Just like surfing, skating or skiing, swimming is above all a glide sport. These sports are all very popular for providing that same feeling of satisfaction that comes from being fully conscious of your body.

Glide in the four strokes

When swimming, the first desired quality is glide. It allows you to go faster without too much effort. Moreover, it allows you to get maximum enjoyment out of the challenging sport that is swimming. It really is the swimmer's Holy Grail.

However, swim glide is difficult to achieve. It comes from good propulsion, perfect positioning and excellent coordination.


Butterfly is a symmetrical and alternating stroke, which without optimum coordination can greatly hinder glide. The key is to time the undulations correctly to achieve effective propulsion, for rapid and smooth movement.

- The first undulation takes place at the end of the subaquatic traction of the arms. Its purpose is to propel the body forwards (and not upwards), so that you can breathe and anticipate the return of the arms.

- The second undulation comes almost immediately after the first. When the arms are extended in front of you. This is the precise moment when glide should be felt. The aim is to use the drive from the legs to stretch out in the water, to make the most of hydrodynamics.

When the best swimmers do butterfly, you can see that their stroke is smooth. Their undulations seem natural and continuous, and come from the whole body, not just the legs. This smooth glide technique provides better progress in the water and considerably reduces fatigue.

Glide in the four strokes


Backstroke is an alternating but asymmetrical stroke, which allows continuous, uninterrupted progress. However arm-leg coordination is also very important, especially for buoyancy. Obviously, a body that is horizontal in the water will glide and therefore move more easily.

The key to glide in backstroke lies particularly in the leg kicks. Aside from propulsion, they help to keep the pelvis afloat on the water and to stabilise the hips for perfect horizontal positioning, providing better hydrodynamics (reduced drag).

- The arm propulsion must move from the top towards the bottom of the body, to keep the movement smooth and provide homogeneous, continuous movement.

- The lower back must be slightly arched to lift the pelvis and hips.

- The leg kick frequency must be regular, to provide optimum propulsion and buoyancy for the legs. If this is not achieved, the legs sink in the water, creating resistance, which hinders glide.

On the back, the more elongated the body and the closer the legs are to the surface, the more effective the propulsion, providing better swim glide.

Glide in the four strokes


Like butterfly, breaststroke is a symmetrical and alternating stroke, which makes it harder to achieve glide. We can observe that the "discontinuous" nature of this stroke can create dead time, greatly slowing the swimmer down. Breaststroke differs from butterfly, because the movements are intermittent (whereas undulation is almost continuous).
Again, good coordination (dissociation of the arm-leg movements) is required for smooth and effective glide.

- Propulsion from the arms brings the head up to breathe. As the arms return in line with and in front of the body, this indicates the time to bring in the legs, preparing to kick.

- The frog kick of the legs must thrust them back as the arms are extending.

- Glide must occur directly after this phase. The leg propulsion must be quite strong to push the body forwards. The arm extension must be as hydrodynamic as possible to prevent drag. At this precise moment, do not rush, but make the most of this glide before restarting the cycle.

This smooth coordination, with the arms and legs providing propulsion alternately, without neglecting the glide phase, should increase the propulsive potential of your stroke and provide you with maximum sensation.

Glide in the four strokes


Like backstroke, the crawl is an asymmetrical, alternating stroke. Good coordination is crucial for effective swim glide. Without it, drag and dead time may arise, especially during breathing.

Once again, for glide, it is essential to achieve buoyancy and reduce obstacles to progress.

- Arm traction is from the upper body towards the lower body. Once the arms are back in front of you, take the time to extend them well, to provide the best glide through the water.

- Breathing must be as brief as possible, to avoid losing stroke alignment.

- As for backstroke (but this time on the front), the body must be "high in the water", with the pelvis lifted and the legs very close to the surface. Regular kicking provides propulsion and hip stability, and keeps the legs "high".

Most high-level crawl sprinters take these different elements to the extreme, for maximum propulsion, glide and hydrodynamics:

- Arms outstretched for range of motion.

- Holding their breath.

- Strong kicking for propulsion and buoyancy.

- Also, their chest tends to curve slightly to stay "high in the water".

Glide in the four strokes

Clearly, swimming is a sport in which body extension is highly important for effective movement under and over the water. A swimmer will swim even faster if they enjoy feeling the sensations of the water, such as glide.

And don't forget: When swimming, the water is not your enemy but your ally: don't fight against it, use it to help you glide, move and get maximum enjoyment!

Glide in the four strokes


National Swimmer & Dialogue Leader