5 Tips for a Better Backstroke

5 Tips for a Better Backstroke
Since I'm doing so much work with swimmers on stroke correction these days, the second blog in my series of tips on stroke correction focuses on getting better in the pool in backstroke!

Head position:
You need a steady head to go through life smoothly, and it's literally as important to have a steady head if you want to swim your backstroke in the best way possible. It's the most important part of your body in this stroke.The more steady you keep your head, the straighter you will swim. No one wants to swim more than the race distance and swimming crooked with an unsteady head will only slow you down, and yes increase distance. A steady head promotes rotating around your spine and avoids lateral movements. One drill that I always did to work on developing steadiness was to place my goggles on the centre of my forehead and swim laps, without allowing them to fall off. Remember, the less movement your head has, the more stable you will be in the water, and the faster you will go.

Learning to rotate around your spine in backstroke is key to swimming efficiently. I would always work on trying to get my shoulder to graze my chin and get it totally under my chin on each stroke.That way my body would be entirely on its side, with my pulling arm digging deep into the water for a better pull.The "six kicks on each side" drill was my favourite, as it helped strengthen my rotational power when done at speed and this also helped me swim better freestyle. In short, swim backstroke on your side, not on your back !

Thumbs and knees:
One way of making sure you get greater distance per stroke, is by working on getting a deep catch at the beginning of your pull. Make the most of your entire pull underwater by feeling like your thumb does not exit the water during the pull. Many swimmers make the mistake of letting their thumbs come out of the water through the pull, and this happens because they're flat on the their backs and their pull isn't deep, but shallow.Make sure you dig deep into the water on entry so that you pull through making the most of swimming on your side.
Another error a lot of swimmers make is letting their knees surface over the water during their kick.This happens because they are flat on their backs and not on their sides while swimming this stroke and also because they bend their knees too much in their kick instead of learning how to kick with their ankles. One drill I loved doing to make sure this didn't happen to me was kicking through 25 m sprints while holding my kickboard over my knees with both hands.Through each sprint I would try and make sure my knees did not hit my kick board! This way when I swam,I knew what it felt like to kick correctly.
Finish your stroke:
A lot of us are in a hurry to complete one stroke and turn the other arm over. Very few backstrokers take the time to actually finish the pull and get their thumbs grazing past their thighs before finally exiting the water. Fewer still have the strength to complete the stroke effectively! Thus a little extra tricep work in the gym to build strength, and working on finishing that stroke each time before rushing into the next will always help swimming a more efficient backstroke !
Entry and exercise:
Your entry in backstroke has to be clean with as little disturbance as possible to the surrounding water! Make sure your hand always enters the water with the little finger first, like a knife through butter.The less splash you cause on entering, the less resistance your body has to swim through!
Strengthening specific muscles for swimming a more efficient backstroke will always improve your timing! Muscles that I worked on for my backstroke were:
  • Abs for stronger turns and underwater dolphin kicks
  • Lateral pull downs for stronger lats to get the most out of my pull
  • Lower back hyper-extensions and tons of core work since my back and my core would dictate how high and stable I finally was in the water ! 
Hope this helps you swim a more efficient and faster backstroke !

Until next time!