Skills, Lifts, and Positions

Basic Skills


Sculls (hand movements used to propel the body) are the most essential part to synchronized swimming. Commonly used sculls include support scull, standard scull, torpedo scull, split-arm scull, barrel scull, and paddle scull. The support scull is used most often to support the body while a swimmer is performing upside down. Support scull is performed by holding the upper arms against the sides of the body and the lower arms at 90-degree angles to the body. The lower arms are then moved back and forth while maintaining the right angle. The resulting pressure against the hands allows the swimmer to hold their legs above water while swimming. Other sculls used in training include propeller and reverse propeller.


The "eggbeater kick" is another important skill of synchronized swimming. It is a form of treading water that allows for stability and height above the water while leaving the hands free to perform strokes. An average eggbeater height is usually around chest level. Using the eggbeater, swimmers can also perform "boosts", where they use their legs to momentarily propel themselves out of the water to their hips or higher. "Eggbeater" is also a common movement found in water polo as well as the "pop-up" movement. Eggbeating for a considerable period is also referred to as an "aquabob" and is used to build propulsion under water prior to a boost or pop-up.


A lift is when members of the team use their feet and legs to propel their teammates relatively high out of the water. They are quite common in routines of the older age groups.

Parts of a Successful Lift

There are three separate parts to every lift in synchronized swimming: The top (or "flyer"), the base, and the pushers.

The Flyer The flyer is usually the smallest member of the team. Flyers must be agile and flexible, with a preferable gymnastics background if they are jumping off the lift.

The Base The base also tends to be relatively small. She should have good leg strength and a solid core (when performing a platform lift, a strong core is essential).

The Pushers The pushers are usually the bigger, stronger members of the team and should be evenly spaced around the lift.

Types of Lifts

Platform Lift

The platform lift is the oldest form of lift. In a platform, the base lays out in a back layout position underwater. The top sets in a squatting position on her torso, and stands once the lift reaches the surface. The remaining teammates use eggbeater to hold both the platform and the top out of the water.

Stack Lift

A more modern version of the platform. The base sets up in a squatting position a few feet underwater, with the pushers holding her legs and feet. The top then climbs onto the shoulders of the base. As the lift rises, pushers extend their arms while both the base and top extend their legs to achieve maximum height. A common addition to a stack lift is a rotation while it descends.


A throw lift is set up exactly like a stack lift. However, when the lift reaches its full height, the "flyer" on top of the lift will jump off of her teammate's shoulders, usually performing some sort of acrobatic movement or position. This is a very difficult lift, and should only be attempted by experienced swimmers.


There are hundreds of different regular positions that can be used to create seemingly infinite combinations. These are a few basic and commonly used ones:

Back Layout

The most basic position. The body floats, completely straight and rigid, face-up on the surface while sculling under the hips.

Front Layout

Much like a Back Layout, the only difference is that the swimmer is on his/her stomach, sculling by his/her chest, and not breathing.

Sailboat/Bent Knee

Similar to the back layout, but one knee is bent with the toe touching the inside of the other leg, which remains parallel to the surface.

Ballet Leg

Beginning in a back layout, one leg is extended and held perpendicular to the body, while the other is held parallel to the surface of the water.


Similar to ballet leg position where bottom leg is pulled into the chest so that the shin of the bottom leg is touching the knee of the vertical leg.


Achieved by holding the body completely straight upside down and perpendicular to the surface usually with both legs entirely out of water.


While holding a vertical body position, one leg remains vertical while the other is dropped parallel to the surface, making a 90-degree angle or "L" shape.

Bent Knee

While holding a vertical body position, one leg remains vertical while the other leg bends so that its toe is touching the knee of the vertical leg.

Split Position

With the body vertical, one leg is stretched forward along the surface and the other extended back along the surface.


The body is in a surface arch position, where the legs are flat on the surface, and the body is arched so that the head is vertically in line with the hips. One leg is lifted, creating a vertical line perpendicular to the surface.

Side Fishtail

Side fishtail is a position similar to a crane. One leg remains vertical, while the other is extended out to the side parallel to the water, creating a side "Y" position.

side "Y": this is used in catalina.
Tub: Both legs are pulled up to the chest. Further descriptions of technical positions can be found on the International Olympic Committee website.