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Different Floating Positions in Swimming

author image Jen Morel
Jen Morel has worked in the newspaper industry since 2007. An experienced backpacker, she is a contributor to "AMC Outdoors" and other hiking/environmental magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in cognitive science and philosophy.
Different Floating Positions in Swimming
A senior woman is floating on her back. Photo Credit: Adam Pretty/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Knowing how to float in the water for long periods of time could save your life in an emergency. Although you often see swimmers floating on their backs, this is just one of many possible positions. Relaxing and staying motionless help you float more easily, regardless of the position. No matter how confident you are in your floating abilities, always carry a life jacket on any boating trip.

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Survival Float

The survival float uses very little energy, making it ideal for situations when you don't know how long you'll need to stay afloat. Lie on your stomach with your face underwater and your arms and legs dangling. When you need to breathe, bring your head back up and out of the water while pushing down with your arms and legs. After you take in a breath, hold it and relax completely for a few seconds to drop back into the water. When you need to breathe again, exhale as you bring your face back up out of the water.

Horizontal Back Float

When performing the horizontal back float, you don't use much energy, and you stay fairly comfortable. In the horizontal back float, you lie on your back in the water with your back slightly arched, your arms out to the sides and your legs straight. Your face won't go underwater and your legs, if relaxed, will float.

Vertical Back Float

In the vertical back float, as in the horizontal back float, your face remains above the water; however, in the vertical back float, less of your body floats above the water. While your upper chest and your face stay out of the water, your legs drop down below the surface. Keep your arms extended, and kick only when it becomes necessary to stay afloat.

Treading Water

Although it's technically not a type of floating, treading water makes it easy to transition between floating positions. Because your head remains completely above the water's surface, treading water is ideal in situations where you need to look at your surroundings. Keeping your arms outstretched, move them slowly just under the surface of the water while performing scissor kicks to stay afloat.

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