While professional swimmers might make the backstroke look effortless, it’s actually trickier to perfect than you may think. Here are three tips to apply to your backstroke training during your next workout.
Keep Your Body Position Streamlined
Where you position your body in the water can make or break your backstroke technique. Aim to keep your body as flat as possible, streamlining yourself with the surface of the water.
Point your face and stomach toward the ceiling (or sky, if outside) but be sure to not arch your back in the process. While your legs should be sloped down to ensure your kick action remains underwater, don’t let your hips drop too low. This will create drag and cause you to slow down--stay as close to the surface as possible.
Finally, your head should be still, but your neck should remain relaxed. Straining your neck will tense your muscles and slow down your entire stroke. Allow the water to function as your main support, and you will stay close to the surface naturally.
Focus Your Arms, Shoulders, and Legs Together
When swimming the backstroke, think of your arms, shoulders, and legs as one connected piece. You will gain momentum by rotating your shoulders and hips together. As you stroke, your arms should fully extend and rotate like a windmill in a circular motion.
As your underwater arm begins to approach the surface, the other should be entering the water to begin moving down and backwards. Remember to also lead with your thumb as your hand comes out of the water, and allow the movement of your shoulders to do the work in lifting your arm out of the water. When re-entering the water, your little finger should enter first with your arm straight and palm facing out.
Your legs should be in sync with your arms, kicking as hard and fast as you feel comfortable, and what feels right when paired with the motion of your shoulders and arms. Keep your legs close together, and kick straight from the hips rather than the knees--this will help to keep your body flat and streamlined with the water.
Pro Tip: Train with a pull buoy to strengthen your leg muscles for your kick.
Establish a Breathing Pattern
Since your face is always out of the water when swimming backstroke, many swimmers forget to keep a steady breathing pattern. Your breathing should stay in sync with your strokes--typically one breath per each complete arm cycle. To establish a rhythm, try inhaling as one arm is extended up into the air, and exhale as it lowers back into the water. By keeping your breathing consistent, you will aid to the natural cadence and rhythm of your stroke, which will improve your speed.