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Rules of Swimming You Should Know About

Kanika Khara Nov 20, 2018
The technical rules and regulations of swimming are designed to provide fair and unbiased conditions for the competition. To know more about them, read on.
Swimming is an aquatic sport in which the participant or swimmer aims to cover a given distance in the smallest amount of time. There are basically four competitive strokes used in Olympic swimming: the freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, and backstroke. The events are held in all of these strokes at varying distances.
The competitions for men and women are the same, except that the longest race for men is the 1500 meters while it is the 800 meters long for women. These events comprise either a combination of the strokes swum by one participant or by a group of four swimmers.
Like any other sport, swimming also has certain rules that are to be followed, else the participant can get disqualified. Here are some of the most popular swimming strokes that are included in all events or competitions, along with their rules and regulations.


In the Freestyle event, the participant can swim any stroke. However, the most commonly used stroke is the front crawl, which is characterized by the alternate stroking or movements of the arms over the water surface and a flutter kick.
  • On turns and finishes, some part of the swimmer has to touch the wall, though most swimmers do a flip turn.
  • Some part of the body should always remain above the water.
  • In conditions where the swimmer begins the race and makes turns at the end of each lap, he/she is allowed to remain submerged for 15 meters.


This stroke comprises alternate movements of the arms with a flutter kick while lying on the back.
  • On turns and finishes, the swimmer can rotate to the stomach and do a flip turn, ensuring that some part of his/her body should touch the wall.
  • The entire distance is to be covered on the back.
  • At the start, both the feet should remain under the water and after starting, the swimmer can be underwater for 15 meters.


Breaststroke involves simultaneous movements of the arms on the uniform horizontal plane. The hands are pressed out in front of the breast in a heart shaped pattern and retrieved under or on the surface of the water.
The kick is simultaneously performed in a circular motion just like the action of a frog.
  • On turns and finishes, the swimmer has to touch the wall with both hands at the same time, above or below the water surface.
  • There should be no asymmetrical arm movements and the swimmer must surface during each stroke.


This stroke features a simultaneous recovery of the arms over the water along with a flapping dolphin kick, wherein the swimmer has to keep both legs together without fluttering or using the breaststroke kick.
  • Like breaststroke, the swimmer has to touch the wall with both hands simultaneously on the turns and finishes.
  • The kick should be vertical, with both legs moving together.
  • It is not permitted to roll onto the back, anytime and there should be no asymmetrical arm pull.

Individual Medley

The stoke includes all four strokes, starting with butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and then freestyle.
  • The swimmer has to swim in the correct order, i.e. first the backstroke, then the breaststroke, then the butterfly and freestyle.
  • The swimmer is not permitted to rotate more than 90 degrees before, touching on the change-over from back to breast.


In this event, a group of four swimmers either swim freestyle or each swim one of the swimming strokes in the order of backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle (medley relay).
  • The swimmer has to swim in the correct order, i.e. back, breast, butterfly and freestyle.
  • The next swimmer cannot leave until the previous swimmer touches.
Apart from following these basic rules and regulations, the participant should also avoid making a false start, i.e., before the referee whistles, else the swimmer can get disqualified.