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How to Tread Water for Long Periods of Time

Learn how to tread water for long periods of time in this step-by-step tutorial

Learning how to tread water for long periods of time is a very important water survival skill to have.

In this article, you will first learn how to tread water for beginners. You will then advance to learning how to tread water without hands and how to tread water for 10 minutes or more.

Treading water is the most energy-efficient way to stay in one spot, and this method is the most efficient way to do it.

For safety, you should learn to tread water before doing any other water-based training.

How To Tread Water Video

Here’s an abridged version of this post in video format for those of you that prefer to watch than read. The complete article continues below the video.

How to Tread Water Introduction

When you first learn to tread water for a long time, do so in shallow water and with a lifeguard present. Progress to deep water when confident.

While treading water your body is vertical in the water and your head is above the surface. Your arms and legs work to keep you afloat. Torso movement is minimal.

So, exactly how do you tread water?

There are a few ways to do it. Explained here is how to tread water egg beater style with hand sculling. The eggbeater kick is not the easiest way to tread water when first learning, but it is the most energy efficient. Doing it this way will increase how long can you tread water for. It is the best way to tread water.


To skull, move your arms horizontal in the water, back and forth — not up and down.

Turn your palms in the direction that your arms are moving. Angle your thumbs a little up on the way in, and your pinky fingers a little up on the way out.

Keep your back straight. Don’t lean forward or backward.


Keep straight

Vary the width of your stroke. Sometimes your hands remain far apart, and sometimes they almost come together.


Vary the width of your stroke

You can start by practicing this in shallow water. Find a depth where you can keep your head above water whilst you kneel down.

Begin the sculling action with your hands, enough to raise your knees off the bottom.

When you are ready, move into deeper water. Have your feet directly underneath you, toes pointing straight down.


Practice in shallow water first

Eggbeater Kick (Rotary Kick)

Using the egg beater to tread water can be tricky to learn but it is worth going through the trouble. In comparison to the alternatives (such as the flutter kick), it is the most energy efficient. If you want to know how to tread water without getting tired, the egg beater kick is the best way to do it.

Okay, you'll probably get tired eventually. But you will last longer with this method than any other.

To do the eggbeater kick, move your legs like an eggbeater. Each leg rotates in a different direction. It is like a breast-stroke kick done one leg at a time. When one leg kicks out, the other should be coming in.

To begin learning the egg-beater kick do it on dry land by sitting on the edge of a chair. Sit up straight and move only your right leg in a counter-clockwise circle.

Next, move only your left leg in a clockwise circle.

When you are ready, join these two leg movements together. As your right leg goes out, your left leg comes in. At all times one leg comes in while the other goes out.

Once you have the coordination, practice the egg-beater kick in the water.

Lift your toes as you press down, so that your flat foot pushes down on the water, helping to propel you up.

Also, point your toes as you bring your foot up so that you have less resistance.

Do not extend your legs completely. If they become straight you will lose upwards propulsion.


When one leg kicks out, the other comes in

Treading Water

Once proficient at sculling and the eggbeater kick you can stay afloat by doing ONLY one or the other. You can perform tasks with your hands while staying afloat in one spot, and/or you can stay afloat in case of a leg injury.

By putting the two actions together you conserve energy in both your arms and legs. This is ideal for a survival situation when you need to tread water for long periods of time.

When treading water, stay calm and slow down your breathing rhythm. This will maximize your conservation of energy.

How to Tread Water Video

Here's a video by Dream To Swim showing how to tread water using the eggbeater kick.

The Best Way to Tread Water Conclusion

Now you know how to tread water swimming or stationary. Well, the theory anyway.

In practice, it takes a bit to get the hang of the egg-beater kick. You may find yourself resorting back to the flutter kick, but try not to.

Knowing how to tread water with the egg beater kick is worth the trouble. You will be able to tread water for longer this way.

Did you find this article about how to tread water for longer useful? If so, please share it with your friends.

Article by Sam Fury

Sam Fury 3 png
Sam Fury 3 png

Sam Fury is the creator and owner of the Survival Fitness Plan.

He has had a passion for martial arts and outdoor pursuits since he was a young boy growing up in Australia.

As a young adult he joined the military and studied outdoor leadership in college. After that, to further his skills, Sam started traveling to learn from the best in the world in various fields related to the Survival Fitness Plan including various martial arts in China, SE Asia and Brazil, Parkour in Singapore, Surf Life Saving in Australia, and others. 

These days, he still enjoys learning new things, traveling and sharing what he has learned via the Survival Fitness Plan. 

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