and efficiency in their swim. It’s a bit more technical but offers a robust, fast-paced workout.

What’s the main difference between Breaststroke and Front Crawl?

In terms of mechanics, breaststroke uses symmetrical arm movements and a frog-like leg kick, while front crawl utilizes alternate arm strokes and a flutter kick. The front crawl also demands a side-to-side breathing technique, whereas in breaststroke, the head rises above the water with each arm cycle.

Bottom Line

Diving into the pool and torn between breaststroke and front crawl?

Breaststroke, with its rhythmic and balletic motions, is gentle on joints and perfect for beginners. It targets the chest, quads, and hamstrings, burning around 200 calories in 30 minutes.

On the flip side, front crawl is the sprinter of the pool, working the deltoids, lats, and core, while torching up to 300 calories in the same timeframe.

Try both and see which one you prefer.

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