Swimming : -TOP DRILLS FOR BACKSTROKE

DRILLS FOR BACKSTROKE Swimming DRILLS FOR BACKSTROKE Swimming

BODY POSITION DRILLS

Learning to float well on the back is the first step in being comfortable with the backstroke. Good spinal alignment and core tension not only improve comfort on the back, but can also contribute to an effective backstroke. The goal of the following drills for body position in backstroke is to experience positive backstroke floatation upon which a good backstroke can be built.

Float on Spine

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Achieving an advantageous backstroke floating position
  • Feeling effective core tension and stability
  • Being comfortable on the back

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Lay horizontally in the water, face up, without attempting any forward motion, arms at sides, head leading.
  2. Step 2 : - Focus on how your spine affects your floatation. First, round your spine so that your knees come up toward your chest, and your hips are low, as if you were sitting in the water. Notice that you have a hard time floating in this position. Your face may even submerge.
  3. Step 3 : - Resume your horizontal position in the water, face up. Focus on your spine. Now, arch your back, so your belly button is the highest point of your body. Try to get it above the water. Notice that by doing so your face submerges, or nearly submerges in the water. Your legs may also sink.
  4. Step 4 : - Again lay horizontally in the water, face up. Focus on your spine. Make it as absolutely straight as possible. This includes straightening the natural bends in the small of the back and at the neck. To accomplish this, rotate your pelvis forward, and press the back of your head into the water. Notice that in doing so, you contract your abdominal muscles, and actually relax your neck. Notice too that your body floats more horizontally. This is the advantageous floating position which you can build a good backstroke stroke upon.
  5. Step 5 : - Practice several times until you achieve the feeling of balancing on your spine.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
My legs still sink. If you have heavy legs, it is even more important to learn to rotate your pelvis forward. Contract your abdominal muscles, and float on your spine.
I'm not sure my spine is straight. You can check it by standing against a wall and pressing every inch of your spine into the wall. Reach back and try to slide your hand between the wall and the small of your back. If you succeed, you need to rotate your pelvis more forward to close this gap. Check the same way behind your neck. No space should remain. Take time to analyze what muscles you are engaging to achieve your straight spine, then, do it in the water.
Doing this makes my hips higher than my belly button. Yes, that is correct. You might feel sort of like an elongated banana in the front of your body. But in the backstroke, it is your spine that you float on, and that is what needs to be straight.

Water-Line Drill

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Finding correct head alignment
  • Feeling the water-line around your face
  • Relaxing the neck, shoulders and upper back

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Lay horizontally in the water, face up, arms at sides, spine straight. Do not produce any forward motion.
  2. Step 2 : - Now move your chin toward your chest until the surface of the water, or the water-line is just below your ear lobes. Notice that in this position, the muscles in your neck and shoulders are fully engaged. Your legs may also sink, and it will probably be difficult to maintain your floatation.
  3. Step 3 : - Now lay horizontally in the water, face up, spine straight. Lift your chin and rock your head back, until your ears are completely submerged and you can see the water at the back of your head. The waterline will be at your eye brows and around your throat. Notice that in this position, the muscles in the back of your neck and upper back are engaged. Your float will probably not suffer, although you will feel probably quite stiff.
  4. Step 4 : - Again lay horizontally in the water, face up, spine straight. Hold your chin neutral, as if you are looking at someone who is exactly the same height as you. The water-line will surround your face, from your hairline to the bottom of your chin. In this position, your ears will be submerged and your neck, shoulders and upper back will be relaxed, like when your head rests on a pillow. This is the correct head position for the back- stroke.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
Water gets in my ears. This is a problem that will be resolved when you add forward motion to the float in the next section. The water will then pass by your ears instead of going in them.
I seem to float better with my ears out of the water. You might be achieving the needed abdominal contraction by lifting your upper body, rather than rotating your pelvis forward. It is important to use your pelvis to contract your abdominal muscles, because you need your upper body to stay aligned in the direction you are going.
I am not able to relax my neck. Lower your shoulders. Float with your palms facing the surface of the water. Breathe in and out deeply. Practice letting the water hold your head.

Twelve Kick Switch Backstroke

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Maintaining a straight spine while moving
  • Beginning to feel leverage from the core
  • Identifying the longest backstroke position

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Lay on your side in the water, with the arm closest to the surface at your side, and the arm closest to the bottom of the pool extended over your head. Achieve a straight spine, and good water- line.
  2. Step 2 : - Begin a gentle but continuous flutter kick, which should also be directed side to side.
  3. Step 3 : - Although your body is floating on its side, allow your face to float straight up, so it is completely out of the water. Relax your neck so your head feels like an independent object floating in front of your body. In this position, the shoulder of the arm at your side should be out of the water and closer to your cheek than your other arm is to the other cheek.
  4. Step 4 : - Kick twelve times (each leg equals one kick).
  5. Step 5 : - Just as you finish the last kick, bring the arm laying by your side straight over the water to an extended position over your head, and at the same time, bring the forward reaching arm through the water to your side, as you switch to the opposite side of your body to float. All the time maintain a straight spine and core stability.
  6. Step 6 : - Kick twelve more kicks in this position. Repeat the switch with your arms and floating side. Continue to kick twelve times then switch until you reach the far end of the pool.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
I get a lot of water in my face. Make sure your chin is neutral and that your spine is straight. But remember, the fact is that even excellent backstrokers get water in their face. However, the more momentum you produce, the more the water will go around you, instead of in your face.
My kick is aimed up and down. Let the hip on the side with your arm extended be lower than the other hip.
I go crooked. Align your extended arm straight and lock your elbow. Do this drill next to the side of the pool, or by a lane line to keep your bearings.

KICK DRILLS

An effective flutter kick is a significant part of an efficient backstroke. Although similar in its alternating motion to the flutter kick of freestyle, there are certain distinctions. Kicking well on the back requires employing leg muscles differently than humans commonly do for most land activities. The major force of the backstroke kick is upward, against gravity, making quick, compact kicking and good foot position extremely important. The goal of the following backstroke kicking drills is to address the unique issues of the backstroke kick that contribute to an effective and sustainable kicking technique.

Boiling Water Drill

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Learning to kick upward with force
  • Feeling the water with your feet
  • Developing a centralized kick

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Stand in the water a bit more than waist deep. Hold one arm outstretched in front of you about twelve inches over the surface of the water. Now, drop your hand down with force into the water. Notice that the splash that occurs goes in all directions. Notice too the sound that your hand makes as it makes a hole in the water.
  2. Step 2 : - Now, hold your arm outstretched about twelve inches under the surface of the water. Raise your hand up with force to about three inches under the surface of the water. Notice the water welling up, almost like water coming to a boil. Repeat this action, with more force, as if bringing the water to a full boil, without your hand ever reaching the surface of the water. This is what your feet do in a good backstroke kick.
  3. Step 3 : - Try the same thing with your feet. Standing with your back supported at the side of the pool, bring your foot about twelve inches over the surface of the water and drop it down into the water. Notice the large splash. Listen to the distinct sound of your foot making a hole in the water. Now hold your foot twelve inches under the water, toes pointed, and force your foot up towards the surface, but don't allow any part of your foot to break the surface of the water. Make the water boil. Notice the feeling of the water against the top of your foot.
  4. Step 4 : - Now lay horizontally in the water, face up, straight spine and good water-line, arms at your sides, toes pointed. Drop the heel of your right foot down about twelve inches into the water. Force it up quickly and create a visible boil. Try it with your left foot. Now try it alternating feet. As the one foot forces the water up, the heel of the other foot drops down.
  5. Step 5 : - Kick at a tempo that there is no distinction on the surface of the water between the boil from one foot and that of the other. Continue to the other end of the pool, using a more forceful upward motion, and a gentler downward motion. Repeat for several lengths, feeling the difference between the water on your foot as you force it upwards, and as you drop your heel down.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
I can't make the water boil. Try relaxing your foot and ankle, so that your foot works more like the tail of a fish. See the Floppy Foot drill to work on this.
My toes keep breaking the surface. Point your toes more. Control your kick so your feet remain connected to the water.
I am not moving. Remember to kick with more force upward than downward. Check that your toes are pointed, and that your knees are not bending too much.

No Knees Streamline Kick

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Learning to keep the knees under the water
  • Using the correct muscles to kick backstroke
  • Developing an efficient backstroke kick

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Lay horizontally in the water, face up, straight spine and good water-line, toes pointed. Extend your arms over your head, squeezing your ears between your elbows and clasping your hands, one over the other. Begin the flutter kick, kicking upward with more force.
  2. Step 2 : - Kick at a tempo that there is no distinction on the surface of the water between the boil from one foot and the other. Maintaining a neutral chin position, use your peripheral vision to see if your knees are breaking the surface of the water, or if the water is moving upward around your knees. If so, this indicates that you are lifting your knees, or doing a bicycling motion during your kick. This is common because the muscles used to lift the knees, the abductors, that connect the legs to the abdomen, are used a great deal by humans on land in actions such as walking, running, cycling and climbing stairs. However, in the backstroke kick, lifting your knees weakens your kick.
  3. tep 3: To engage the correct backstroke kicking muscles, the quads and the hamstrings, resume your backstroke float, hands leading, spine straight, good water-line, squeezing your ears with your elbows, and begin kicking with absolutely no bend at the hips. It means you have to start the kick lower than the surface of the water, and use your leg as if to kick a ball floating on the surface of the water. Although your knee will bend, it is only as a result of your dropping your heel into the water, not by lifting your knee. Imagine kicking a ball with your foot by raising your knee. It wouldn't work. Using your peripheral vision, check your knees. There should be no water moving around them. Practice for several lengths of the pool.
  4. Step 4 : - Now, double check if you are lifting your knees by holding a kickboard with one hand, positioning it the long way over your upper legs and knees as you float and kick, keeping the other arm extended over your head. As you kick, you will be able to feel if your knees bump the kickboard. Practice for several lengths of the pool.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
Water gets in my face . . . a lot. This is feedback that you are lifting your knees. Doing so produces a wave, which washes over your face. Work on starting the kick by dropping your heel down, rather than raising your knee up. Try it on land looking in a mirror. Also, in the water try kicking faster to produce more forward momentum.
It hurts my lower back when I don't bend my knees. Rotate your pelvis forward and work on your straight spine using the Float on Your Spine drill. You also might be kicking too deep. The backstroke kick is only about twelve inches at its deepest. Additionally, make sure you are not kicking down with force. Simply drop your heel into the water. Kick with force only in the upward direction.
I move very well even with my knees breaking the surface. You are probably blessed with excellent ankle flexibility which makes the backstroke kick much easier. But just think how well you would move if you also eliminated the drag that your knees are producing. It is worth your time to work on this.

Pigeontoed Kicking

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Feeling the most advantageous foot position
  • Using the most foot surface to kick
  • Developing a centralized kick

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  • Step 1 : - Lay on your back in the water. Achieve a straight spine, good water-line, and pointed toes. Extend your arms over your head, squeezing your ears between your elbows and clasping your hands, one over the other. Begin the flutter kick.
  • Step 2 : - Point your toes and use a quick kick tempo. Kick upward with more force, creating a boil on the surface of the water. Notice that the part of your foot that comes closest to the surface is your big toe. Kick to the far end of the pool.
  • Step 3 : - Now push off the wall again for the backstroke kick. This time, turn your feet inward to the pigeontoed position, so your big toes are closer together than the rest of your feet. Notice that by turning your feet inward, your knees and hips are also internally rotated. Begin kicking.
  • Step 4 : - Continue kicking with a quick tempo. Feel the top of your foot press upward against the water. Notice that you are engaging more of your foot's surface by positioning your pigeontoed feet. Notice too that your kick is more productive. Kick to the far end of the pool.
  • Step 5 : - Push off again for the backstroke kick. Achieve the pigeontoed position and kick at a quick tempo. Kick the water upward. Notice the centralized boil on the surface of the water. Notice too that your knees stay under the surface of the water better. Continue kicking for several lengths of the pool.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
My big toes bump into each other. An occasional bump is okay. If your big toes are bumping into each other with every kick, this could slow your kick rhythm. Adjust the pitch of your feet very slightly so they don't touch.
My feet don't rotate this way. Try it on land first. Turn your knees inward and let your feet follow. You can increase your flexibility by practicing it over time.
I still feel the downbeat more. Engage your quads to kick upward. Try not to use your hamstrings to an equal extent. Drop your heel down, then force the top of your foot up quickly for the most effective backstroke kicking action.

Quarter Roll with Cup on Forehead

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Developing a balanced, effective kick
  • Understanding the changing orientation of the kick
  • Maintaining a stable head position while kicking

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Fill a medium plastic cup halfway with water. Gently balance the cup on your forehead as you lay on your back in the water, with a straight spine and good water-line. Once the cup is balanced, position both arms at your sides. Begin kicking, toes pointed, knees underwater, making the water boil. Continue kicking to the other end of the pool, trying to keep the cup of water balanced on your forehead. If it falls off, stand and start again. Practice until you can kick productively without the cup falling off for a full length of the pool.
  2. Step 2 : - Now prepare to kick another length with the cup on your forehead. This time, every six kicks, do a quarter roll. Keeping your head still so the cup remains balanced, roll your body clockwise, so that your left shoulder, arm and hip are out of the water, while your right shoulder, arm and hip are low in the water. Your kick should now be oriented to the side.
  3. Step 3 : - After six kicks, roll your body a quarter turn counter-clockwise, so you are again flat on your back, and your kick is up and down. Do six kicks. Now, maintaining your head position so the cup stays on your forehead, turn your body a quarter turn clockwise again, so that your right shoulder, arm and hip are out of the water, while your left shoulder, arm and hip are low in the water. After six kicks, roll back to the flat back floating position, kicking up and down.
  4. Step 4 : - Continue kicking with quarter rolls to the end of the pool, with your head still so that the cup remains balanced on your forehead. If the cup falls off, start again. This is not an easy drill! Practice until you can kick productively, with quarter rolls, while the cup remains on your forehead for several lengths of the pool.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
The cup falls off right away, even without a quarter roll. Work on your straight spine and neutral chin. Work on the drills in the section called Body Position. Make sure your ears are underwater and your neck is relaxed.
When I do a quarter roll, my head turns too, and the cup falls off. Relax your neck and turn your shoulder toward your cheek. Try it on land first, looking in a mirror.
My kick still aims up even with a quarter roll to the left or right. Use more core stability, so that your shoulders and hips roll together and don't twist at the waist, leaving your hips flat.

ARM STROKE DRILLS

Of the many misconceptions about the backstroke arm stroke, the most common is that the arms remain straight throughout the stroke, like a windmill. A straight arm stroke is often associated with shoulder problems. It is also difficult, like trying to lift yourself out of the pool with straight arms. While it is important to begin and finish the stroke with straight, well aligned arms, using a high and firm bent elbow position, during the middle of the stroke, allows the swimmer to access more power, and move forward with an accelerating pull then push action. The goal of the following arm stroke drills for backstroke is to learn the most productive path of the underwater stroke for an easier, more effective, shoulder-saving stroke.

One Arm Pull/Push

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Learning the path of the backstroke arms
  • Feeling both pull and push
  • Rolling into and out of each stroke

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Float in the water, face up, spine straight, good water-line, kicking productively, with one arm at your side and the other extended over your head, aligned with the shoulder.
  2. Step 2 : - Start your stroke by descending your reaching hand about twelve inches straight down into the water, pinkie finger first, allowing the opposite shoulder and hip to rise at the same time. From twelve inches deep, keeping your elbow absolutely still, begin to move your fingertips and palm upward to press the water toward your feet. Sweep your hand to the height of your shoulder, so that your arm is close to a right angle. Done correctly, it should feel like your forearm is rotating around your elbow. This is the pull portion of the backstroke arms.
  3. Step 3 : - From that point, straighten your arm in a quick sweep until your hand stops below your hip, with your fingertips pointing toward your feet. Allow your whole arm to become involved in this sweep. At the same time, roll your same side hip upward to assist in the power of this action. This is the push portion of the backstroke arms.
  4. Step 4 : - Recover your arm over the water and repeat the path of the backstroke arm with the same arm. Notice that your hand is tracing a sort of S shape along the side of your body. The top curve is the pull, the bottom curve is the push. This S shape can become more pronounced as you increase your roll into the top curve with your shoulder and hip, and out of the bottom curve with your shoulder and hip. Continue to the end of the pool.
  5. Step 5 : - Repeat the drill, quickening your tempo, and accelerating your hand toward your hip. Hold your elbow firm. Roll in and roll out of each stroke. Try to identify the transition between pull and push. Continue for several lengths, then switch arms.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
It hurts my shoulder to get my hand twelve inches deep at the beginning of the stroke. It is very important to allow your same side shoulder and hip to roll down with your hand. Without this roll, it is nearly impossible, and painful for many swimmers, as the shoulder joint is not designed for this range of motion from a flat position.
The palm of my hand is facing up when my hand reaches my hip. This indicates that the path of your stroke is circular, instead of S shaped. When you finish with your palm up, you are lifting the water. Doing so actually pulls your body down, not forward. Try tracing the shape of an S in the air, then again in the water.
My fingertips come out of the water when my hand and shoulder line up. Your hand might be too close to your shoulder. Keep it at a right angle to your shoulder. Also, be sure that you are rolling into your stroke with your shoulder and hip, giving you water over your fingertips when you your fingertips are closest to the water's surface.

Up and Over

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Feeling the path of the backstroke arms
  • Maintaining a stable elbow position
  • Catching deep water

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Push off the wall for the backstroke, both arms extended over your head. Achieve a straight spine, firm core and good water- line. Establish a productive kick. Begin the backstroke arm stroke with your right arm, leaving your left arm in the extended position.
  2. Step 2 : - Lower your right hand about twelve inches down into the water by rolling the same side shoulder and hip down, and the opposite shoulder and hip up. As your hand reaches its deepest point, catch a handful of water. Maintaining a stable elbow position, move your handful of water in an arch up and over your elbow.
  3. Step 3 : - At the highest point in the arch, your fingers should be pointing upward toward the surface of the water, but not breaking the surface. At the finish of the arch, your arm should be straight along the side of your body, and your fingertips should be pointing toward your feet.
  4. Step 4 : - As your right arm exits the water by your hip and returns over the water to its starting position, trace the same path with your left arm. Roll your left hip and shoulder down into the water, causing your left hand to come to a depth of about twelve inches. Grab hold of deep water, and sweep your hand up and over your still elbow in an arch that finishes with your arm straight at your side.
  5. Step 5 : - Continue stroking with alternating arms. Catch the water deep and keep hold it as your hand traces an arch up and over your elbow with each stroke. Trace the arch with more speed. Feel your body move forward with each stroke. Practice for several lengths of the pool.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
My hand breaks the surface at the top of the arch. This indicates you are too flat in the water. Make sure you roll your body with your descending arm to get the depth you need at the top of the arch.
I can't seem to catch the water. As your hand reaches its deepest point, move your fingertips and hand upward into position to press against the water. Keep your elbow firm and still at this point.
I lose my handful of water at the end of the arch. Accelerate your motion through the arch. Your hand should be moving fastest at the end of the arch, pressing the water down and past your hip.

Fist Backstroke

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Learning to feel the water with the forearm
  • Using a stable, high elbow
  • Appreciating the role of the hand

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Push off the wall for the backstroke. Before the first stroke, form closed fists with each hand.
  2. Step 2 : - Start to stroke. At first it may seem impossible to make forward progress without the paddle of your open hand. Keep stroking, purposely positioning your arm so your forearm works as your paddle to press against the water. This will require you to initiate the stroke by moving your fists without moving your elbows, and to keep your elbows high and stable as your fist moves past them.
  3. Step 3 : - Use the whole length of the stroke, top to bottom. Feel pull and push. Accelerate the underwater stroke. Maintain opposition. Adapt your stroke to the handless paddle. Continue to the other end of the pool.
  4. Step 4 : - Now push off again, this time with open hands. Swim regular backstroke, using your hand as well as your forearm to press against the water. Keep a stable, elbow high. Feel pull and push. Accelerate your stroke. Maintain opposition.
  5. Step 5 : - Continue alter- nating lengths of fist and open hand until you are feeling the water with a paddle that includes both your hand and your forearm.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
I am not moving. Reposition your forearm so when your arm moves through the stroke, it quickly becomes perpendicular to the surface of the water.
I am not feeling my forearm against the water. Keep your elbow still as you move your fist, then move your forearm upward into position to press back on the water. If your elbow drops at this point, your forearm will not engage the water.
My elbows keep moving. Try widening the angle of your bent arm through the beginning and middle of the underwater arm stroke. Move your fist before your forearm.

Corkscrew

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Achieving depth to begin the stroke
  • Feeling the roll that begins the arm stroke
  • Using a bent arm mid-pull similar to freestyle

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Push off the wall for the backstroke with your arms extended. Achieve a straight spine and good water-line. Kick productively.
  2. Step 2 : - Take one stroke with your left arm. As your left arm reaches your side, begin to stroke with your right arm while your left arm starts its recovery over the water.
  3. Step 3 : - When your right arm approaches mid-recovery, your left arm should have come to its deepest point under- water. The shoulder and hip of your recovering arm should be at least partially out of the water, and the shoulder and hip of your stroking arm should be low in the water.
  4. Step 4 : - At this point, redirect your recovery to cross over toward your opposite shoulder, and lead your body to switch from its side, to a front floating position. Your recovering hand should enter the water as a freestyle stroke.
  5. Step 5 : - Start to stroke with freestyle as the arm at your side starts to recover as freestyle. You should again be floating on your side, and by mid-recovery, redirect your over-the-water-arm to enter the water as the backstroke.
  6. Step 6 : - Continue to move through the water, one stroke as backstroke and the next as freestyle. Feel the depth that your arm achieves to begin each stroke on your back. Notice the similar bent elbow position of your arms in both strokes during the mid-pull. Feel how rolling toward your stroking arm accesses more power for the stroke.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
I am getting dizzy. Yes, this can happen. Stop frequently. Make the most of each stroke that you are able to do. Be very focused on noticing the depth that your hand achieves, the bent arm position in the middle of the stroke, and your roll until you feel dizzy.
It is hard to flip from my back to my front. Allow your body to roll onto its side, using your hips and shoulders. Then simply continue that roll so you end up floating on your front.
I can't figure out when to breathe. Catch a breath during the stroke on your back. This drill does not accommodate breathing during the freestyle stroke.

RECOVERY DRILLS

The opposition timing of the backstroke makes the arm stroke recovery an active part of the stroke. While resting the muscles of the arm, the recovering arm must serve as a counterbalance to the stroking arm. Accomplishing this requires the recovering arm to be aligned correctly itself in relation to the rest of the body. The following backstroke recovery drills focus on developing a relaxed, aligned and balanced path over the water.

Clock Arms

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Using an aligned entry position
  • Learning to avoid over-reaching
  • Feeling the natural range of motion of the shoulder

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Stand in front of a full-length mirror. Imagine the face of a large clock centered on the mirror in front of you. Raise your right arm over your head as if preparing to enter the water for the backstroke, pinkie first. Position your hand at 12:00. Now, attempt to lower your arm downward as you would into the water to a point about twelve inches below where the water's surface would be. Notice that from the 12:00 position, your shoulder does not allow this rotation, unless you are double-jointed.
  2. Step 2 : - Again, raise your right arm over your head extended as if preparing to enter the water for the backstroke. This time, position your arm at 1:00, and attempt to lower your arm as you would into the water to a point about twelve inches below where the water's surface would be. Notice that your shoulder allows this rotation, moving more freely around the joint. Some swimmers may need to use a 1:30 or 2:00 for a more comfortable entry point.
  3. Step 3 : - Once you have found an entry point that allows free shoulder joint rotation, try duplicating this entry point with the other arm. Now try alternating arm action, monitoring your clock arms in the mirror in order to avoid an over- reaching 12:00 entry. Continue for 30 seconds.
  4. Step 4 : - Now, try alternating arm action with your eyes closed. Every six or seven strokes, freeze at your entry position, open your eyes, and check if you are properly aligned at 1:00 or 11:00 so your arm can descend freely downward and you are aligned most directly forward. Once you have checked, and made a modification if necessary, resume your stroke action with your eyes closed. Check again. Continue until you are able to maintain a recovery with a well-aligned entry position.
  5. Step 5 : - Now try it in the water. If you are swimming in an indoor pool, use the beams, pipes or lines on the ceiling to align your arms at 1:00 and 11:00. If you are swimming in an outdoor pool, keep imagining the clock around you, and align your arms outside 12:00. Practice lowering each arm down into the water to begin the stroke, and notice if your arm is rotating easily around the shoulder joint. Practice aligning your arm precisely in the direction you are heading. Continue until you are achieving a well-aligned entry that both allows your arm to achieve a wider range of motion and moves you most directly forward.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
I am comfortably able to enter the water at 12:00. You are very fortunate to be so flexible. However, you still will want to strive for a 1:00 entry, so your whole body will be aligned forward, in the direction you are going.
When I think I am at 1:00, I am at 12:00. This is true for most people. So, if you are trying to achieve a 1:00 entry, reach for 2:00.
My shoulder doesn't rotate freely even at 1:00. Try reaching farther outside the shoulder. Also, remember to only lower your arm about twelve inches down into the water.

Two-step Recovery

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Establishing the path of the recovery
  • Feeling correct recovery alignment
  • Avoiding an over-reaching entry

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Push off the wall preparing to do the backstroke, both arms extended over your head, straight spine, good water-line, productive kick.
  2. Step 2 : - Take one stroke, leaving the other arm extended. When your arm finishes the underwater phase of the stroke past your hip, slide it straight out of the water, up- ward past the side of your body. Establish the path of your recovery by tracing a half-circle in the air, from the place where your arm exited the water to the point it will enter, extended past your shoulder, aligned in the direction you are heading. Repeat with the other arm, focusing on the forward-aimed, arched path of the recovering arm.
  3. Step 3 : - Now, as your arm begins the recovery after the next stroke, begin to trace the arch over the water, but stop your arm at the highest point in the arch and count to five. Notice the alignment to your higher arm. It should be directly above your shoulder, pointing to the sky, not above your face. A misaligned recovery leads to an over-reaching entry that starts the stroke from a position of weakness.
  4. Step 4 : - After the count of five, lower your arm back into the water, following the same recovery path in reverse, finishing with your hand past your hip. Count to five, and begin recovery again, this time tracing the whole recovery path and entering the water extended past your shoulder. Check your alignment at the high point as your arm passes. As your arm begins this second, full recovery, the extended arm begins its underwater stroke.
  5. Step 5 : - When the second arm completes the underwater stroke, again do a half recovery, then the complete recover. Continue to the far end of the pool, alternating arms with a two-step recovery. Practice for several lengths until the path of the recovery is well aligned with your shoulder at the top of the arch, and not over- reaching to the center at entry.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
I sink when I hold my arm up in the middle of the recovery. It is awkward at first. During the five seconds that your arm is at the top of the arch, kick harder. Focus on your straight spine and core stability.
My arm aligns with my face. It is important to work on this because correct alignment begins the stroke from a position of strength. If your arm is over- reached during the recovery, you will enter the water with a shoulder position that does not allow the range of motion you need. You will then not be able to get your hand to the optimal depth to stroke in a high elbow position.
I have no momentum. Your momentum is reduced because of the lack of opposition in this drill. Remember that the point of this drill is to work on your recovery alignment. Focus on that rather than how fast you are going.

Locked Elbow Drill

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Learning to fully align your recovering arm
  • Extending the stroke range by locking the recovering elbow
  • Feeling opposition balance

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Holding a piece of chalk in your hand, stand with your back against a wall. Trace around the shape of your shoulders and head.
  2. Step 2 : - Still standing within your chalk outline on the wall, extend the arm with the chalk, as if preparing to enter the water from your backstroke recovery. Make a mark on the wall in that position. Return your arm to your side.
  3. Step 3 : - Again extend your chalk arm, but as you approach the entry position, push your elbow to the locked position, as if you would if trying to reach something on a shelf that is a bit too high. Make another mark on the wall, using more pressure in order to distinguish it from the first mark.
  4. Step 4 : - Step away from the wall and compare the two marks. Notice that by locking your elbow, the second mark aligns above your shoulder, where as the first mark aligns more closely with your head. In addition, many swimmers will notice that simply locking their elbow, the second mark will be higher on the wall by several inches, indicating a longer stroke. Try it with the other arm.
  5. Step 5 : - Now, get in the water and push off the wall for the backstroke, arms extended over your head, spine straight, good water-line, and productive kick. Take one underwater stroke ending past your hip. Begin your recovery focusing on your elbow. Look for any bend in your recovering arm at any point during the arching path over the water. Swim backstroke to the far end of the pool, watching each recovery, and checking for any bend in your elbow.
  6. Step 6 : - Again swim regular backstroke. As each stroke ends past your hip, deliberately push your elbow to the locked position before starting the recovery. Maintain your locked elbow throughout the recovery. Notice that your stroke will feel longer. Notice too that your locked elbow recovering arm will feel more connected to the underwater arm, as it creates an opposition balance while they move in conjunction. Notice as well that you will be able to feel the water better as your recovery arm transitions to the stroking arm.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
I can't feel a locked elbow when I am swimming. Try it on land until you develop the feeling. Use a mirror. Close your eyes and extend your arm over your head with what you think is a locked elbow. Then open your eyes to check. If it is not locked, make the correction while looking in the mirror. Try again with your eyes closed and re-check.
I can't see if my elbow remains locked when it enters the water. This is true, but by achieving a locked elbow during recovery, you have a greater chance of maintaining that position through entry. Focus on the feeling at entry of reaching for something on a shelf that is a bit too high.
When I focus on my recovering arm, both arms end up at my sides. Remember that beyond alignment, the main benefit of a locked elbow is that it increases the opposition balance, or feeling of connection between the arms. Both arms must move at the same time, on opposite sides of the body, and in opposing action. When one arm is at its highest, the other is at its lowest. When one arm is beginning the stroke, the other is finishing the stroke. Focus on this balance.

Dog-ears

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Feeling an outward hand pitch
  • Maintaining a firm arm and a relaxed hand
  • Avoiding a collapsed wrist at entry

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Push off the wall for the backstroke. Achieve a straight spine, good water-line, opposition balance, and locked recovering elbow. Kick productively. Stroke through and recover. After recovery, your hand should enter the water pinkie first, slicing the water, rather than making a hole in it with your flat hand. This requires positioning your hand with the palm facing outward. Try the palms out entry for several strokes.
  2. Step 2 : - Now, swim backstroke again, maintaining a palms-out entry position at the end of recovery. Freeze in the position when your arm has passed the top of the recovery arch. Observe which way your fingers are pointing. If they are pointing inward toward your face, and you are seeing the back of your hand, you have a collapsed wrist. A collapsed wrist positions your palms upward, as if you were a waiter holding a tray over your shoulder. It is the weakest entry position possible, and a disruption in your alignment. Notice that with a collapsed wrist, the muscles in your forearms are working, rather than resting during recovery. Notice too, that with a collapsed wrist, it is much harder to maintain a locked elbow recovery. Continue swimming, avoiding a collapsed wrist.
  3. Step 3 : - Now, with your locked elbow, palms-out recovering arm, deliberately allow that hand to flop to the outside at the wrist, relaxing your fingers as you do. This is the Dog-ears position. Notice that your forearm becomes more relaxed simply by changing your wrist position. Notice too that with your hand in an outwardly pitched position, when your hand lowers into the water, it is positioned perfectly to grab a handful of water.
  4. Step 4 : - Continue swimming backstroke with a dog-eared recovery. Increase your stroke rate. Grab a handful of water with each entry, hold on to it, and move your body past your hand.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
My wrist isn't relaxed. Try wiggling your fingers during your recovery, and flopping your hand back and forth as if it had no bones.
I can't see if my hand is still dog-eared at entry. Try it on land until you develop the feeling. Use a mirror. Close your eyes, extend your arm over your head using what you think is a dog-eared hand. Then open your eyes to check. If it is not, make the correction while looking in the mirror. Take time to feel what muscles are involved. Try again with your eyes closed and re-check.
The back of my hand slaps the water in the dog- eared position. Remember to first position your hand so that your pinkie enters the water first, and then add the dog-eared hand position.

BREATHING DRILLS

Without your face in the water, it would seem that breathing drills for backstroke are a low priority. The opposite is true. Because rhythmic breathing is an essential part of sustaining any swimming stroke, learning to develop a good breathing rhythm in the backstroke is a top priority. In addition, because the power of the backstroke kick is upward, against gravity, frequent oxygen exchange is required. Many swimmers dislike backstroke because water gets in their face. Learning to time the breathing to the rhythm of the waves of the stroke, makes the backstroke much more enjoyable. The goal of the following backstroke breathing drills is to develop rhythmic breathing and more a comfortable, productive backstroke.

Rhythmic Breathing Sequence

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Experimenting with different breathing rhythms
  • Matching the stroke rate and the breathing rhythm
  • Becoming comfortable breathing in the backstroke

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Stand with your hand on your abdomen, between your breastbone and your belly button. Close your eyes and breathe normally. Feel the rhythm of your breathing as you inhale and exhale. Now, maintaining the same rhythm, breathe as if you were in the water, inhaling through your mouth and exhaling through both nose and mouth.
  2. Step 2 : - Now, in the pool, push off the wall preparing to do the back- stroke, spine straight, good water-line, produc- tive kick, locked elbows, hands pitched out. Try to duplicate the breathing rhythm you did on land. Swim at a rate so that your inhale happens as one arm recovers, and your exhale happens when the other arm recovers. Continue for several lengths of the pool, resting at the end of each length.
  3. Step 3 : - Next, try a quicker stroke rate. Match your breathing to your quicker stroke rate, inhaling on one arm, and exhaling on the other. Notice, that with a quicker stroke rate, this breathing rhythm doesn't work as well. There is not time to fully inhale or exhale. Change your breathing rhythm to inhale with one full stroke cycle (one stroke with each arm), and then exhale on the next stroke cycle. Notice that your breathing rhythm more closely resembles your normal breathing rhythm using this timing. Continue for several lengths of the pool, resting after each length.
  4. Step 4 : - Now, try a stroke rate that is very relaxed and easy, perhaps resembling warm-up speed. Inhale with one stroke cycle, exhale with the next. Notice, that at this slower stroke rate, this breathing rhythm doesn't work as well. The exchange of air is not frequent enough. Change your breathing rhythm so you are both inhaling and exhaling with each arm recovery, doing the same thing on the next arm. Notice that the breathing rhythm is now more normal. Continue for several lengths of the pool, resting after each length.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
As I get tired, my breathing gets irregular. Maintain a regular breathing rhythm as long as you can, then rest and try it again. As you practice more, you will be able to hold on to the rhythm for longer.
I can't maintain the rhythm when water gets in my face. It is hard to get used to water washing over your face, but with practice, and increased momentum, you will notice a pattern to most of the splashes. This will help with your breathing timing.
When I go faster, I need more air, so I breathe more frequently. If inhaling with one arm and exhaling with the other arm isn't frequent enough, try inhaling and exhaling with each arm. If that is not frequent enough, slow down your stroke rate, and try to make more forward progress with each stroke in order to go faster.

The Breathing Pocket

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Using the ebb and flow of the water to time your breathing
  • Finding another benefit of the roll in and out of the stroke
  • Becoming comfortable when breathing in the backstroke

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Push off the wall preparing to do the backstroke, spine straight, good water-line, productive kick, locked elbow recovery, dog-eared hand. Focus on rolling into and out of each stroke, feeling opposition. Take several strokes, then freeze at the point that one arm is in mid-stroke under- water, and the other arm is in mid-recovery. At this point, the armpit of your recovering arm should be completely out of the water, and the shoulder of the other arm should be at its lowest point under the water.
  2. Step 2 : - Observe that in this position and point in the stroke, the raised armpit side forms a barrier to the water that would otherwise be in your face. Resume stroking. Notice that this barrier is only in place for a very brief moment. This is your breathing pocket. It is your chance to inhale without water going in your face.
  3. Step 3 : - Swim backstroke again, exaggerating your roll to make the breathing pocket very clear. Try to find the breathing pocket on each side of your body. Continue swimming backstroke inhaling in your breathing pocket with each stroke.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
I still get water in my face. Work on maintaining your spine straight and a good water-line. Make sure your kick is productive without any bicycling action. Try rolling more.
Water still goes over my face when I exhale. That is fine. As long as you are exhaling through your nose and mouth, water won't go in.
I have a better breathing pocket on one side. This indicates that you are rolling more on one side than the other. It would be best to work on developing a symmetrical roll so that you have equal breathing pockets, and have more choices in changing your breathing pattern.

LEVERAGE DRILLS

Leverage in the backstroke adds potential power to the stroke, increases the range of motion at the beginning of the stroke, and enables the swimmer to sustain the stroke longer. It is achieved similar to freestyle, through the side to side rolling action of a unified core. The goal of the following leverage drills for backstroke is to learn to incorporate a productive roll into the stroke.

Three Strokes Switch Backstroke

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Benefiting from core leverage
  • Feeling the roll into and out of each stroke
  • Transferring power from the core to the limbs

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

Step 1: Push off the wall preparing to do the backstroke, straight spine and good water-line. Perform three strokes (one arm = one stroke), accompanied by a pro- ductive kick. As your arm approaches your hip on the third stroke, float and kick in that position, with the arm that just finished its underwater stroke at your side, the other arm fully extended. You should not be floating flat in the water, but instead you should be mostly on your side with the arm at your side closer to the surface, and the arm extended over your head lower in the water. Your face should remain out of the water the whole time. Do six good kicks in this position (one leg = one kick).

Step 2: With your sixth kick switch floating sides, by rolling toward the other hip and shoulder, but remaining face up. This roll should initiate three more strokes by bringing the high hip and shoulder down, and the low hip and shoulder up, while the arm at your side recovers over the water to the front, and the reaching arm begins its underwater stroke. Keep a steady kick through the whole process.

Step 3: Continue doing three strokes, kicking the whole time, and then six kicks in the side position until you reach the far end of the pool. Notice that your switch affects both arms at the same time.

Step 4: Repeat the drill, this time using three strokes and three kicks. As you become more comfortable, try to incorporate the switch between each stroke. Continue to the far end of the pool.

Step 5: Once you are able to roll productively with each stroke, begin swimming regular backstroke rolling into and out of each stroke, as you did in the drill. Practice for several length of the pool.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification

I go crooked.

Be sure your leading arm is aligned at 1:00. You can swim next to a lane line, or if you are at an indoor pool, watch the lines on the ceiling to go straight.
I don't roll as much in the three strokes as I do changing to the kick only phase. Slow down your strokes. Allow time to roll. Use both hips and shoulders to roll.
I am struggling to keep my face up during the kick only phase. Try using a quicker kick rhythm. Kick up towards the surface with more force. It is important to maintain your momentum during the kick only phase.

One Arm Rope Climb

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Learning to anchor your reaching arm
  • Feeling the high elbow position of strength
  • Experiencing your body moving past your hand

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - String a rope from one end of the pool to the other, attaching it securely to the lane rope hooks in the side of the pool. The rope should be fairly tight, floating just below the surface of the water.
  2. Step 2 : - Lay in the water on your back, one arm extended over your head, spine straight, good water-line, the rope just outside your extended arm. Grasp the rope with the hand of your extended arm. From this anchor point, pull your body past your hand, with a totally straight arm, moving your arm across the surface of the water, until the hand holding the rope is by your hip. Notice that as you move forward, no matter how much core stability you have, your legs swing toward the rope. Notice as well, that your shoulder is doing all the work.
  3. Step 3 : - Grasp the rope again with your arm extended over your head. This time, drop your elbow down, lowering it into your ribs as you attempt to move your body past your anchored hand. Notice that it is very difficult to move your body forward with your elbow low and moving.
  4. Step 4 : - Again, grasp the rope with your arm extended over your head. This time, pull your body up so that your shoulder is at the same level as your hand. your elbow to bend up to a right angle, but remain about parallel to your shoulder and hand. From this point, straighten your arm. Keep your elbow firm as your body moves past your anchored hand. Notice that by keeping your elbow firm you have more leverage to move yourself forward. It is also easier and more productive than the other two ways that you tried.
  5. Step 5 : - Continue the one arm rope climb using a high, stable elbow, and an accelerating arm action. When you reach the far end of the pool, switch arms. Practice several times with each arm. Once you are able to clearly feel yourself move past your anchored hand, begin swimming regular back- stroke, anchoring your hand in the water, and again move your body past that point with each stroke.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
I end up under the rope. Align the hand grabbing the rope with outside of your shoulder, and keep it outside of your shoulder the entire time.
It puts strain on my shoulder to pull with my arm straight. Exactly. This part of the drill is designed as a contrast to doing the arm stroke correctly. It shows that the straight arm pull over-taxes the shoulder, where as the high elbow bent arm stroke allows you to stroke comfortably without pain.
I am not producing a glide. Make sure your elbow in positioned high from the start. Move your body past your hand and elbow. Accelerate through to the end of the stroke.

Opposition Freeze Frame

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Understanding the role of opposition in backstroke leverage
  • Checking opposition at various stages in the stroke
  • Learning to maintain opposition

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Push off the wall on your back, with both arms at your sides. Kick productively. With your right arm, do one complete backstroke, bringing your arm over the water in a fully aligned arch, then stroking through to your hip. When your right arm returns to its starting point, do the same thing with your left arm. Continue for twelve strokes. Notice that the forward motion you produce is not continuous, so that when your left arm is at your side and your right arm is in the air recovering, nothing is moving you forward except your kick. Notice too that it is difficult to roll into and out of your stroke, accessing core leverage. This is an example of backstroke without opposition.
  2. Step 2 : - Now, push off the wall with both arms extended over your head, preparing to do the backstroke, spine straight, good water-line, productive kick, locked elbows, hands pitched out. Establish opposition by doing an underwater stroke with one arm, while the other remains over your head. Roll toward the side of your body with the arm extended, so that side of your body becomes lower in the water. Now, begin swimming backstroke, focusing on maintaining opposition.
  3. Step 3 : - Swim six strokes at a good strong pace. On the next stroke, freeze when your right hand has entered the water. Notice where your left hand is. It should be at the opposite extreme of the stroke, exiting the water past your hip.
  4. Step 4 : - Continue swimming backstroke. After six strokes, freeze again as your right hand transitions from pull to push. Notice where your left hand is. It should be opposite, in the middle of the recovery.
  5. Step 5 : - Continue swimming backstroke. After each six strokes, freeze at a different point in the stroke, checking your opposition.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
My arms don't stay opposite. Focus on the position with one arm extended over your head, and the other arm at your side. Use that as your home base. Find that position between each stroke, before starting the next one.
I don't have opposition in the middle of the stroke. It might be that you are swimming too flat. In the middle of the stroke, you should be transitioning from pull to push with one arm, and passing the high point in the arch of the recovery with the other arm. The recovering side should be higher in the water than the side with underwater arm
If I don't bring both arms down when I push off, I can't get my face out of the water. Use a quicker kick to get you most of the way to the surface, then stroke strongly with one arm to get into a swimming position with your face up. Practice this. It is very important.

Armpit Lift

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Balancing the recovery arm with the stroking arm
  • Using core leverage
  • Developing a unified stroke

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Push off the wall preparing to do the backstroke, straight spine, good water-line, productive kick. Establish opposition. Roll into and out of each stroke.
  2. Step 2 : - As your recovering arm approaches the top of the arch over the water, lift your armpit out of the water by rolling your opposite shoulder down lower into the water. Keep your elbow locked, and your hand aligned above your shoulder. When your recovering arm approaches the entry point beyond your shoulder, allow your armpit to submerge again.
  3. Step 3 : - Recover with the other arm. Notice that when you lift the armpit at the top of the recovery arch, it affects the underwater stroking arm. Correctly balanced, lifting your armpit helps your other arm to transition from the pull phase to the push phase of the stroke, and, to produce important arm speed at the finish of the stroke.
  4. Step 4 : - Continue stroking, and with each recovery, lift your armpit out of the water during the highest part of the arch. Continue for several lengths of the pool until you feel that the action of lifting your armpit balances the actions of the stroking arm. It should feel that the arms are working together, yet opposite.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
I sink when I lift my armpit. It sounds like your arms are not balancing each other. When you are lifting the armpit of your recovering arm, the other arm should be bent at the elbow at approximately a right angle, your elbow high and stable. That hand should be gaining speed and beginning to push towards your feet. In any other relationship to each other, your stroke will not benefit from the armpit lift.
My feet fish-tail. It is important for your recovering arm to remain aligned with its exit point and same side shoulder. Avoid entering the water with your hand at 12:00. Over-reaching like this will disrupt your alignment, causing you to fish-tail.
This seems to make my stroke pause. Think of it as a transition instead of a pause. Both the recovering arm and underwater arm are moving at the point of the armpit lift. There should be no pause, just a feeling the arms are balancing each other and unified in their action.

COORDINATION DRILLS

Coordinated backstroke unifies the individual actions of the stroke into a seamless effort forward. With each part working together, the backstroke becomes easier, smoother, and more comfortable, as well as more productive. The goal of the following coordination drills is to bring together the many elements that contribute to a good backstroke and to use them in combination for efficient backstroke action.

Roll, Pull, Roll, Push

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Blending the actions of the roll and the arm stroke
  • Initiating the arm stroke from the core
  • Coordinating backstroke action

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Push off the wall on your back, both arms extended, preparing to do the backstroke, straight spine, good water-line, productive kick. Swim to the other end of the pool focusing on identifying the pull phase and the push phase in your backstroke arm stroke.
  2. Step 2 : - Swim another length of backstroke, this time focusing on identifying the roll or switch from one side of your body to the other.
  3. Step 3 : - Now, swim a length of backstroke timing the pull phase of the underwater arm stroke to begin as you switch toward the underwater arm. Then, with the same arm, time the push phase of the stroke to begin as you switch away from the underwater arm.
  4. Step 4 : - Swim several lengths of the pool, focusing on the timing of roll, pull, roll push. Concentrate on one arm at a time. Once coordinated with the first arm, concentrate on the other arm to see if your timing also follows roll, pull, roll push.
  5. Step 5 : - Practice until you can increase your stroke rate and still maintain this timing. This is the ideal backstroke coordination.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
This timing helps my pull but not my push. Be sure you are switching with your hips as well as your shoulders in a unified action. Without your hips rolling too, your push will not benefit.
This timing helps my push, but not my pull. Be sure your recovering arm is aligned with your shoulder so it has the range of motion to descend twelve inches into the water at entry with the roll. Without this depth, the pull will not be of benefit.
I lose the timing when I increase my stroke rate. Think of it as a transition, instead of a pause. Both the recovering arm and underwater arm are moving at the point of the armpit lift. There should be no pause, just a feeling the arms are balancing each other and unified in their action.

Pinkie Lead

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Using the hip roll to initiate the recovery
  • Eliminating extraneous actions
  • Learning to avoid shoulder pain

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Push off the wall on your back, both arms extended, preparing to do the backstroke, straight spine, good water-line, productive kick. Swim backstroke to the other end of the pool focusing on your hand at the end of the push phase of the arm stroke, just before recovery. Notice that your thumb is closest to your body as it finishes the push, and the pinkie is to the outside. In this position it is the back of the hand that exits first for recovery, creating a large hole in the water, and lifting heavy water upward into the recovery.
  2. Step 2 : - To avoid this, traditionally, most swimmers have been taught to flip their hand to a thumb up position to exit the water, then flip their hand again during recovery to achieve a pinkie first entry at the end of recovery. Although the thumb-lead position avoids more drag than exiting with the back of your hand, it requires the additional action of flipping your hand over and then back again. This action is done independently from the roll, making the arm work harder. In addition, if not done early enough in the recovery, the second hand flip can contribute to shoulder pain. Practice the thumb-first recovery, initiating the flip to pinkie leading before your hand reaches the top of the recovery arch.
  3. Step 3 : - The alternative to flipping your hand, before and again during recovery, is to allow your roll to position your hand for recovery. Swim Backstroke to the other end of the pool, feeling core stability that unites your shoulders and hips. Focus on your shoulder of the arm that is finishing the push phase of the underwater stroke. As the hand finishes the push, deliberately pop the same side shoulder out of the water just as your hand passes your hip. Notice that as you do this deliberate movement with your shoulder, your same hip will also rise. Practice to the far end of the pool.
  4. Step 4 : - Now, swim another length of backstroke, focusing on popping your shoulder out of the water, and allowing your same side hip to rise at the point when your same side your hand is finishing the push. Freeze in that position. Observe that having rolled, it is the pinkie that is positioned to exit the water first for recovery. With the pinkie leading the recovery from start to finish, there is no need to flip the hand over and back, or to make sure the second flip is done early in the recovery to avoid shoulder pain.
  5. Step 5 : - Repeat this drill, maintaining unified hip and shoulder action. With each stroke, deliberately pop your shoulder out of the water as your hand finishes the push. Feel your hip rise as your hand is finishing its push. Then, as the hip continues its switch, let it lift your hand out of the water in the same position the hand finished the push, pinkie leading. It is just less work than a thumb-lead recovery.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
To accomplish a pinkie leading recovery, I have to roll more. Exactly. Maximize the benefit of your roll. Let it do the work of lifting your hand out of the water. Rest all you can during recovery.
With the pinkie leading, the recovery seems to be opposite to the way I was taught. Yes, most of the teaching theory for swimming is based on using a flatter stroke, which depends more on arm and leg power alone. Incorporating leverage from the core changes the dynamics of swimming in many ways, including the under-recognized opportunity to let your roll action position your hand for recovery, pinkie leading.
So, a thumb-first recovery is fine as long as I flip my hand over early in recovery. It is a widely accepted practice to exit thumbs-first. However, flipping your hand early in the recovery is worth trying, if only as a preventive measure to avoid shoulder pain that affects many backstrokers.

Backstroke Balance Drill with Cup

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Developing a balanced, effective backstroke
  • Developing continuous backstroke motion
  • Maintaining a stable head position while swimming backstroke

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Fill a medium plastic cup half-way with water. Gently balance the cup on your forehead as you lay horizontally in the water, face up, straight spine and good water-line. Once the cup is balanced, position both arms extended over your head. Kick productively.
  2. Step 2 : - Begin the underwater stroke with one arm, rolling smoothly into the stroke, while your head stays still, centered and neutral. Keep Balancing Cup on Forehead the cup of water balanced on your forehead. When the first arm passes your hip, begin stroking with the other arm. If the cup falls off, stand and start again.
  3. Step 3 : - Practice until you can swim smoothly for several strokes without the cup falling off your forehead.
  4. Step 4 : - Swim backstroke again, with the cup on your forehead, increasing your stroke and kick rate, and maintaining your stable, neutral head position. Roll smoothly from side to side, and with your hips and shoulders united, While they are opposite, feel the movement of both of your arms initiated at once by a single action of the core. This is ultimate backstroke.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
The cup falls off right away. Work on relaxing your neck muscles, so your head does not move with your shoulders. It should feel like your head is separate, floating ahead of your body.
The cup falls off when my hand enters the water. Be sure you are not doing a wide kick at this point to help your arm enter the water with speed. You also might be entering the water with the back of your hand, which makes a big splash, rather than slicing the water smoothly by entering pinkie-first.
The cup falls off when I am recovering If your recovery is aligned over your face, it will drop water onto the cup on your forehead, knocking it off. Practice aligning your recovery over your shoulder, and aiming for a 1:00 entry.

Opposition Overlap

THE PURPOSE OF THIS DRILL

  • Recognizing the momentary non-opposition point in the backstroke
  • Making the most of both arms pressing on the water at once
  • Feeling a continuous stroke

HOW TO DO THIS DRILL

  1. Step 1 : - Push off the wall for backstroke, achieving a straight spine, good water-line, and productive kick. Swim backstroke to the other end of the pool. Focus on the opposition of the arm stroke. When one arm is under the water, one arm is over the water. When one arm is in mid-stroke under the water, the other arm is in mid- recovery.
  2. Step 2 : - Now focus on the point when one arm is starting the stroke, and the other arm is finishing the stroke. This sounds opposite. As you swim, feel what is really happening. As one arm is entering the water and descending about twelve inches downward, the other arm is still pushing past the hip. Both arms are in the water at the same time. Both are in the power phase of the stroke at the same time. For a moment, the arms are actually not opposite.
  3. Step 3 : - Continue swimming backstroke, feeling this moment of overlap. Feel how the roll of the stroke assists both arms, one to start the arm stroke, the other to finish the arm stroke. Use this moment to start your stroke with power, and to finish your stroke with power. Practice more until you can feel both arms engaged in the power phase of the stroke at the same time, at opposite ends of the stroke.
  4. Step 4 : - Kick to assist both the beginning and the end of the stroke. Feel the balance of the stroke shift from the finishing arm to the starting arm. Opposition is reset as the beginning arm sweeps into its anchored position at the same time as the other arm clears the water. Practice for several lengths of the pool. Develop a continuous stroke, using the moment of stroke overlap to access more power than with one arm at a time.

DRILL FEEDBACK CHART

Problem Modification
I don't feel the overlap. Make sure your entry hand is descending down into the water, and not stroking from the surface of the water. Also, make sure you are finishing the stroke by pushing all the way past your hip. The overlap happens when these two actions occur simultaneously.
I am flat at this point. Make sure your arms are in continuous motion, and not stopped, one extended and one at your side. You should be in transition, rolling toward the side with the arm entering, and away from the side with the arm finishing. Practice this transition to make more use of leverage from your core.
My finishing arm is already at my side. Stroke past the hip instead of into the hip. This will give you a longer stroke, establish the overlap, and create a continuous stroke.

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DRILLS FOR BACKSTROKE Swimming

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