What is Sculling?

A quick guide to swim strokes


Generally defined as propelling through water, sculling is most often associated with rowing, or the movement of sea animals, but it is also a swim technique that allows swimmers to tread water or to slowly propel themselves forward. Sculling is simply the continuous motion of the hands and forearms, which change angles to create propulsion.

To practice sculling, get to the deep end of the pool and start vertically. Try to use your feet as little as possible while you allow your hands to do most of the work. Bend your elbows so your hands are out in front of you and a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Think of how you would hold a large box or tray. Then turn your palms inward, at a downward angle and move your hands in. Your hands should be at a 45-degree angle, with palms facing each other and the pool floor.

When they get close to the middle, switch the direction of your palms and move your hands away from each other. Your palms should now be facing outward, but should still be facing the pool floor at a 45-degree angle. Push through and then repeat. Continue the motion at a steady pace and focus on your hands moving through the water.

Take a look at the Go Swim video on sculling for reference.

Sculling drills are used by people learning to swim and expert swimmers alike, because they help teach propulsion and efficiency of movement and the drills build strength. Water polo players, synchronized swimmers and everyone in between regularly use the technique.

Incorporate sculling into your pool workouts to see improvements in upper body strength and more efficient strokes.

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