How To Tread Water

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Learning how to tread water can be a massive confidence booster.  It is an essential swimming skill that can help conquer fears and anxieties in beginners and enhance and grow strength in both children and adults.

 Treading water is a very useful water skill that serves as a safe and controlled way of remaining at the surface whilst in deep water, with the head above the water.  

It is an effective way of building confidence in deep water and can enhance basic skills such as changing direction and avoiding collisions in the pool.  It is also a very necessary skill that is needed for lifesaving and survival skills. 

What each part of your body should do when treading water…

discover and learn how to tread water

Body Position

As treading water is a skill that is performed in one place (in other words, not swimming around), the body position should be as upright and vertical as possible. 

Leg Kick

There are many variations of leg action when it comes to treading water.  Children tend to find it easier to 'cycle' in the water as the action is similar to that of riding a bicycle or running. 

Different leg kicks include:

  • Breaststroke - kicking in a downwards action
  • Alternating kick (similar to front crawl) - this is inefficient and tiring
  • Scissor kick - similar to breaststroke but with an uneven action
  • Egg beater kick - this is an alternating breaststroke kick and is the most efficient action 

Arm Action

The main aim of the arm action when treading water is to help keep the body in a vertical position and keep the head above the water surface.  

The movements of the arms should be underwater and relaxed at all times to help preserve energy.  Techniques that can be used include:

  • Breaststroke arm action - this is the basic arm technique, but adapted to include a slightly more downward action instead of the standard 'pull back'.  The downward action results in an upward thrust, thus giving support when treading water.
  • Sculling action - similar to breaststroke, the sculling arm action take place just below that water surface and is continuous and relaxed.  The hands and forearms perform a 'side-to-side' scooping type action with the palms facing downwards.  The general action should  provide a downward push, keeping the body lifted and supported. 

Breathing and Timing

Breathing should be regular and steady, with the mouth and nose out of the water at all times.  Which ever combination of arm and leg actions are used, all movements should be slow and relaxed. 

Learning How To Tread Water

When it comes to actually learning how to tread water, all practices should take place in either shallow water or water of chest depth.  Only move into deeper water when you are absolutely confident, staying close to the side or having some additional support in the form of a suitable adult, on stand-by. 

Try these out…

  • Standing in shallow water, practicing the arm actions.
  • Using a woggle under the arms, practice the leg actions until you find one that comes easiest.  
  • Using a woggle in a 'seahorse' position, practicing arm and leg actions.
  • Holding a float under each arm, practicing the leg actions.
  • Without floats, sculling and lifting one leg off of the pool floor at a time.

Need some more swimming skills to add to your treading water?

Give your swimming confidence the boost it really needs by learning how to relax, float, glide and breathe exactly how and when you need to… 

Let The Complete Beginners Guide To Swimming take you by the hand and support you through every difficult stage and over ever tricky hurdle.  From conquering your fears right through to learning what each part of your body should be doing during the four basic swimming strokes, The Complete Beginners Guide contains everything you could possibly need.  


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Inside You Will Discover:

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  • how to conquer your fear
  • how to float
  • how to relax and glide
  • how to stop and stand up
  • how to swim the four basic strokes

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