List of Swimming Skills

List of Swimming Skills

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

Basic Skills

There are a variety of basic skills within the sport of swimming, and the best competitive swimmers spend hours upon hours on each of the skills while on the path to greatness. Read on to learn more about the basic skills of swimming, so you can take the next step as a competitive swimmer too.

Breathing (Endurance)

Swimming has and always will be an endurance sport. For that reason, it is absolutely crucial that you are able to 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 something that can be developed over time with good practice.

Breathing (Timing)

Being able to take deep breaths is not the only aerobic skill involved in swimming. The other piece to breathing well while swimming is the timing of your breaths. To maximize efficiency across the pool or water, you should be taking as little breaths needed while covering as much distance as possible. It is often said that breathing every 2 strokes is best when swimming.


Having a proper dive can be the make or break in 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 as a turn. Depending on the stroke, you will need to complete a turn to boost yourself off the wall to send you into the next length of the race. Flip turns are allowed in only freestyle and backstroke races. In breaststroke and butterfly, an "open turn" is permitted in which you skillfully touch the wall and quickly throw your legs to the wall to boost off of.


When trying to learn the strokes, swimmers often think too much about their arms and forget about their legs. 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. Proper kicking technique is vital to having a good stroke.

Stroke Skills

Finally, and perhaps the most obvious skill, you must learn the strokes! In swimming, there are 4 unique strokes that are used in racing events. These include backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle (Listed in medley relay order).


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 in a gentle and efficient manner. Backstroke is a good teacher of balance for swimmers.


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


Often the most difficult to learn, butterfly is the most involved 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 for the best of the best.


The most natural and basic of the 4 strokes, freestyle is the easiest skill to learn. Freestyle is the stroke that closes any relay, and tends to be the fastest stroke. Quick motions and consistent movements and breathing are key to executing the freestyle stroke best.