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June 2, 2024
Lenny Krayzelburg

Mastering Backstroke Swimming Technique: Expert Tips from Olympic Gold Medalist Lenny Krayzelburg

Backstroke swimming, a skill admired for its elegance and efficiency, requires a deep understanding of technique and precision. For individuals already familiar with elementary backstroke swimming, the journey to master the nuances of backstroke technique can significantly enhance their swimming prowess. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore each element in detail, providing clear insights and actionable tips to help you refine your technique and achieve mastery in the pool.

Knowing the Basics

Body Position: The Foundation of Success

Maintaining the correct body position is fundamental to the backstroke swimming technique. Your back should be straight, hips aligned, and head positioned in a neutral manner. This alignment minimizes water resistance and allows you to glide effortlessly.  

“I always focused on keeping as much of my chest as possible on the surface of the water, allowing me to maintain a high body and hip position.”

Lenny Krayzelburg

Focus on achieving optimal depth control, ensuring you are neither too deep nor too shallow in the water. Streamlined “line work,” or keeping your body in a straight line, is essential for minimizing drag and maximizing speed. Imagine yourself as an arrow, cutting through the water with minimal resistance.

Mastering Body Rotation

Constant body rotation in backstroke swimming often separates novice swimmers from experienced ones. Proper rotation reduces drag, making your arms catch more water and propel you forward. 

To achieve effective body rotation, engage your core muscles and practice rotating your torso with each stroke.

“It’s important to keep in mind when properly swimming backstroke body is never flat on the water, it’s in constant rotation from one side to another.”

Lenny Krayzelburg

Hands: Propelling Your Progress

Lenny Krayzelburg demonstrates proper backstroke technique.

Hand Movements: Precision and Power

Your hands act as the primary propellers in backstroke swimming, generating the necessary force to propel you through the water. Focus on the following aspects to optimize your hand movements:

Lifting and Trajectory

Stroke is initiated by rotating to have your shoulder be the first part of the arm to exit the water, then your arm follows it. When your hand exits the water, lift it efficiently and with purpose. The trajectory of your hand should be slightly outward before re-entry, creating a smooth transition.

Diving and Rowing Actions

Upon re-entry, your hand should enter the water at a slight angle, resembling a diving motion. As your hand moves through the water, engage in a rowing action, pulling the water towards your hips. This action generates propulsion and moves you forward.

Coordination of Hands

Coordinate the movements of both hands to maintain rhythm and speed. Your hands should work together harmoniously, ensuring a continuous and powerful stroke cycle.

Common Mistakes

Avoid common mistakes such as crossing your hands over the centerline of your body, which creates unnecessary resistance. Focus on a wide and efficient arm pull to maximize your stroke efficiency.

Legs: Unleashing Power

Optimizing Leg Movements

Your legs provide the driving force in backstroke swimming technique, complementing the movements of your arms. Pay attention to the following aspects to optimize your leg movements:

Number of Leg Rows

Aim for a balanced number of leg rows for each arm cycle. Coordinating your leg kicks with your arm strokes ensures a continuous and powerful propulsion system.

Key Features of Leg Technique

Focus on pointing your toes and kicking from your hips. The flutter kick should be quick and continuous, generating a consistent stream of propulsion. Avoid excessive splashing, as it indicates inefficient kicks that waste energy.

Head and Hip Rotation: Ensuring Balance and Precision

Head and Hip Movements

Head and hip movements play a crucial role in maintaining balance and stability during backstroke swimming. Focus on the following aspects to refine your technique:

Swimming Position

Keep your head in a neutral position, facing directly upwards. Avoid tilting your head, which can lead to uneven strokes and loss of balance. Your hips should rotate naturally with your body, ensuring a streamlined posture in the water.

Gaze and Equipment

Decide whether to keep your eyes open or closed based on your comfort level. If you prefer open eyes, invest in high-quality goggles to prevent water from entering. Properly fitted swim caps can also enhance your hydrodynamics, reducing resistance.

Hip Rotation

Engage your core muscles used in backstroke to initiate hip rotation with each stroke. A slight rotation allows your arms to catch more water, enhancing your forward propulsion.

How to Swim Backstroke Faster: Proven Techniques for Speed

It requires a combination of efficient technique, body coordination, and focused training. To enhance your speed in backstroke swimming technique, prioritize the following strategies:

Perfect Your Technique

Ensure your body position, hand movements, leg kicks, and breathing are synchronized and streamlined. Minimize resistance to maximize your speed.

Increase Stroke Rate

Work on increasing the frequency of your arm strokes without sacrificing proper form. Swift, controlled movements generate momentum. 

Improve Kick Strength

Develop powerful and continuous leg kicks. Strengthen your leg muscles and practice flutter kicks to enhance propulsion.

Utilize Interval Training

Incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions into your routine. Alternate between bursts of maximum effort and periods of rest to build endurance and speed.

“It’s important to keep in mind when swimming backstroke your stroke tempo must always be up in order to maintain body position and consistent rotation.”

Lenny Krayzelburg

Turns and Diving: Launching with Finesse

Perfecting Turns and Diving Techniques

Efficient turns and dives are essential for maintaining momentum and speed during backstroke swimming. Focus on the following techniques to master these skills:

Backstroke Flip Turn

Approach the wall with steady strokes and initiate the flip turn when you are approximately one arm’s length away. Use a quick and controlled motion to flip over, ensuring your feet touch the wall. Push off with force, utilizing the momentum to resume your strokes swiftly.

Backstroke Start

Position yourself at the edge of the pool, holding onto the wall or starting block. Push off with one foot while arching your back slightly. Enter the water smoothly and immediately transition into your strokes. Practice the backstroke start to improve your initial speed and streamline your entry into the water.

Effective Learning Strategies and Essential Drills

Learning Strategies

Focus on specific elements of your technique during each practice session. Devote time to perfecting body position, hand movements, leg kicks, and breathing patterns individually.

Recommended Drills

Engage in targeted backstroke drills designed to address specific aspects of your backstroke technique. Practice streamlining one to minimize resistance, arm and leg isolation to enhance coordination, and breathing to optimize your breath control.

Utilizing Essential Equipment

Required Gear for Backstroke Swimming

Selecting the right swimming equipment can significantly enhance your experience, providing comfort, visibility, and support. Consider the following essential gear for backstroke swimming:

Swim Caps and Goggles

Invest in high-quality swim caps that fit snugly to reduce drag and enhance your hydrodynamics. Choose goggles with anti-fog and UV protection features to ensure clear vision while swimming. Properly fitted goggles prevent water from entering your eyes, allowing you to focus on your strokes.

Training Tools

Explore specialized training tools designed to target specific aspects of your backstroke technique. Kickboards, pull buoys, and fins are valuable aids that can enhance your leg strength, arm coordination, and overall propulsion.

Perfect the Art of the Backstroke

Mastering and learning how to do backstroke swimming requires a combination of knowledge, practice, and dedication. By focusing on backstroke position, hand movements, leg kicks, breathing patterns, and effective turns, you can refine your skills and achieve exceptional results in the pool. 

Embrace the process of continuous improvement, incorporating targeted backstroke drills and utilizing appropriate training tools to enhance your technique.

Lenny Krayzelburg, four-time Olympic gold medalist and founder of SwimRight Academy with the SwimRight® swimming instruction methodology.

Lenny Krayzelburg
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