Lalie Chassaigne upside down sculling

How to scull upside down

This article is about one of the basic techniques of synchronised swimming: 
upside down sculling.

Many swimmers will tell you. When they say that they are synchronised swimmers, the same comments are often made, like "Your feet touch the bottom for lifts, don't they?", or "What do you put on your hair”, or "How do you push your legs out of the water like that?"
Well, we have the answer to that last question!

Lalie Chassaigne upside down sculling

What is upside down sculling?

Upside down sculling is a movement that allows swimmers to push their legs out of the water and to move during "upside down" figures, such as verticals or splits. It is one of the fundamental movements of synchronised swimming. 

In this movement, your arms are folded at 90°, with the forearms perpendicular to the body and parallel to the surface, and your hands quite flat. Only your forearms move. Your arms must stay close to your ribs, as your forearms are spread out sideways, slightly upwards and are then drawn together against your chest. 

Triple World Champion, Virginie Dedieu, shares her tips on upside down sculling.

It is very important to keep your fingers tight together and your hands as solid as possible, both held quite close to your body in order to make outward movements as quickly as possible.

How to scull upside down in synchronised swimming

The faster and longer the movement, the more effective it will be.

The pressure points can change between figures. In a straddle, the figure where the swimmer's body is at a right angle, with the back of their legs on the surface, position your hands slightly further away from your bust, then by the middle of your thighs. The body weight carried when sculling upside down differs from one position to another and, therefore, your pressure points must be adapted accordingly. 

Swimmers also do spins and twists in the upside down sculling position. Their legs turn in both of these figures! Spins are vertical half-turns at varying speeds and at the same height. In twists, however, the legs move upwards and downwards. 

The support sculling movement for twists is slightly different. One hand stays on your ribs, while the other is placed above your head. Quite technical really! 

You can start by working on your upside down sculling out of the water to get a good feel for the movement. Once you've mastered it, it's time to get in the pool!

Virginie Dedieu upside down sculling

Some exercises 

Virginie Dedieu shares two good exercises to practise your support sculling: 

- You can scull with your feet pressed against the wall or at the bottom of the pool, while trying to remain in contact with the sides. 

- You can also lie on your front and scull feetfirst for an entire length of the pool. 


Don't forget that the basic idea of upside down sculling is to push your legs up out of the water! To avoid being disturbed right from the start by gravity and your body weight out of the water, 
it is possible to gradually increase the degree of difficulty.

  • Virginie Dedieu upside down sculling

    Step 1

    Start off upside 
    down, with your legs folded and your shins
    on the surface of the water.

  • Lalie Chassaigne upside down sculling

    Step 2

    Then stretch one leg until it is vertical, and then the other leg!
    With both legs up in the air 
    it all becomes more difficult!

  • Lalie Chassaigne upside down sculling

    Step 3

    There is more weight to be carried out of the water, but you have to stay quite straight in order to remain perfectly vertical. Don't worry. You'll get there with some practice!

Lalie Chassaigne upside down sculling

Virginie dedieu and lalie chassaigne's 
dry exercises 

Virginie Dedieu's morning exercise when training. Do the splits, then make rapid inward and outward movements. This forces you to speed up your sculling, generate more pressure and move upwards. And as an added bonus, it will make you up! 

You can improve your technique by working on your support sculling out of the water with an elastic tether to build up your arm muscles! There are several different exercises. Like our ambassador Lalie Chassaigne, you can slip an elastic tether under your feet, tie knots at the ends to hold them firmly in your hands and then practise your sculling movement. You can also attach the elastic tether to a rail, slip it behind your back... In other words, there are countless exercises to warm up your muscles! 

So now you know all the secrets to effective upside down sculling! 
We look forward to seeing photos of your verticals on Instagram. Remember to tag us @natationartistique

Camille Adam

Camille adam

I was 9 years old when I discovered synchronised swimming. My Mum enrolled me in a club. I liked theatre, I was very comfortable in the water and fascinated by anything to do with glitter. And it quickly became very clear that synchronised swimming and I were in it for the long run! I love the type of efforts that this discipline demands. Stretching, holding your breath, moving around in every direction and every dimension, smiling, plus the teamwork. A team can be a source of huge strength! Helping each other, support, perseverance, perfectionism, stress management. Synchronised swimming was my best school of life, both as a swimmer and a coach.