List of Swimming Skills

List of Swimming Skills

Swimming may appear as a simple sport, but it is not as easy as it looks. There are several different skills that should be mastered to reach your highest potential in the water. Swimming well requires a combination of skills that result in excellent technique, endurance, consistency, and speed. Listed below are some of the skills required to master the sport of swimming.

Swimming Skills List

Below is a list of the most important skills needed for swimming:

Basic Skills

There are a variety of basic skills within the sport of swimming, and the best competitive swimmers spend countless hours on each of these skills while on the path to greatness. Read on to learn more about the basic skills of swimming.

Breathing (Endurance)

Swimming has been and always will be an endurance sport. For that reason, it is absolutely crucial that you have a strong aerobic capacity to be able to swim for extended periods of time. Having good lung capacity may be a genetic trait, but it is also something that can be developed over time with good practice. In addition to being able to hold your breath for a long time, it’s important to be able to swim continuously without running out of energy. 

Breathing (Timing)

Being able to take deep breaths is not the only aerobic skill involved in swimming. The other piece to breathing effectively while swimming is the timing of your breaths. To maximize efficiency across the pool or water, you should be taking as few breaths as possible while covering as much distance as possible. It is often said that breathing every two strokes is best when swimming. Swimmers must breathe seamlessly, not altering their stroke when taking a breath. To accomplish this, swimmers turn their heads sideways mid-stroke and breathe through their mouth. 


Having a proper dive can be the make or break of winning a race in the pool. Especially in short races, the dive can take up nearly half the length of the pool if extended in such a way. Diving can take two main forms: forward in most cases and backward for the backstroke. 


If your race features more than one length of the pool, then you will need to be able to execute a proper flip-turn to turn around quickly and powerfully. Flip-turns are also referred to as tumble turns or, most generally, turns. Depending on the stroke, you will need to complete a turn to boost yourself off the wall to send you to the next race length. Flip turns are only allowed in freestyle and backstroke races. In breaststroke and butterfly, an “open turn” (in which you skillfully touch the wall and quickly throw your legs to the wall to boost off) is permitted.


Having proper kicking technique is vital to having a good stroke. Swimmers often think too much about their arms and forget about their legs when trying to learn the strokes. However, kicking well is just as important as perfecting your arm techniques! To swim quickly, you must be able to kick quickly and efficiently to propel yourself through the water.

Stroke Skills

Finally, and perhaps the most obvious skill, you must learn the strokes! In swimming, four unique strokes are used in racing events. These include the backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle.


Backstroke is a good way to learn balance as a swimmer. In backstroke, a swimmer must be able to lay on their back in the water and move their arms in large circular motions as well as kick. This propels the swimmer through the water gently and efficiently.


Breaststroke is a very specific skill for swimmers to have, involving specific timing of their breathing and stroke technique. This combines the skills of breathing timing as well as efficiency in each stroke.


Often the most difficult to learn, butterfly is the most intense stroke in swimming. Butterfly is often looked at as the least efficient stroke from an energy use perspective but tends to be second only to freestyle in speed.


The most natural and basic of the four strokes. Freestyle is the stroke that closes any relay and tends to be the fastest. Quick motions, consistent movements, and breathing are key to executing the freestyle stroke best.


How can I improve my swimming skills?

Like any sport, the best way to improve swimming skills is with practice. A lot of the skills involved with swimming are physical, making repetition even more important. Finding a coach to help teach you the proper technique and different strokes is often the best route to becoming a better swimmer. Maintaining a healthy diet is also important in helping to keep your body in the best physical shape possible.

Why are swimming skills important?

Developing one’s skills as a swimmer not only allows you to move faster in the water, but it is also tremendous exercise. Swimming is a great way to develop your cardiovascular fitness, which can lead to improved respiratory and heart health. This is especially true because of the breath control needed to be a successful swimmer and the vigorous arm and leg motions required to quickly move through the water.

Freestyle and breaststroke are considered the two most popular swimming strokes. Freestyle is the fastest stroke and most resembles how the average person swims. While it may look the most traditional, it is not easy to master. Breaststroke is also extremely popular, because it is often the first stroke taught. Compared to the rest of the basic strokes, it is relatively easy to learn and is slower-paced than the rest.