Swimming the Backstroke: Understand the Proper Form and Technique

Backstroke, although it is implied that it's on the back, is actually on the side. The swimmer should be rotating from one side to the other. This makes it easier for the pulling arm to 'grab' water, makes it less stressful on the shoulder joints, and decreases water resistance. However, the head should remain relatively still.

The recover phase of back stroke involves the arm exiting the water by the hip. As it exits the thumb should be the highest point. As the hand reaches the highest point the hand should be turned so the baby finger enters the water first. The elbow should remain straight, and because the swimmer is rolling from side to side, the recovering shoulder should exit the water a bit. The recovering arm should not cross over to the other side, e.g. the center of the chest. If this happens chances are the swimmer will not swim in a straight line. As the recovery arm enters the water it will become the pulling arm.

During the propulsion phase the hand enters the water with the small finger first. While close to the surface there is very little propulsion created. The hand continues to move downward in the water until it is just underneath the shoulder. By now that same shoulder should also be under the water as the swimmer is rolling on that side now. The arm/elbow should now bend so the swimmer can 'grab' water with the hand and the forearm. Then the hand comes closer to the hip as the swimmer pushes the water towards the legs. The arm should be fully straight before beginning the recovery phase.

Although the face is always out of the water the swimmer should try and develop a regular breathing rate. And there should not be any breath holding.

Flutter kicking is used for propulsion but also for balance. Ideally the swimmer should try and get about 4-8 kicks per stroke. Small fast kicks are best. Ideally, in back stroke, the feet should be slightly under the water. If the feet are splashing this is an indication of wasted energy. But, if the legs are too low in the water than they will create unnecessary drag and slow down the swimmer.

The backstroke is started in the water with the swimmer grabbing on to the bar of the starting block. Feet are on the wall but just under the water. Just before the starting gun the swimmer pulls up, then springs backwards while arching the back so they enter the water hands and arms first. The swimmer will then stay underwater in the streamline position (arms overhead) and will dolphin kick for a maximum of 15 meters. Upon breaking the surface they will begin flutter kicking and and the arm pulls.

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