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Trend Trading: How to Follow Trends and Profit from Them

Fat Day Trader

May 4, 2023

11 min read

In the ever-evolving world of finance, trading strategies come and go, but one method has stood the test of time: trend trading, also known as trend following.

Trend trading is a popular strategy used by both novice and professional traders to capitalize on the momentum and directionality of market trends.

In this article, we will delve into the essence of trend trading, explore effective entry and exit techniques including scaling in and out of positions, discuss risk management in detail, and compare the trend following approach with swing trading and day trading.

Lets get started.

Trend Trading: How to Follow Trends and Profit from Them

Trend trading is a strategy that aims to identify and profit from sustained market trends. The underlying principle is to follow the path of least resistance and capitalize on the momentum of an established trend. Unlike other strategies that rely on predicting market reversals or short-term fluctuations, trend traders seek to ride the trend until there are clear signs of a reversal.

Trend Identification

Before entering a trade, it is crucial to identify a trend. Traders often use technical analysis tools such as moving averages, trendlines, and indicators like the Average Directional Index (ADX) to determine the presence and strength of a trend. By analyzing price charts and patterns, traders can identify upward (bullish) or downward (bearish) trends.

When it comes to price trends, there are three main types that traders look for: uptrends, downtrends, and sideways or horizontal trends.


An uptrend is defined as a series of higher highs and higher lows. In other words, each successive peak is higher than the last, and each successive trough is also higher than the last. This type of trend indicates that buyers are in control and that prices are likely to continue rising.

When it comes to uptrends, traders should look for a series of higher highs and higher lows that show that the price is moving up. Traders can look to take a long position when there is an uptrend, as it indicates there is momentum in the market pushing prices higher. To best take advantage of an uptrend, it is important to pay attention to signals in the market to identify the trend.


When it comes to trend trading, understanding the concept of a downtrend can be key to success. A downtrend occurs when prices are consistently moving lower on the chart. Traders look for different technical indicators to help determine if a market is in a downtrend.

Once a downtrend is identified, the trader can begin to look for opportunities to capitalize on it. Likely scenarios include entering a short position when current price levels move lower or exiting a long position when prices move up. Knowing how to read and react to a downtrend when trading can be a valuable skill for any trader.

Advantages of Trend Trading

Trend trading offers several advantages. Firstly, it provides a systematic and objective approach, reducing emotional biases. Secondly, by capitalizing on established trends, trend traders can potentially benefit from extended market movements. Lastly, trend trading can be applied to various asset classes, including stocks, commodities, currencies, and cryptocurrencies.

Entry Techniques in Trend Trading

Entering a trade at the right time is crucial for trend traders to maximize their profit potential. While there is no fool proof method, here are a few popular entry techniques used by trend traders:

Breakout Entry

This technique involves entering a trade when the price breaks above a significant resistance level (in an uptrend) or below a significant support level (in a downtrend). Traders often wait for confirmation by looking for increased volume or a strong price momentum following the breakout of support or resistance.

For example, in a bullish trend, a trader may wait for a stock's price to break above a long-term resistance level before initiating a long position.

Pullback Entry

Pullbacks occur when the price temporarily retraces against the prevailing trend before resuming its original direction. Traders using this technique enter trades during the pullback, anticipating the trend to continue.

For instance, in an uptrend, a trader may wait for the price to pull back to a key support level or a moving average before initiating a long position.

Scaling In and Out of Positions

Scaling in and out of positions is a technique employed by trend traders to manage their exposure to a particular trade. Scaling in refers to gradually increasing the position size as the trade moves in the desired direction. This allows traders to add to their positions and potentially maximize their profits. Conversely, scaling out involves gradually reducing the position size as the trade progresses, ensuring a partial exit at favorable price levels and securing profits.

For example, a trend trader may initially enter a trade with a partial position size and add to it as the trade gains momentum and shows further confirmation of a strong trend. Similarly, when scaling out, the trader may gradually sell a portion of the position as the trend progresses to lock in profits while still holding a portion of the position to capture potential further gains.

Exit Techniques in Trend Trading

Determining the right time to exit a trade is just as important as entering it. Trend traders employ various exit techniques to protect their profits and limit potential losses. Here are a few common exit strategies:

Trailing Stop Loss

Trailing stop loss is a powerful risk management tool used by trend traders to protect their profits and limit potential losses as a trade moves in their favour. Unlike a traditional fixed stop loss order, which remains at a static price level, a trailing stop loss dynamically adjusts as the price of an asset moves in the trader's favour. Here's how a trailing stop loss works:

When entering a trade, a trader sets an initial trailing stop loss level, which is typically a fixed distance or a percentage below the current market price. This initial level ensures that the trade has room to breathe and allows for minor price fluctuations without triggering an early exit.

Tracking the Price Movement

As the trade moves in the trader's favour and the price increases, the trailing stop loss adjusts dynamically. It follows the price at a fixed distance or percentage, maintaining a predefined distance below the highest price reached during the uptrend.

For instance, if the stock's price increases to $55, the trailing stop loss will adjust accordingly, trailing 5% below the new high. In this case, the trailing stop loss would move up to $52.25.

Protecting Profits and Managing Risk

The trailing stop loss continues to track the price, always maintaining the specified distance or percentage below the highest price achieved. If the price starts to reverse and reaches the trailing stop loss level, the trade is automatically closed, locking in profits.

By adjusting the stop loss level upward as the price rises, the trailing stop loss enables traders to protect their gains during favourable market conditions. If the price retraces, the trader will be stopped out with a profit that corresponds to the distance between the entry price and the highest price reached.

Allowing Room for Volatility

Trailing stop losses are designed to account for market volatility. They provide some flexibility and prevent premature exits due to minor price fluctuations or temporary pullbacks. This flexibility allows traders to stay in a trade as long as the trend remains intact, while still protecting against significant reversals.

It's important to note that the specific trailing stop loss level chosen depends on the trader's risk tolerance, time frame, and the volatility of the asset being traded. Traders may experiment with different trailing stop loss distances or percentages to find the optimal balance between protecting profits and allowing for market noise.

In summary, trailing stop loss is a dynamic risk management tool that adjusts as the price moves in the trader's favour. By trailing the price at a fixed distance or percentage, it allows trend traders to protect their profits during favourable market conditions while providing a buffer against sudden reversals. Traders should carefully determine their trailing stop loss levels based on their risk management strategy and market conditions to optimise their trading outcomes.

Moving Average Crossover

Moving average crossover is a technique that involves using two or more moving averages with different time periods. When the shorter-term moving average crosses below the longer-term moving average, it signals a potential exit point.

For instance, if a trader is using a 50-day and 200-day moving average, a crossover where the 50-day moving average crosses below the 200-day moving average might trigger an exit signal.

Risk Management in Trend Trading

Successful trend trading relies on effective risk management to preserve capital and navigate potential losses. Here are a few essential risk management practices for trend traders:

Position Sizing

Position sizing refers to determining the appropriate amount of capital to allocate to a single trade. It involves considering factors such as account size, risk tolerance, and the volatility of the asset being traded. Risking a small percentage of the trading capital per trade helps protect against significant losses.

For example, a trend trader may decide to risk a maximum of 2% of their trading capital on any given trade.

Setting Stop Loss Orders

Stop loss orders are essential risk management tools that allow traders to exit a trade when it reaches a predefined price level. By setting a stop loss order, traders limit their potential losses in case the trade moves against them. Stop loss levels can be based on technical indicators, support or resistance levels, or predetermined percentages.

For instance, a trend trader may set a stop loss order at a level that represents a significant breach of the trend or a violation of a key support or resistance level.

Comparing Trend Trading with Swing Trading and Day Trading

Trend trading, swing trading, and day trading are all popular trading approaches, but they differ in terms of time horizon and trading strategies.

Trend Trading vs. Swing Trading

Trend trading focuses on capturing the longer-term trends and can involve holding positions for weeks, months, or even years. It aims to ride the trend until there are clear signs of a reversal. In contrast, swing trading involves capturing shorter-term price swings within the context of a broader trend. Swing traders typically hold positions for a few days to a few weeks.

Trend trading provides the advantage of potentially capturing more substantial price movements, but it requires patience and the ability to tolerate larger drawdowns. Swing trading allows for more frequent trading opportunities, but the profit potential may be limited compared to trend trading.

Trend Trading vs. Day Trading

Day trading involves entering and exiting trades within the same trading day, aiming to capitalise on intraday price fluctuations. Day traders typically do not hold positions overnight. In contrast, trend trading focuses on capturing longer-term trends and may involve holding positions for an extended period.

Trend trading offers the advantage of being less time-intensive, as traders do not need to monitor the markets constantly. It also reduces the risk of being affected by intraday volatility and news events. However, day trading allows for quicker realisation of profits and offers more frequent trading opportunities.


Trend trading is a popular strategy employed by traders to profit from established market trends. By identifying trends, using effective entry and exit techniques including scaling in and out of positions, and practising sound risk management, trend traders aim to capitalise on sustained price movements. While trend trading does not guarantee profits, it offers a systematic approach that aligns with the age-old adage of "the trend is your friend." As with any trading strategy, it is crucial to conduct thorough research, practise disciplined execution, and adapt to changing market conditions to increase the likelihood of success.

Furthermore, trend trading can be contrasted with swing trading and day trading, as each approach offers distinct advantages and considerations based on the trader's time horizon and trading style. By understanding the nuances of these strategies and tailoring them to individual preferences, traders can make informed decisions and improve their chances of success in the dynamic world of trading.

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