The kicking positions for backstroke are developed from any one or a combination of the following:
- arms folded holding kickboard to chest – this helps chin, back and head position.
- kicking with a board held with straight arms over the hips to knees – this helps back arch and restricts any movement (knees don’t bump board).
- arms extended behind head holding kickboard – this action simulates actual back body position without trunk rotation.
These drills can be mastered with and without fins. It is wise not to learn any skill that will need to be relearned at a more advanced level. Instead, skills should be learned to enhance the stroke’s execution and to lead to more advanced skills. This will ensure that skills are free of mistakes and improve the efficiency of each stroke.
Side lateral kick
The knees should not be lifted towards the stomach, thus breaking the surface. Swimmers should bend the knees just enough so that toes can ‘pull the water down then kick away’, stopping just short of breaking the surface. Kicks should be narrow and fast.
Arms should be kept by the swimmer’s sides. This can be practiced to one side at a time or with the body rotating from one side to the other on a set number of kicks by rolling the lower hip and shoulder to upwards position. The head remains steady at all times – a strong, steady, stable head position is a consistent factor in quality backstroke swimming.
The face looks at the sky or roof of the pool, ears resting on the water and chin and cheek pushed sideways against the shoulder. This can be practiced against the lane or side of pool. However, the knees should not break the water’s surface.
Breaths can be taken as required or can be on a set rhythm. For example, swimmers can learn to breathe in as their left hand enters the water, then exhale as their right hand enters the water. Breathing out hard must be reinforced continually. As in freestyle, the leading hip should be clear of the water or at least on the surface.
This drill can be learnt with fins, gradually progressing to no fins as long as the skill level is maintained.
The swimmer adopts the same body position as for freestyle, but with the face looking at the sky or pool roof.
Biofuse Training Fin
Biofuse Тraining Fin
Backstroke side lateral kick with one-third or one-half recovery and scull. The swimmer’s head should be relaxed and in the neutral position.
The arm hand to shoulder, should ‘reach for the sky’. The one-third or half recovery starts with the lift of the hip then arm lifting over the hip to a 45-degree angle (for one-third recovery). The thumb should lead the recovery to 90 degrees and the little finger leads the arm’s return to the hip.
For half recovery, the arm should lift over the shoulder through the line of the hip to a 90-degree angle (above shoulder). The arm then returns to the hip, straight. The lift and return, as in freestyle, must be a controlled movement. The sculling is only slight but a deeper catch is emphasized. This can be taught with both hands by the side and alternately one arm extended in Superman position (hand and arm in line with shoulder).
Tip: Hip lifts the shoulder – shoulder lifts the arm – arm lifts the hand – HIP – SHOULDER – ARM – HAND.
Crossover kicking drill – backstroke and butterfly
Swimmer extends arms behind ears, hands on top of each other on the top of back. Fingers can be intertwined for extra stability, until a position is learnt.
The drill aids body position, kick and prepares swimmer for more demanding drills and skills.
Freestyle and backstroke
By placing hands in the ‘hands in pockets’ position – elbows slightly elevated more for freestyle – and hands by side for backstroke, pressure is applied to rotate the trunk hip first while kicking. The pressure is applied to the side of the legs to act as a steering wheel, initiating rotation from the hips first.
The kicking must be continuous; however, the rotation should pause with the body facing one side or the other side of the pool. The rotation should be fast and explosive and the trunk should not stop when facing the bottom of the pool (freestyle) or the sky or roof (backstroke). The head must be kept stationary with as little movement as possible. The ears should be on the water line.
The sequence is: hip-shoulder-breathe then repeat to opposite side, in same order.
In freestyle, the swimmer may breathe when required about every four seconds or every three or four rotations in a normal freestyle breathing pattern with one eye and one ear in the water.
It is beneficial to have the introductory strokes development group swimmer develop body position, kicking technique and strength by converting freestyle into backstroke and vice versa. This practice routine is also beneficial when the swimmer, travelling in lane circles, can observe the oncoming swimmers.
The contrast of a straight arm recovery (backstroke) and an elbow high bent recovery (freestyle) is beneficial, as well as breathing (when required) in backstroke and the restricted breathing freestyle. Stroke count for both strokes over the same distances can also be compared. For junior swimmers, 12-15 strokes per 25 meters for freestyle and backstroke are recommended. This can be taught before side lateral kick.