How to Tread Water - Techniques and Drills

Learning how to tread water is an important basic swimming technique the novice must master to gain water confidence. Basically, treading water consists of moving your limbs to keep your head above water and your body afloat in a vertical position.

A group of kids treading water and having fun.

Learning how to tread water opens up lots of possibilities for having fun.

This article will show you two different ways of treading water, a popular style and then my own personal style. It will also give you a sequence of exercises to learn this technique.

Treading Water Using a Popular Style

One of the popular ways to tread water consists of sculling water in a horizontal plane with your arms and flutter kicking in a vertical plane with your legs:

Basically to scull water you extend your arms sideways at shoulder level and then sweep them forward and backward at the water surface and push with your palms against the water. The pressure of your palms and forearms against the water creates some lift that keeps your body afloat.

The flutter kick also provides some lift that helps keeping your body afloat. To flutter kick you simply kick alternatively with each leg forward then backward with a long supple leg. Your feet should point toward the bottom of the pool.

Treading Water Using My Personal Style

I learned how to tread water as a child and I don't really remember if we were given precise instructions on what we should do with our arms and hands. As a result the technique is less refined but it works well for me:

What I basically do is the following:

  • My arms are angled at about 90°, with my forearms horizontal and pointing forward, my palms turned downward and my elbows close to the body.
  • Then I make circles with my hands, they move down and outward, then up and inward, then down and outward again and so on. What I basically do is to push down the water in a circular motion.
  • My feet also do a circular kind of motion that is similar to a breaststroke kick. The initial position is with my knees bent and my feet in their natural resting position.
  • Then I move my feet down and outward while they go in plantar flexion, then they move up and inward in dorsiflexion. So what I basically do is to push down the water with the inside of my lower leg and foot.

Learning How to Tread Water - Popular Style

To learn how to tread water using the popular style, you can practice the following exercises:

  • First practice the swimming exercises given in the sculling water and flutter kick articles.
  • Then grab a water noodle, place it around your back and under your armpits. Make sure the water noodle by itself is enough to support you in the water.
  • Using the water noodle, practice sculling water and flutter kicking simultaneously.
  • Practice these motions up to the point where they provide enough lift to support you in the water even without a swim noodle.
  • Finally when you feel confident enough, remove the swim noodle and attempt the technique without floatation devices. In the beginning only do this under supervision of an experienced swimmer or a lifeguard.

By the way some instructors use the breaststroke kick or eggbeater kick as alternatives to the flutter kick, but I think they are more difficult to master for a beginner.

Learning How to Tread Water - Personal Style

To learn how to tread water using my personal style, you can practice the following swimming exercises:

  • Practice the breaststroke kick on dry land.
  • Practice the breaststroke kick in the water using floatation aids.
  • Grab a swim noodle, place it under one armpit, around your back and make it exit under the other armpit. Make sure that the swim noodle by itself is enough to support you in the water.
  • Practice the arm and leg motions in a vertical position, first separately and then together.
  • Practice these motions up to the point where they provide enough lift to support you in the water even without a swim noodle.
  • At that point make sure to have a friend or a lifeguard supervise you, then try to tread water without a swim noodle. At first do short repeats, then slowly build up your endurance.

Conclusion

Knowing how to tread water has several advantages in addition to giving water confidence:

  • It also allows you to cover short distances in the water.
  • It allows you to stop in the middle of a swim and to orient yourself while swimming in open water.
  • It allows you to stop to recover your breath if you have swallowed water.
  • It allows you to stop to rinse your swim goggles if they are fogged up.
  • etc.

So it really is worth spending some time learning this basic swimming technique. Good luck and enjoy swimming!

Comments

Rules: Please note that spam, disrespectful comments or very short comments that don't add to the discussion will be deleted. Thanks for your understanding and have fun!

comments powered by Disqus

Return to Top