Tips for Effective Backstroke Technique | STACK
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Tips for Effective Backstroke Technique

October 15, 2012 | Gary Mullen

Backstroke Technique

Feel like a upside-down turtle every time you attempt a backstroke? Of the four competitive swimming strokes, it's the only one where you lie on your back and can't see the wall, which definitely adds a level of difficulty. (Design your swim training program.)

The key to a successful backstroke is finding a comfortable body position, where you're able to breathe without distress. The next essential step is learning how to kick and propel yourself forward. After you perfect that, your arms must move like a propeller, working as a single unit, not as separate entities. Finally, backstrokers must coordinate the timing of their legs and arms to maximize propulsion and to maintain a streamlined body position. (To develop a straight back, try Olympic swimmer Mark Gangloff's Streamline Against Wall.)

Let's take a closer look at this progression to make you a master of backstroke technique.

Backstroke Technique

Breathing

At first glance, the backstroke looks like freestyle flipped. However, the different angle distorts many aspects of swimming, most notably breathing. As with all swimming strokes, relaxation in the water is the first step for improvement. If relaxing on your back is a problem, spend time simply floating on your back until it feels comfortable. Make sure to overemphasize the position; it should feel like you are leaning back, making your body a seesaw, since lying back and pressing your upper back down naturally raises your hips.

People seldom lean too far back when learning backstroke technique. Keep working on this body position until you're floating on your back and your breathing is free and easy.

Kick

To achieve the correct body position while kicking, remember to keep your kicks small and initiate from the hips. Streamline is essential, so keep your body as straight as possible. Another important point is that knee flexion provides the most power in your kick. (see Get Instantly Faster by Improving Your Freestyle Swim Kick Technique)

Propel

Once you're able to kick in the streamline position, it's critical to make your arms work like a propeller. As one arm enters the water directly above the shoulder, pinky finger first, the other arm should be exiting the water next to the hip, thumb first. To maximize distance per stroke, keep your elbow straight as your arm recovers. Once the arm enters the water, bend the elbow and orient the upper arm, forearm and hand toward your feet.

Putting It All Together

To achieve results with the backstroke, your whole body must work cohesively. If your arms and legs are not coordinated, they will actually work against each other, causing unnecessary drag. Take controlled, methodical arm strokes that work in concert with your legs. Kick toward the surface of the water with one leg as your opposite arm exits the water. As your right arm starts to exit the water, your left leg should be kicking towards the surface of the water.

Timing is the key to success. When you first learn proper coordination, perform less frequent kicks. Once you master the synchronization, your legs should  kick approximately six times for each cycle (one stroke for each arm).

Topics: SWIMMING
G. John Mullen
- G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California, where he served as a clinical research assistant investigating adolescent...
G. John Mullen
- G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California, where he served as a clinical research assistant investigating adolescent...
Must See
Michael Jordan: Mind of a Champion
Views: 545,004
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,798,216
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,551,323

Featured Videos

Tim Tebow's NFL Off-Season Workout Views: 135,407
Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Views: 14,586
Elite Performance With Mike Boyle: Train the Core While Standing Views: 311,611
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Patrick Willis' Homegrown Off-Season Workout
Views: 1,221,618
STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,105
How Greg Nixon Gets More 'Twerk' on the Track
Views: 950,576
Corey White's Off-Season Guide to Making Plays
Views: 1,396,869
Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes
Views: 2,814,024

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

4 Tips to Become a Better Softball Pitcher

Although my career as a softball pitcher ended decades ago, I still identify with the sport because it continues to shape me off the field today. After...

Shooting Drills That Will Make You a Knock-Down Shooter

Preparation Nation: DeMatha Stags

Basketball Dribbling Drills: Use Chaos to Develop Killer Handles

How QB Ryan Tannehill Beats the Blitz

Drive Defenders Crazy With These Super Moves from NBA Legends

Improve Your Basketball Passes With Med Ball Exercises

10 Essential Point Guard Drills From Skylar Diggins

3 Secrets of the NBA's Best Shooters

Use These 3 Principles to Improve Your Basketball Defense

How Ryan Mathews Returned to Highlight Reel Status

Success With Health: How Trevor Bauer Increased His Velocity

The 4 Fundamentals of Hitting a Baseball

Develop an Unstoppable Crossover Dribble With Just 3 Drills

4 Soccer Drills to Shoot Better While on the Move

Why Basketball Players Must Improve Their Weak Hand

4 Drills That'll Help You Become an Elite Running Back

3 Things You Are Doing Wrong In Your Basketball Training

Basketball Shooting Technique: How to Shoot a Floater

Boost Your Fastball With This Weighted Baseball Workout

WATCH: 5 Post Moves From Nerlens Noel

3 Offensive Line Drills That'll Help You Keep Your QB Clean

Wide Receivers: Learn to Catch Every Jump Ball, Every Time

Become a Better Point Guard With This Training Program

Improve Your Jump Shot with Core Strength

Winter Soccer Workout to Improve Ball Handling

Drills for a Better Pole Vault Swing

How to Create a Killer Crossover Without a Basketball

Softball Pitchers: How to Play Your Best Over a Complete Season

How to Improve Your Football Skills Mid-Season

Why You Shouldn't Specialize in One Sport Too Soon

3 Steps to Better In-Game Baseball Hitting

Andrew McCutchen Is Raking His Way to Consecutive MVP Honors

5 Drills to Improve Your Soccer Dribbling Skills

These 3 Route-Running Drills Will Help You Get Open

This 13-Year-Old Girl Would Strike You Out

QB Skills and Drills: How to Master the Bubble Screen

2 Drills to Help You Play Lockdown Basketball Defense

Build a Better Layup With These Basketball Speed Drills

5 Things You Can Learn From Playing Pre-Season Basketball