The Side Stroke may be said to hold in swimming a position somewhat similar to that of running in pedestrianism; as it becomes better known, the advantages of this style of aquatic progression are becoming more and more appreciated. The practice of it, however, ought not to be begun until complete proficiency has been attained in the primary stroke. Its main recommendations are apparent almost at a glance.
A good average side movement will carry that swimmer a stroke in two seconds, each stroke covering a distance of fully six feet. The method is said by some to have been introduced by George Pewters about the year 1850.
The body is turned on either side, but preferably with the right side downward, as thereby the legs act more freely and naturally and the heart has no weight on it to impede its action. The head is more immersed and thereby reduced in weight, being supported by the water and not by any muscular exertion of the neck or shoulder, and the lower extremities are less immersed than in the breast stroke.
If one is lying on the right side, the right arms is thrown boldly out in front, with the palm of the hand downward and on a level with the lower side of the head. When pushed out to the utmost it is kept rigid, brought downward through the water in one strong movement, without any bending of either wrist or elbow, and this, positive action, is finished when the hand has reached the legs, and comes between these limbs at full stretch. It is then carried up along the body to the chin, and the stroke renewed. The left hand is formed into a scoop, turned outward by the wrist at right angles to the fore-arm. The left arm, with the elbow bent, is then directed outwards, and make a straight pulling (not circular nor swimming) stroke to the left hip. When one arm is performing the negative the other is at the positive part of the stroke.
The action of the legs should be long and vigorous, and they should never cross each other, but should work in unison with the arms and shoulders. The left knee is brought up in front of the body, with the foot in front of and at right angles to the body. Put the foot in a line with the front of the leg, and bring it round to meet the other in a line with the body. Meanwhile stretch the right or lower leg as far away as possible from the body toward the back and then bring it down to meet the other by a powerful plain stroke. The legs are then returned upward to the body, the heels touching, the knees apart, the toes of the left foot forward and of the right foot downward.
To learn this graceful and useful side stroke some persons need long and steady practice; others acquire it comparatively quickly. The swimmer steers with his left or right hand and arm as the direction demands. The head and neck must be held in one position, not raised nor turned at any part of the stroke. Bearings should be taken from what can be seen in the line of vision away from and in front of the body, and only very seldom indeed should the head be turned to look in advance. Breath is inhaled as the under hand is pulling downward, and exhalation should take place while the mouth is immersed, which is when the uppermost hand is performing the stroke along the body.
The coincident movement of arms and legs may be thus described. As the legs are bent up to the body the upper or left hand has been stretched in front and the right or lower arm has just finished the pull. As the top arm pulls downward the legs are opened wide and almost in the same motion swung round and closed. It will be apparent that the legs are returned upward with knees bent as the downward pull is being performed with the lower arm. No effort is to be made to sink the head, neither is it to be held up in any way. The turn of the body by the power of the strokes will be quite enough to allow of the lips being sufficiently clear of the water for the purpose of inspiration. There should be no sudden pull at any part whatever of this complete stroke.