Learning how to tread water is an important skill for beginners to master in order to gain confidence in the water.
Treading water is a basic swimming technique, where you move your limbs to keep your body afloat in an upright position with your head above water.
This article will show two different styles of treading water, one popular style and then my personal style.
Afterwards, we provide a sequence of exercises to learn this technique.
Below is a video showing both ways of treading water:
Treading Water Using a Popular Style
1) To scull water, raise your arms sideways to shoulder height and then move your arms forward and back, pushing against the water with your hands.
The pressure your arms and hands exert on the water creates some buoyancy that keeps your body afloat.
2) The flutter kick also provides some lift that helps you to keep your body afloat.
To flutter kick, you kick alternatively with each leg forward then backward with a long supple leg. Your feet are pointed in direction of the ground.
Treading Water Using My Personal Style
I learned how to tread water as a child, and I don’t 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 do is the following:
1) 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.
2) Then I make circles in the water 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 the water down with circular movements.
3) My feet also do a circular kind of movement that is similar to the breaststroke kick. The initial position is with my knees bent and my feet in their natural resting position.
4) 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:
2) Then grab a swimming noodle, place it around your back and under your armpits.
Make sure the swimming noodle by itself is enough to support you in the water.
3) Supported by the swimming noodle, simultaneously scull the water with your arms and flutter kick with your legs.
4) Practice these movements until they provide enough lift to keep you afloat in the water, even without a swimming noodle.
5) Finally, once you feel confident enough, remove the swimming noodle and try to tread water without floatation devices.
In the beginning, only do this under the supervision of an experienced swimmer or a lifeguard.
Note: Some instructors use the eggbeater kick as an alternative to the flutter kick, but I think it is more challenging to learn for beginners.
Learning How to Tread Water – Personal Style
To learn how to tread water using my personal style, you can practice the following swimming exercises:
3) Grab a swimming noodle, place it under one armpit, around your back and make it exit under the other armpit. Make sure that the swimming noodle by itself is enough to support you in the water.
4) Practice the arm and leg motions in a vertical position, first separately and then together.
5) Practice these motions up to the point where they provide enough lift to support you in the water even without a swimming noodle.
6) At that point, make sure to have a friend or a lifeguard supervise you, then try to tread water without a swimming noodle. At first, do short repeats, then slowly build up your endurance.
Knowing how to tread water, in addition to giving you water confidence, also helps in the following cases:
- 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.
So it is worth spending some time learning this basic swimming technique. Good luck!
You may also be interested in the following articles that cover basic swimming techniques:
Hi, I’m Christophe! I’m the owner of and main contributor to Enjoy-Swimming.com.
I’m an avid swimmer and I have been running this website since 2010 to share my passion for swimming.
You can find out more about me and the creation of Enjoy-Swimming.com by visiting the about page.