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Backstroke Swimming Techniques

by
author image Dan Harriman
Dan Harriman began writing professionally in 2009 and has a varied background in marketing, ranging from sports management to music promotion. Harriman holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with an emphasis on strategic communications from the University of Kansas and earned the International Advertising Association's diploma in marketing communications.
Backstroke Swimming Techniques
Your head remains above water during the backstroke. Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

The backstroke should be part of every good swimmer's repertoire. Swimming backstroke can be relaxing and is less strenuous than other strokes, such as freestyle and butterfly, given that your head is never submerged. If you have back problems, the backstroke is an ideal swimming stroke to perform. Learning proper backstroke techniques can help you take stress off your back while working out your arms and legs.

Head

During the backstroke, your head remains above the water at all times. Rest your head in the water and tuck your chin into your neck. Your ears should remain just above the waterline throughout the backstroke. As you swim, aim to keep your head as still as possible and fix your gaze upward. Many lap pools feature markers that are suspended over the pool. These markers serve as a guide to help align yourself as you swim backstroke.

Body

During the backstroke, your body lies horizontally in the water in a straight line. Keep your legs fully extended at all times and stretch your body so your back stays straight. As you swim, your body should be partially out of the water. Don't drop your hips, as this creates drag and slows you down. With each stroke, your body should roll at an angle toward the side of the arm that is being inserted into the water. This technique helps you cut through the water and reduces the amount of resistance your body has to swim against. Keep your core muscles engaged throughout the backstroke to help you lean into the rolling motion.

Arms

Your arms mimic the action of a windmill when swimming backstroke. Both arms should be fully extended at all times. One arm leaves the water near the hip and rotates up and backward. The arm re-enters the water behind your head, with your pinkie finger entering the water first. As this arm rotates through the air, the other arm is sculling water backward underneath the body. Keep your palm open and use it like a paddle to move water. Time the stroke so that as one arm enters the water, the other arm is completing its sculling under your body.

Legs

The legs perform flutter kicks during the backstroke. Try to stay in rhythm with what your arms are doing. Aim to perform the same number of flutter kicks during each full stroke. Flutter kicks should be done fully submerged. Slightly bend your legs downward and kick upward to move water. Your toes should be pointing away from your body throughout and act like a paddle, which helps move more water than if they were to point up.

Breathing

Your breathing should be rhythmic and in sync with your strokes. Inhale and exhale consistently at the same point of each stroke. Ideally, you will inhale as one arm recovers and exhale as the other arm recovers.

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