How To Swim Backstroke For Beginners

Backstroke Technique

Backstroke is a simple stroke to pick up for new swimmers and an excellent one to have in your arsenal. Whether you're swimming for fitness, leisure or training for competitions, being able to swim backstroke is almost essential!

 

Learn how to float on your back.

If you're not so confident in the water ,then you may want to spend some time getting used to floating on your back before jumping straight in to the full backstroke straight away. Find a quiet corner of the pool and place your head back, your chin in the air and allow yourself to float naturally, keeping your belly button up to maintain a good horizontal position.

You'll want to have your head back, hips up and stay relaxed, you're looking to be relatively flat in the water. You should not be looking at your toes during backstroke, this will put you into a sitting position. If you find your hips sinking in the water try looking straight up at the ceiling and raising your chin rather than trying to look forwards or at your toes.

 

Keep breathing.

Lots of people will have the impulse to avoid breathing when they're first trying to swim on their back, afraid to allow any water onto their face for fear of it going up their nose! Spend some time getting used to being on your back and remember to breathe normally. The beauty of backstroke is that it allows you to breathe any time you want. Unlike the other strokes where you have to time your breathing perfectly to avoid swallowing water.


Kicking.

Try a pointed toe kick. The pointed toes are important because this is what generates your propulsion through the water. Remember to kick from your hips, (not from your knees) and incorporate a slight knee bend, but nothing too drastic. You don't want your kick to be so loose that you're “riding the bicycle” so-to-speak but neither should your legs be completely rigid.

If you'd like to practice your backstroke kick then get yourself a kickboard and hold it straight over your head whilst floating on your back so that you're lying horizontal in the water, then begin your kick. You should be able to feel when you're kick is the most effective, and when it's wrong you'll be able to feel that too. The "kickboard above the head" technique is also great for getting used to swimming backstroke because it puts a barrier between your head and the wall of the pool, preventing injury when you inevitably go backwards into the wall.

How To Swim Backstroke


Pulling.

Start with your arm straight at your side so that it is hovering next to your hip. Your arm should exit the water with your thumb pointing up, leading your hand. Then twist your arm when it exits the water, so that when your arms re-enters the water your pinky finger is going in first. You're now at the top of your pull phase, when your hand re-enters the water it's time to begin the pull. Bend your arm at the elbow and begin to pull back towards the starting position. With backstroke it's more of a pushing motion, rather than a pull. You should be pushing the water down towards your toes in order to move yourself in the desired direction.So the whole process is: thumb out the water, pinky in the water, bend the elbow and push through the stroke.
    
A pullbuoy can help when practising your backstroke arms technique. Place the pullbuoy between your legs as a flotation device, this allows you to float easily in the water without having to maintain your kick. Giving you more time to focus on your arm technique.

 

Here's a useful video that explains the backstroke arm/pulling technique with demonstration in the pool:

There's also this short guide on “How To Swim Backstroke” created by the experts at Speedo UK:

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