Sculls And Lifts: Basic Synchronized Swimming Skills

One of the five aquatic sports currently being supervised by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) is synchronized swimming. This sport combines swimming with gymnastics and ballet. Accompanied by music, synchronized swimmers perform a sequence of complex moves.

Performers in a competition are judged based on three criteria: difficulty of every movement; satisfactory execution and synchronization of routine; and the ease projected by the swimmers while performing the elaborate moves.

Obviously, synchronized swimmers are no ordinary swimmers; they ought to possess grace, flexibility, artistry, perfect timing, endurance, and power all at once. Also, competitors need to have superior breath control, which is especially important while performing underwater upside down.

Overall, competitors need to have advanced water skills. Specifically in synchronized swimming, several sets of basic skills are used. Two of these are the various forms of sculls and the different types of lifts. The following notes describe how each of these basic skills is performed:


Ordinarily, sculls are oars used to propel a boat forward. Thus in synchronized swimming, sculls are hand movements used to propel the body. It is impossible to perform synchronized swimming sans the different sculls that include foot-first, head-first, barrel, split, thrust, paddle, and support.

The latter is used to support the body during an upside down routine. In this skill, the upper arms are held against the sides of the body, while the lower arms - which are moved back and forth - are angled 90 degrees to the body. This causes some pressure to work against the hands which, in turn, enables the swimmers to hold their legs above water while performing their routine.


These skills are used to propel teammates out of the water. The three different types of lift are platform, stack, and throw.

In the platform type of lift, one of the members of the team prepares in a back layout position; another member (the one to be lifted out of the water) then stands on top of the one lying down. The rest of the team lift the "platform" out of the water using a technique called "eggbeater". In this technique, swimmers momentarily propel their bodies out of the water with the use of their legs.

The stack lift is a sort of an improvement of the platform type. It is made up of the member to be lifted (called the "flyer"), the pushers or lifters, and the base (not lying down, but in a squatting position this time). This results in a higher lift because both the flyer and the base are able to extend their legs.

The throw is considered the most difficult among all the types of lift. Its setup is similar to that of the stack lift. On reaching the lift's peak, the flyer performs acrobatic movements.

Synchronized swimming is usually performed in duets or teams, but may also be performed individually. Depending on the rules and the technical requirements of a competition, a routine can last from 2 to 5 minutes. Large teams understandably need to perform longer to complete the elements of their routine.

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