The Sidestroke evolved from the Breaststroke because swimmers wanted more speed.  The body position reduces frontal resistance and lets the face and one ear stay out of the water.  Propulsion comes mainly from the kick.  The stroke is easy to learn because the breathing is simple.  Because it is a resting stroke, it requires less energy for longer swimming without fatigue.  The sidestroke is used for both leisure swimming and lifesaving.


In the glide, keep the head, back and legs in a straight line, the legs fully extended and together and the toes pointed.  The body is nearly horizontal and on its side.  The leading arm (or bottom arm) is extended in front, parallel to the surface, palm down and in line with the body.  The trailing arm (or top arm) is fully extended toward the feet, hand above the thigh.  The lower ear rests in the water close to the shoulder.  The face is just high enough to keep the mouth and nose above the water for easy breathing.  Keep the head and back aligned through the stroke. 


Leading Arm

The leading arm uses a shallow pull.  Rotate the leading arm slightly to put the palm down and angled slightly outward.  From this catch position, bend the elbow and sweep the hand downward slightly and then back toward the feet, until the hand reaches the upper chest.

Trailing Arm

During the power phase of the leading arm, recover the trailing arm by drawing the forearm along the body until the hand is nearly in front of the shoulder of the leading arm.  Keep the palm down and angled slightly forward.  In the power phase, sweep the trailing hand downward slightly and backward near the body to the glide position. Start this phase with the wrist flexed but finish with it extended, so the palm is always toward the feet.

Sidestroke Arm Stroke


From the glide position, recover the legs by flexing the hips and knees and drawing the heels slowly toward the buttocks.  Keep the knees close together. 

At the end of the recovery,  to prepare for the kick, flex the top ankle and point the toes of the bottom foot.  Move the legs to their catch positions, top leg toward the front of the body, bottom leg toward the back.  When extended, the top let is almost straight.  The bottom leg extends the thigh slightly to the read of the trunk, with that knee flexed.

Without pause, press the top let (which stays straight) backward while extending the bottom leg, until both legs are fully extended and together in the glide position.  Do not let the feet pass each other at the end of the kick.  Keep the toes pointed during the glide to reduce drag.

The Inverted Scissors Kick is a reversed scissors kick.


Breathe with each stroke.  Inhale through the mouth while recovering the trailing arm and exhale in the power phase of the trailing arm.

Remember not to glide too long because it takes more energy to start and stop than to keep moving.

                         The Sidestroke


The trailing arm recovers OUT OF THE WATER.  This reduces the drag of the water on the swimmer.  The trailing arm recovers out of the water with a “high” elbow and the hand enters just in front of the face, similar to the front crawl.  The trailing hand enters the water as the leading arm finishes its power phase and the legs recover.


Information taken from “The American National Red Cross – Swimming & Water Safety ” 2004.

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Last updated: 07/05/2006