Backstroke is the most efficient stroke swum on the back. It is the third-fastest stroke of all the swimming strokes

Essential Tips To Successful Backstroke

Backstroke is the most efficient stroke swum on the back. It is the third-fastest stroke of all the swimming strokes. Backstroke produces the majority of the power by alternating arm action, and its streamlined horizontal position gives it its efficiency. Backstroke is the most preferred stroke in competitive backstroke races. 

Swimming on the back can be useful for helping a pupil to relax in the water. The nature of the floating on the back, with your face up, supine position gives you a calm and relaxing feeling. No water should splash onto the face with the front clear of water. It might be counterproductive initially. These positions give a feel of disorientation and unease. Pupils face looking upwards and thus unaware of their surroundings. Therefore pupils need to be taught how to regain a standing position from being supine in the water. 

Body Position For Backstroke

The supine body position is flat and horizontal, with the ears slightly below the water surface. 

The head remains throughout the stroke and the eyes looking slightly down. 

Hips and shoulders remain near or at the water surface, rolling together with the stroke. 

Legs remain with knees closer together to maximize efficiency. 

Leg Action For Backstroke

Always make to point your toes with the ankles relaxed. The upward kick will provide propulsion and make sure the kick comes from the hip. 

The balance of the action of the arms comes from the alternating movement of kicking up and down. 

Legs should be stretched out with the toes pointed (plantar flexion)

Ankles have to be relaxed and loose with toes slight pointing inwards. 

Slight bend of the knee and straighten when the leg starts to kick upwards.

Toes should kick to create a small splash like boiling water but not break the surface. 

Arm Action For Backstroke

There are two kinds of arm actions in the back crawl. Instructors will teach each type of arm actions according to each of the pupil’s abilities and strengths. They are mainly the “bent arm pull” or the “straight arm pull.” The bent arm pull is more efficient while the straight arm pull is easier to learn. Instructors will usually start with teaching straight arm pull for beginners and easy progressions. 

“Bent arm pull”

The arm will exit the water, brush past the ear, and enter the water with the little finger first. 

Swimmers will then pull from above the head, pushes past the hip to simulate the bent arm pull action. 

As the arm pull-through underwater to completion, the overall path should look like an ‘S’ shape.


Entry is identical to the straight arm pull with little finger entering first, palm facing out and the arm will remain close to the shoulder line. 

Downward sweep 

The palm should always be facing the direction of the travel

Shoulders roll, and the elbow bends slightly as the arm sweeps downward and outwards. 

Upward sweep

As the hand sweeps inline with the shoulder, the palm will changes its to sweep upwards in inwards to the hips.

The elbow should then bend 90 degrees pointing to the pool floor. 

Second down sweep

The arm action will then sweeps inwards towards the thigh with the palm facing downwards. 

The bending arm action will complete with the arm fully extended and hand pushing downwards to counterbalance the shoulder roll. 


Thumb will exit the water first with the back of the hand facing your body. 

The shoulder will roll again with the shoulder of the recovering arm rolling upwards. 

Arm rotation occurring through 180 degrees over the shoulder 

Palm will turn outwards when the hand is 12′ O clock straight to ensure that the hand enters the water with little finger first during recovery. 

“Straight arm pull”


The arm will remain straight and stay inline with the shoulder as much as possible. Hands will turn with the palm facing outwards to make sure the little finger will enter the water first. 


The arm will sweep through underwater in a semi-circle, pulling with force under the water surface, pushing to the side of the thigh.


Regular breathing is encouraged to prevent any breath-holding. 

Breathing can be in time with the recovery of each arm, breathing in with one arm recovery and then out with the other. 


A typical scenario of backstroke will be one arm exiting the water and the other beginning to pull while the leg kicks remains continuous throughout. 

This may vary with the swimmer’s ability to coordinate; ideally, it should be six-leg kicks to one arm cycle. 

Always make sure that the arm pulls are continuous, for example: when one arm enters and begins to pull, the other will have to begin its recovery phase. 

Drills to Help You Learn Backstroke Swimming: Body Position, Leg Action, Arm Action, Breathing, and Timing

Backstroke Body Position Drill

  • Floating supine supported by floats
  • Static supine position and holding a single float
  • Push and gliding holding a single float
  • Pushing and gliding from the poolside independently (with no floatation devices)

Backstroke Leg Action Drill

  • Having noodle/woggle held under the arms
  • Two floats held under each arm
  • One float board held on the chest
  • Have a float board held behind the head
  • Float held on top of the knees
  • Float overhead with the arms straight
  • Back float position, arms by the side and hands sculling

Backstroke Arm Action Drill

  • Land drill and practicing static by the poolside
  • Single-arm pull with one hand holding a float held on the chest
  • Lane rope practice with single arm pull
  • Single-arm pull independent with the other arm held by the side
  • Arms practice only, isolation of legs using pull buoys

Backstroke Breathing

  • Practice full stroke with breathing

Backstroke Timing

  • Pushing and gliding adding arms and legs together with 3 seconds arm pull switch
  • Full stroke drills

Leave a Reply

Notify of
error: Content is protected !!