HomeSWIMMINGCOMPETITIONSSimplified Rules of Swim Racing

Simplified Rules of Swim Racing

The rules for swimming can seem very complicated and confusing when your children start to compete, so we have drafted some simple rules for them to follow. 

There are a few finer details of the rules which will need to be observed once swimmers compete at higher levels.


  • The stroke sequence must be one arm pull followed by one leg kick throughout.
  • The arm movements must be simultaneous.
  • The leg movements must be simultaneous.
  • The feet must be turned out at the backward kick (like a frog!)
  • The hands must not be brought back beyond the hips (apart from at the start or after each turn).
  • The touch must be with both hands simultaneously at the turn and at the finish.
  • The head must come up during each stroke - no underwater swimming except after start/turns (where one underwater arm pull and one leg kick is allowed!)


  • The swimmer must remain on the back throughout the race except to perform a turn (which must be completed in a continuous action).
  • The swimmer must touch the wall at each turn but leave the wall on the back.
  • The swimmer must be on the back at the finish.
  • The swimmer must not be completely submerged, except for up to 15m after the start or turn and after the 5m mark whilst reaching for the finish.


  • The arms must be brought forward together over the water
  • The arms must be brought backward under the water simultaneously
  • The legs must be kicked together in an up and down movement (no alternating kick allowed).
  • The touch must be with both hands simultaneously at the turn and at the finish.


  • Freestyle means any stroke, except when it is the Freestyle part of Medley races (where it is usually Front Crawl)


  • In Backstroke, Butterfly and Freestyle some part of the body must be above the water at all times from 15 metres after the start and each turn.
  • Swimmers must not walk on the bottom of the pool.
  • Swimmers must touch the wall at each turn and at the finish.
  • Swimmers must not pull on lane ropes.

Individual Medley (IM)

  • Individual Medley means equal distances of Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle.
  • The strokes must be swum in the order listed above and rules must be followed for those strokes, including the finish of each stroke.
  • Freestyle must not be Butterfly, Backstroke or Breaststroke (it will usually be Front Crawl).

The Start

  • The start is signalled by short blasts of a whistle (get ready!) followed by one long blast of the whistle.
  • At this point the swimmer takes up the starting position on the block, pool edge or in the water if this is backstroke. For backstroke there is a second long blast of the whistle (hold the starting grips with both hands, facing the wall with feet on the wall).
  • The starter says ‘Take your Marks’ (take up starting position and keep still). When everyone is still the starter then sounds the starting signal. The swimmer must not move or start the race before the starting signal.
  • Swimmers not yet competent in forward-facing racing starts from the starting block or poolside may start in the water. They must enter the water on the long blast of the whistle and stay in contact with the side, rail or block with at least one hand until the start signal.
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