Swimming blog - INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY Medley madness: the benefits of practising different strokes

You’d have to be crazy to just swim freestyle all the time. Completely bonkers to think that swimming another stroke is a waste of time. Absolutely barking to turn a blind eye to the benefits of practising other strokes. Yes, madness is the name of the game and all strokes swum together is called the Individual Medley. Let’s dive into it and watch three videos about how top perform the other strokes. 

The 400 meters Individual Medley is arguably the hardest individual distance that swimmers can swim in competition. The 400 individual medley is swimming a 100 of each stroke in the order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and front crawl. No mean feat when a 100 butterfly is enough for most swimmers. 

The best exponent of the Individual Medley at the moment, in any distance, is without a doubt Hungary’s Katinka Hosszú. She is the current world record holder in 100-meter individual medley and the 200-meter individual medley (long course and short course). She was the first swimmer (female or male) to hold world records in all five individual medley events at the same time.  She isn’t called the “Iron Lady” for nothing. 

You may not necessarily want to become an iron lady or man, so why swim other strokes? Below we lay out the best reasons why you should change your swimming and include other strokes.

Swimming the same stroke all the time, and typically freestyle for triathletes, can cause repetitive strain injuries that are niggly and can ruin your best swimming or triathlon season ever. Mixing up the strokes means using different muscles and movements that helps promote shoulder and muscle health. Breaststroke is a particularly good option for working your chest muscles and your hamstrings. Backstroke can help improve your posture since your muscles need to work to keep your back straight in the water. It can also help improve your hip flexibility. When swimming butterfly, you challenge your core muscles to keep your body stable as your arms and legs move simultaneously. You also work your arm, chest and upper back muscles to raise both of your arms up out of the water and over your head. Your body's position during the butterfly also helps improve overall flexibility. Let's get started on the butterfly with our 6 week butterfly course.

There is no better way to increase the intensity of your training than throwing in other strokes and/or an individual medley or two.  Think about it, 100 meters freestyle is a walk in the park, easily repeated countless times. A 100 meters butterfly feels like a little death and worth five times 100 freestyle. Swimming other strokes increases the intensity. Why is that? Every stroke has different breathing rhythms, muscle movements, power intensities and body positions, making it a mixed bag of skills and fun to keep us on our toes. Breathing to the front in butterfly and breaststroke while powering out of the water makes this tough. Being on our backs while remembering to breathe is a challenge in the backstroke and then last of all the freestyle with our faces in the water most of the time is difficult enough, as we already know.

Open water swimming is changeable in intensity and conditions, just like an individual medley. Go on, give it a try and make us proud. 

Learning another stroke will improve body coordination, muscle development and breath control. Each stroke requires a different mastery over our body and mind. The other strokes help improve our freestyle and here are the reasons why. 

In breaststroke, the in-sweep mimics the catch. Streamlining the body at the end of each stroke cycle will improve your body position in freestyle. 

Butterfly will help your pull through. Because there is no rotation of the body and your arms pull through simultaneously, your hands will follow the perfect pathway for a strong pull through, improving this beneficial element of the freestyle. A strong push out is cultivated while swimming butterfly and will stand you in good stead for the freestyle. 

Backstroke will keep your spine supple and teach you great body rotation. The still head position needed in backstroke can be copy pasted to your freestyle no problem. 
More than enough reasons to mix it up next you in the pool.

We don’t care if you can’t swim the other strokes well. Nobody else is looking and everyone is still learning in this beautiful sport of swimming. If you don’t try, you won’t know. And be less motivated to push the boundaries of your swimming to new levels. Unless you have a physical injury or impairment that does not allow it, just get in and swim medleys! See our SWODs that can be tailored to any stroke, distance and swimming level. 

We hope we have got you excited enough to join us in the madness. If not for us, then for your joints, muscles, freestyle technique and overall enjoyment of swimming.