The Overhand Stroke (or Overarm Stroke), when properly practised and acquired, is the most useful and easy of all styles of swimming. Beginners, however, should beware of acquiring it before they are thorough adepts with the side stroke, otherwise they lose all power of speed and good appearance.
Harry Gurr is sometimes said to have been the inventor of this stroke in 1863, but Harry Gardener, in August of the year previous, when he won the 500 yards championship in Manchester, used the overhand or over-arm stroke.
The only movements of the side stroke which differ from of the overhand are those of the left or upper arm and hand. By carrying this arm in the air a lengthened reach is obtained above the surface. As in the side stroke, the head lies as far as possible into the water, the body, legs, and feet in a straight line level with and close to the surface. The left arm is carried forward and stretched as far as possible out of the water in a line with the face and in advance of the head. The arm and hand re-enter the water, and are pulled through it with the strongest propelling stroke. The limb out of water should be carried through the air quietly, gracefully, and evenly till dipped for the stroke, not swung uselessly round from the shoulder in a half circle. The left arm and hand being in the air, the head lies deeper in the water than in the side stroke, and it is reduced in weight.
The legs work simultaneously with the left arm; that is, they are drawn up as this arm reaches in front, and are at their nearest wide stretch by the time it is in position for the pull; they are then pulled strongly together as the upper arm is performing its strong movement. At no time when the upper arm is being carried forward above the water should the hand be higher than a very few (say about three) inches above the surface. The elbow alone is elevated, and is the highest part of the arm. In fact, the hand is so close to the surface that, on being lifted upward after the delivery of the stroke, the wrist has to be bent; otherwise the fingers would actually touch the water. Once, however, the hand comes opposite the eyes it is straightened in a line with the fore-arm and in this position carried to the dipping point.
Breathing is regulated is precisely the same way as when swimming by means of the side stroke.