A gif showing how to tread water from an underwater view

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Floating in sea is easier because salty water is more dense, hence more buoyant. Although floating is easier, moving your body against a thicker liquid would be more difficult. In addition, sea water is more violent due to the higher degree of flow. A strong current requires extra effort to avoid being swept away. Not to mention all the sea creatures lurking under your feet, which would keep you from fully enjoying the experience. So to sum it up, treading water in sea or swimming pool gives you a good workout. While swimming pool provides more safety, sea water gives you more resistance to work against. 

Treading Water In Sea V/S Pool

5. Use equipment

Especially non-buoyant equipment with large surface area. By treading water with the equipment you will be training your muscles to perform the movement more efficiently. For example using water paddles will build your upper body muscles and improve your arm pull. 

First person view of aqua dumbbells exercise

4. Put your arms above the water

This will place extra weight on your legs and make them work harder to stay up. This can be really tough so make sure you stretch before and that you are with a professional supervisor. You can also hold an object above water, for added resistance. 

Underwater view of a character's arms above water in the deep end

3. Tread water with clothes on

​When ​clothes absorb water they become stiff and cling to your skin, which makes it harder to move in the pool. This may feel very uncomfortable at first, but after several times you will get used swimming with soaked clothes. Don't use your best clothes and wash them properly after you finish. Most swimming pools don’t allow non-waterproof garments so this is best practiced in private pools. 

A character with full clothing in deep water

2. Legs only kicks

Put more load on your leg muscles by keeping the arms still. The goal is to strengthen your leg muscles and make your water treading more efficient. You can do frog kicks or flutter kicks. 

Underwater view of breaststroke kicks

1. Arms only sculling

Using your arms only will make your arm muscles work harder to keep you afloat. Move your arms in and out, scooping the water with the inside of your hands. This will improve your arm technique and make you more comfortable in the water.

underwater view of arm sculling

As I mentioned earlier, any movement that helps keep your head above water is treading water. Experiment with different movements and see which one feels more natural. You should choose a pace that's just fast enough to get you through the workout. Concentrate on breathing and keep good form throughout the workout. 


5 Exercises You Can Do To Improve Your Treading Skills


There are number of exercises which you can do to improve your treading technique and duration. You can put more weight on your legs, use either your legs or your arms separately, or use water equipment to increase resistance. Here are some of the exercises you can do:

Flutter Kicks

​Flutter kicks are small leg movements that propel a swimmer forward. When done vertically, as in treading water, they push your body upward. ​Although small, flutter kicks are very powerful because of the continuous motion of the legs. To reduce the pressure on your legs you can optionally move your arms in and out. Slightly rotating your body side to side would also assist in the ease of movement. This technique works your core and front leg muscles. 

Arm sculling  and flutter kicks water treading from an underwater view

How To Choose The Right Movement?


This is a combination of leg kicks and arm sculling, in a walking or cross-country motion. You will feel the upward force with each front kick. The alternate sculling motion will help you stay afloat more comfortably. ​If you do this long enough, you will feel the muscles of your back, shoulders and front thighs. The arm twisting motion will active your forearm muscles as well. Breathe in and out with each cycle. 

An underwater view of alternate arm and leg cross motion

Breaststroke Kicks

This method is very effective for people who are struggling with floating. Do simple breaststroke kicks and downward arm pushes at the same time. You should feel an upward boost with each stroke. Perform fast enough to keep your head above water. Breaststroke kicks activate your core and front leg muscles. Arm pushes will give your lat muscles a good workout too. Breathe out each time you exert a downward pressure. Take advantage of the upward boost to breathe in. The air in your lungs will help you float better during the recovery phase. 

Underwater view of a breaststroke kick water treadingk
Underwater picture of water treading
17 December 2022

Treading Water Exercise

The best skills to develop are the ones that will help you survive. Treading water is a skill that everyone should learn. This is something that is vital for lifeguards, soldiers, and anyone who is planning to spend time in the water. Treading water has been part of military training and survival skills throughout history. More recently, water sports and first aid courses have incorporated treading water.


Treading water is the ability to keep one's head above water in an upright position by moving legs and arms. So think of it as swimming in place. Treading water is a simple skill which you can learn with practice. There are many ways to tread water. Some of them are more effective than others, and some require different muscles to perform. This makes treading water an excellent workout routine to do in an impact-free environment. Treading water is very important for swimmers, as it allows them to maintain their position in the water without sinking. Lifeguards also must master this skill to be able to pull a drowning victim to safety.


Benefits of Treading Water


Here are Top 11 Benefits of Water Treading


  • Improves coordination. That is because of the arm-leg continuous and simultaneous interaction which trains your brain to control the movement. The more you practice treading water, the more difficult it becomes to make better coordination of your body. Treading water is also one of the best ways to stay fit, because it's really hard work. Your arms and legs have to be fully engaged as you tread water.
  • Improves muscle strength. Treading water involves working against water resistance, which in turn make muscles stronger and increases your ability to withstand pressure. 
  • Help you learn to swim. Treading water is an essential swimming technique that every beginning swimmer must master. It helps you gain confidence in the pool and progress to more advanced techniques.
  • Increases endurance. Treading water is a moderately intense activity you can do for a longer period of time, which builds stamina.
  • Reduces the risk of drowning. The way we move when we face danger is a result of our instinct, not a conscious thought process. As a result, our movements can be inefficient and slow. Learning how to tread water properly is an important skill in case of a drowning emergency. Proper treading technique will make you use less energy, preventing fatigue and in a result lower the risk of drowning.
  • Improves posture. Treading water keeps your body upright for an extended period of time. Your postural muscles work hard to maintain that position and stay afloat. These muscles include your abdomen, back and torso. They help provide stability to your body. 
  • Helps develop core strength. Water treading is an excellent exercise for strengthening the core muscles. The constant bending of the leg that happens during the treading motion mainly targets your abdomen muscles. In addition, trying to maintain your body position against water resistance, boosts your core muscles. 
  • Improves concentration. When we do activities that are long and require concentration, our minds wander off. But when treading water our main focus is to keep the head above the water. So the mind is pinned on that task for a longer period of time. 
  • It doesn't require a lot of space. Floating vertically means you won't be using up a lot of space. This gives you many advantages, especially with social distancing rules.
  • Low impact. moving your whole body while floating in a weightless environment has zero impact on your joints. This makes it a great way to get a total body workout without worrying about injuries.
  • Improves balance. After some time of treading water you will start to to feel the pressure of water from all sides. It will feel like you are fighting your way to stay up. This builds up strength in the muscles that keep us balanced on land. 




Treading water is one of the most basic swimming techniques. It’s really a simple technique that requires some getting used to. But once you learn it, the movement will become second nature. Basically, to tread water, all you have to do is remain upright and keep your head above water. Whatever leg and arm movements you choose to perform are fine, as long as your head doesn't sink. The trickiest part however is not getting tired. That is why your movement has to be slow and steady. Although you can be creative with movements, there are a some very effective techniques. Make sure you give those a try next time you're in the pool:


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