Backstroke is a great stoke once perfected, don’t be afraid of this unique backstroke position that you need to maintain. Yes, it is a very different stroke to the popular front crawl stroke performed during freestyle and IM’s swim events, but with the right training and knowledge of backstroke techniques, plus backstroke drills you can be stokes ahead of your competitors.
Lets help you understand the fundamentals of how to swim and improve your backstroke. Its important to understand how to hold the correct body position, how to rotate the body, good arm pull, kick, and of cause breathing techniques.
To help you improve and perfect your backstroke, look at these 10 drills you can practice, each one including a short video to explain the drill more so you can also view the proper form used for the drill.
Body Position – you need to focus on your body position
Technique is key for your swimming, and you need to starts with an excellent body position. First of all to develop good backstroke technique, you need to understand how your body should move through the water. Maintaining a good technique and body position during the backstroke drills will allow you to swim faster, further because your body will be in a position where the water flows over the body giving more speedo.
The ideal body position for backstroke is to be parallel with the surface of the water, with your legs positioned slightly downward towards the bottom of the pool. Having your legs in this tilted downwards angle, will be enough to keep your feet from coming out of the water while you kick. To avoid resistance to the water and ensure a good flow Do not allow your hips to sink too low.
Keep your neck and head in a neutral position so that you are looking up. avoid looking down toward your feet, this will only cause discomfort to the neck muscles and will create drag, slowing you down. Just rest your head in the water, ears should be at the surface of the water to just underneath it.
Discover the how much Body Rotation you need to perfect your stroke
You will need to rotate your shoulders and hips as you swim backstroke. Imagine yourself pivot around the line of your spine this will help your hips and shoulders rotate simultaneously. Very similar to swimming freestyle, keeping the correct amount of shoulder rotation means you will generate the power through your arms to drive yourself through the water.
It is recommended that the shoulder should not rotate too much, ideally it should be around 30 degrees above the surface of the water, trying to go higher than this can affect your technique and efficiency of your stroke. Keep this in mind when you start out on your backstroke drills.
Focus on your Arm Pull During the Backstroke Drills
In backstrokers you must focus on your pull, this is what will truly speed you up propelling you across the water.
As your hand enters the water, your little finger should touch the water first. And should break the force of the waves on the same line that your shoulder is on.
As you begin to pull your hand back into the water towards your thigh, your arm will naturally start to bend. This is where you begin the power part of the stroke: your wrist and hand need to be positioned downwards towards the direction of your feet and fingers open, from here power the stroke into a steady pulling motion right through to the leg.
As your arm comes to the thigh, you will then lift it straight up, the thumb should exit the water first, you are now in a recovery phase before taking you take your next stroke. At this stage you should keep your arm straight as you continue into your next stroke.
Concentrate on the way each arm moves through the water. It is natural for your body to have dual imbalances; you need to ensure each arm performs the technique proficiently. You can train one side of the body at a time using the single-arm backstroke drill.
Getting the Backstroke Kick right
Getting your backstroke kick right can determine the efficiency of your stroke. You will use a flutter kick with the tops of your feet facing towards the top of the pool rather than the bottom.
A common error in backstrokers, is to have your feet too close to the surface of the water, therefore it is important to concentrate on your kick and the position of your feet relative to the surface of the water. If feet are too close you are in danger of finishing the kick with the feet out of the water and losing power to propel in the water.
You should ensure your feet are angled down a little towards the bottom of the pool. This will ensure that your kick does not break the water’s surface, giving you the ability to maximize the amount of water displaced with each kick.
Dryland training can be massively beneficial to strengthening your legs outside the pool. during dryland training.
Using a kickboard will improve your backstroke flutter kick drills. It is beneficial to, as well as, kick on your back, also train on your stomach and both sides as well to develop well-rounded strength in your legs.
You should train your legs for strength and flexibility (Note: you must discuss your training with your swim coach or physical training professional before beginning new strength and flexibility routines to ensure they agree with this training schedule and that it is suits you).
Breathing correctly and techniques
With backstroke your mouth and nose are always out of the water during, but it is still extremely important to ensure you regulate your breathing pattern, so concentrate on your breathing during your drill.
Try this breathing pattern, inhale as the right arm starts to entry into the water and to exhale as the left arm starts its entry into the water, reverse this if its suits you better. You need to perfect this breathing pattern during training and races.
10 Backstoke drills for you to Practice
Some simple exercises to improve your swimming stroke with regular practice. Its advised to see improvement, to practice each exercise at least twice with 15-20 seconds of rest between each lap.
Use your kickboard:Holding your kickboard with arms extended, lying on your back, after each stroke swap hands. do four strokes holding the kickboard above your head and repeat at hip height.
Kickboard Drill VIDEO
One arm drill:keep one arm alongside the body and use other arm to do a backstroke movement.https://youtu.be/aN1GBfZ84fg
One Arm Drill VIDEO
Breaststroke leg movement: at the end of each set, perform a breaststroke leg kick movement while swimming backstroke (breathe out during kick and breath in when moving arms).
Breastroke kick Drill VIDEO
The Glass challenge: Place/balance a glass right in the middle of your forehead, making sure it does not fall off (please use a plastic glass for safety) this can be fun at training sessions
Glass Drill VIDEO
Clenched-fist drill:Swim the backstroke with your fists closed.
Clenched Fist Drill VIDEO
Crossovers:Take a short break after every three arm strokes. put one arm at your side and extended the other behind your head. without your arms going underwater, change over your arm positioning using a half circular motion, so your arm above your head is now by your side and the arm by your side is now above your head
Crossover Drill VIDEO
Pullbuoy:put the pullbouy between your knees and swim backstroke to improve and concentrate on the backstroke pull, while isolating your legs from kicking.
Pullbuoy Drill VIDEO
Backstoke catch up drill: As one hand enters the water pause for 2 seconds and wait for the other hand to come out, as you continue your stroke with your arms at your side kick and start again
Pause for two seconds as one hand enters the water and wait for the other hand to come around. Continue your stroke and then kick with your arms at your sides before starting again.
Catch up Drill VIDEO
Sitting:attempt to adopt a seated position, swim backstroke with arms raised high ,do this for a few seconds, alternating with double arm backstroke,
Sitting Drill VIDEO
Swapover:with one arm holding the pull buoy in front of your face swim backstroke. Swap hands as your hands swing past, swap and continue your stroke.
Swapover Drill VIDEO
Backstroke Drills will improve your backstroke,
We hope these swimming tips and drills will help you in your practice sessions.
It is important to focus on perfecting your technique while you train. So concentrate keeping your body in the correct position during your drills: legs should not be too high and hips should not be too low. Rotation of the hips and shoulders at just under 30 degrees is perfect, your arms should be moving through the water with good form. Concentrate on keeping your breathing consistent and your kick powerful. Do this and without a doubt your backstroke drills training are sure to see you improve your backstroke, you will see it in your next race times.
Training at a new stroke can be difficult, especially on those muscles getting used to new demands, one great way to reduce sore muscles is to wear compression recovery wear after training. Womens compression wear
Mens Compression wear
Finally Back stroke start training with the Finis Backstroke Wedge
Once you have mastered your Backstroke technique the next thing will be to get race ready and here you will need to discover the back stoke start, as you can’t dive in to start a backstroke race. Finis have launched a low cost device to allow you to practice these starts where the pool you train in doesn’t have the backstroke starting blocks fitted during normal training sessions
A Great device to help you with your backstroke start
FINIS have developed the backstroke start wedge as an affordable way for swimmers to practice with a backstroke wedge before championship swim meets. The Backstroke Start Wedge is FINA compliant and can be used during training and competition as a way for swimmers to get an explosive start without slipping.
Practice before competition - Allows you to learn how to use the device, find your setting and optimize the benefits prior to competition
Explosive race start - Adds power and agility to swimmer’s backstroke start
Affordable way to gain experience - Coaches are finally able to outfit every lane with a backstroke starting device
Manual system- much more affordable and versatile than automatic devices
The FINIS backstroke wedge fits all standard block, it is compatible with single post, two-post, four-post and large-base blocks
Swimmers can easily customize the wedge height through five different settings thanks to the adjustable feature.
FINIS worked in collaboration with Vince Harris at WEDGE Swim Start Systems (County Cork, Ireland) to develop the FINIS Backstroke Start Wedge. Vince is an Irish engineer and swim dad who began making his own wedges for his daughter's swim team after learning how expensive they were. He had one goal in mind: to create an affordable alternative that fits all standard blocks.
For further advice and videos on back stroke technique take a look at our You Tube Channel