Teaching Adults To Swim

When teaching adults to swim, it is crucial to adapt your teaching style to suit.  Adults will arrive on the poolside in all shapes and sizes and with different confidence levels.  However, one thing that they will all have in common is that they will all appreciate a relaxed and informal approach to being taught to swim. 

Adapt Your Teaching Style

Slow progress is entirely normal when teaching adults to swim and should not be looked upon negatively.  Most adults will require a more detailed explanation when giving instructions and teaching points.  For example, they will want to know why they need to kick their legs in a certain way. 

Teaching tips to help adult beginners reach their goal

As a swimming teacher, here are a few things you can do:

  • Be calm, relaxed and informal in your teaching style. This approach will help to relax your adult and keep them at ease. 
  • Adjust your expectations accordingly.
  • Take their limitations into account when planning. Exercises and drills that suit one swimmer may not work for another.
  • Be flexible in your approach. For example, fins or hand paddles (usually used in advanced drills) can often benefit adult beginners, as long as they do not become reliant on them. 
  • Be sensitive to their frustrations and always be supportive and empathetic in your response. 
  • Above all, use plenty of praise to stimulate and maintain motivation. At the end of each lesson, pick out the parts they showed progress in and highlight them as achievements of the session, however small they may be. 

For a definitive guide to teaching adults to swim, click here. 

teaching adults how to swim

Teaching Adults How To Swim 

Unlock the art of adult instruction and overcome the challenges of adult swimming lessons. 

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Teaching Adults To Swim Front Crawl

Teaching adults how to swim front crawl brings its barriers and limitations. These include:

Joint Flexibility

Generally speaking, adults lack flexibility all over, so the main area that requires a significant degree of movement is the shoulders when swimming front crawl. As a result, their arm action can often be quite limited. Arm pulls might be shortened, recovery over the water is often wide of the shoulder line, with much less elbow bend, and hand and arm entry can lack a stretch forward. 

The other area that adults often lack flexibility is in their ankles, which can affect the leg kick by preventing the feet and toes from pointing as they kick, making the overall kick inefficient and causing drag. A lack of movement in the ankles also means losing the relaxed flipper-like action as they kick.  

These areas' lack of flexibility often makes for a very inefficient swimming stroke.  

Fitness and Stamina

Whilst a lack of general fitness and stamina is not always the case for adults in the swimming pool, learning to swim front crawl could be a relatively new challenge, so it is fair to say they lack 'swimming fitness'. They could be a regular marathon runner or accomplished long-distance cyclist but still be utterly exhausted after swimming one length of front crawl, and this is very common.  

Teaching Adults Breaststroke Technique

Breaststroke is the perfect swimming stroke to teach adults because of its wide arm and leg movements that help build a sense of balance.  Adults can also perform breaststroke with the face-up and eyes looking forward, giving the pupil a sense of security and balance.  However, teaching adults how to swim breaststroke brings some barriers and limitations.  These include:

Limited Flexibility

adult group lesson

Generally speaking, adults lack flexibility all over, and the main areas requiring a significant degree of movement are the hips and ankles for swimming breaststroke.  As a result, their leg action can often be quite limited, and restricted movement of the ankles can result in a lack of power in the overall leg kick. 

An overall lack of flexibility can prevent the legs from being completely straight at the end of the power phase of the kick, and it can also limit the arms from stretching forward at the end of the recovery phase.  The result can be an inefficient body shape during the glide phase. 


adults learning how to swim breaststroke

Many adults lack coordination and will find the ‘pull-breath-kick-glide’ sequence tricky to master.  They will commonly attempt to pull and kick simultaneously and wonder why they seemingly go nowhere or, at best, travel through the water very slowly.

Add together these two most common limitations, and you have what most swimming teachers experience when teaching adults to swim - very slow progress. 

Teaching adults to swim just got a whole lot easier!

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teaching adults how to swim

Overcome the challenges of adult swimming lessons

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How To Be A Swimming Teacher


  • the essential qualities that make an outstanding swimming teacher
  • the equipment needed to teach effective swimming lessons
  • how to teach the all-important basics such as floating, breathing and submerging
  • how to plan and prepare swimming lessons that get results
  • why teaching adults is different and how to approach it
  • a detailed breakdown of all four basic swimming strokes
  • over 80 fully illustrated swimming exercises containing diagrams, teaching points and common mistakes

 Plus many more tools to help you master your profession and deliver outstanding swimming lessons.

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