Swim technique – backstroke


I have been thinking for a whole about doing a little something on the competitive strokes. Kinda how I think about each stroke and a few ideas I try to implementhe.  A lot of it is textbook and I don’t pretend to be a revolutionary at all but it may be of some interest. 

I believe if you do the simple things very well you won’t go far wrong.

I may as well start on backstroke……seems as good a place as any.

The aim of every movement is to achieve the HIGHEST POSSIBLE FORWARD SPEED.  (This is true of every stroke)

In my head when I think Backstroke I think Lenny Krayzelburg so when I am thinking about models I want to (within reason) have my swimmers look like that. (Obviously a 5 foot tall girl will have to have some adjustments made)

The key points when I’m thinking about backstroke as a whole are

1 – avoid any unnecessation movements

2 – a smooth transition between relaxation and working on recovery and stroking 

3 – decrease resistance at all stages

4 – a transfered of power between stroking arms with correct timing.

Breathing on backstroke is very much and individual thing but if you think about a single arm stroke I like breathing in at start of recovery, holding breath during the entry and pull phase of the same arm then exhale during the push phase.

Arm movements

Remember the aim must always be to increase forward speed.

A few key thoughts

1 – each stroke should be soft on entry and accelerate to a finish

2 – I like the thought process to be that the push phase ends after the start of the recovery to help increase flow and stroke rate

3 – recovery should be opposite to the stroking arm through a fixed shoulderline (think kayaking)

4 – body position should be high and flat – there will obviously be some rotation but I am workimg on flattening this out to a degree (excuse the very bad pun 😊)

5 – 6 beat leg kick – kicking should be through the stroke (again I feel that flattening out rotation helps this a little)

6 – maintain a max distance per stroke

In order the achieve these things 

1- shoulder must be relatively high at the start of the pull

2 – catch occurs at the same time as the kick on same side

3 – the initial arm action must be, with a good catch, down and aside with a fixed elbow

3 – the opposite leg kick should be on a slight diagonal (though focus on kicking through the stroke not to the side) 

4 – the elbow and hand should be in line with shoulder at the mid point of the stroke

5 – there needs to be a ‘slow to fast’ movement through the pull/push/recovery phases

6 – entry on the recovery arm must be before the end of the push phase, while the recovery must be initiated before the pull phase of other arm

Overall the hand should be stuck to the water

So that’s pretty much it, like I said I’m not at all a revolutionary in my thinking on stroke mechanics I like the ‘keep it simple’ approach.

We only use 3 drills generally on Backstroke (on any stroke really)

1 – balance kick – with shoulder and hip rotation but aim for vertical leg kick

2 – single arm accelerating through push into recovery

3 – ‘lauries’ drill as a hesitation drill – hard to discribe so I’ll try post video at some point.


(We also use a speed drill on occasion)


After that we only change drills to correct any slip in technique.


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