Not many people are aware of the side stroke as it isn’t used in swimming competitions. Hence, it isn’t swum as often compared to the other strokes such as the breaststroke, the freestyle and the backstroke. Here’s a short video clip of what it looks like:


The body movements might seem a little awkward the first time to see it. Still, it offers certain advantages and it’s definitely fun to learn!

Body Position

Start by lying on your side with your legs extended out. Your lower arm should be extended to the front in the water and your upper arm should rest flat on the side of your body. This is the position to maintain while swimming the side stroke.

Head Position

Your head should be aligned with your spine and half of your face should be in the water, while the other half above. This enables you to breathe easily and also, gives you a clearer vision.

Arm Movement

Firstly, bend your lower arm at the elbow and push it back against the water. Make an insweep until your hand reaches a few inches in front of your chest with your palm faced upwards. At the same time, bend your upper arm and slide it forward until your hand is above your other hand. Both your palms should be facing each other and your upper arm’s palm turned downwards. The next motion involves your lower arm extending back to the front while your upper arm pushing against the water in a backward sweep till it reaches its initial position. This marks the end of a cycle.

Leg Movement – Scissors Kick

First, bend your upper leg and bring your knee towards your chest along with your foot. Simultaneously, bend your lower leg and move your foot towards your rear end. Once your legs are unable to spread further, extend them, push against the water and bring them back to the initial position. Simultaneously, your feet should execute an opposite semi-circular motion. Once a new cycle is about to begin, bend and spread your legs in opposite direction, then extend and squeeze them back together. Finally, glide through the water.


You should start to exhale once your arms part and until the glide is over. You can start to inhale when your arms are moving towards your chest.


Firstly, the main purpose of the side stroke is for rescuing victims when they’re drowning. Secondly, it’s a much more relaxed stroke that can be used for long-distance swimming. Thirdly, it can be an alternative to the usual 4 competitive stroke to keep your swimming sessions interesting.


Well, I think the main drawback is that it can’t be used in competitions. Apart from that, you won’t be able to see what’s ahead of you as your face will be turned sideways.

To sum it all up, here’s an illustration in picture form to give you an idea of how the side stroke is being swum.

Want to learn the side stroke? Why not sign up with Happy Fish? We only offer instructors who are certified. To register, you can visit us at We sure hope to see you soon! =)