When starting to improve a stroke it is important to start at the bottom and work your way up. With any stroke you always start with improving your leg action and finish with improving your timing. Here is a guide to help improve your backstroke from the start:
- Keep ankles relaxed and your legs long.
- Kick your legs in a small downbeat motion. Keeping your toes just under the surface of the water.
- Be sure to keep your legs relatively close together and kick from the hips – Not the knees!
- Kick as hard and as fast as you feel comfortable. Sprinters may kick up to six beats per arm cycle whereas longer distance swimmers will typically use less.
- When starting your arm action be sure to lead with your thumb as you lift your arm from the water. The arm should be straight and lifted out of the water by the movement of the shoulders!
- When your arm is coming above your head you need to turn your hand, so your little finger should be the first to enter the water.
- Each arm motion should enter the water after your hand has passing by your ear and should enter the water between the shoulder line and the centre line of the head.
- Once your hand has entered the water, this is where you start the propulsive phase. Try turning your palm so it is facing the bottom of the pool and then scull your hand downwards until it reaches a position in a line between your upper chest and shoulders.
- At this point, bend your elbow and then rotate your hand again so that your palm is facing towards your feet.
- Then push through the water until your arm is fully flexed by the thigh and ready to be lifted out of the water again by the rotating motion of the shoulders.
- To increase speed, similarly, to the front crawl, generate momentum by rotating your shoulders and your hips… Not your knees! As one arm lifts out of the water, the other starts the propulsive phase underneath the surface.
When you’re in the water:
- Aim to position your body flat, with ears in the water looking at the roof of the pool. Try and create a slight slope down to the hips to keep the leg action underwater. This is so you can be streamlined with the water.
- Be sure not to let hips drop too low as this will slow you down – try and keep your body relatively close to the surface of the water!
- Your head should really be still and with your neck relaxed. Holding your head up too high will cause strain to the neck and slow you down in the water.
How to maintain this form when turning:
- When approaching the wall, rotate your body on to the front and stop the arm motion at the thigh.
- Perform a forward somersault underwater and then plant your feet on the wall with your knees open.
- Staying on your back, kick off the wall by straightening your legs powerfully and squeeze your arms to your ears with your hands-on top of the other.
- Try to stay parallel to the water surface.
- Start an alternating leg kick under water as you feel your momentum slowing down and start your first propulsive phase of the arm motion underwater while the body is still slightly submerged, helping to bring your head to the surface.