The majority of the power when swimming elementary backstroke is produced by the alternating arm technique and its horizontal streamlined body position gives it its efficiency. Therefore this is the preferred stroke in competitive races swum on the back.
The nature of floating on the back, face up (supine) can be a calming and relaxing feeling. Also the face is clear of the water, allowing easy breathing and little water splashes onto the face. On the other hand it can be counter productive at first, as it can give a feeling of disorientation and unease, as the person is facing upwards and therefore unaware of their surroundings.
The supine body position is flat and horizontal, with ears slightly below the water surface. The legs kick in an alternating action, continuously up and down to help balance the action of the arms.
Click on an image for more information.
For some specific exercises that focus on each part of elementary backstroke, click here.
This stroke has two different arm actions: the bent arm pull which is the most efficient, and the straight arm pull, which is the easiest to learn. Therefore the straight arm pull is best for beginners.
Breathing should be in time with recovery of each arm, breathing in with one arm recovery and out with the other. Ideally there should be 6 leg kicks to one arm cycle. This stroke timing may vary according to the swimmers level of coordination.
Learning to swim on your back as a beginner, it is best to use floats or buoyancy aids at first. This will allow you to get used to being on the water surface face upwards. It will also allow you to experience backwards movement through the water, which for a beginner can be a strange feeling.
Once you begin getting used to being in the water on your back, you can add a leg kick to gain some propulsion. You can then add in some arm pulls, one arm at a time until you are comfortable with the movements.
Gradually piece by piece the stroke comes together and you will be able to learn what each part of your body should be doing.
You will find some simple yet effective exercises in my book 'How To Swim Backstroke'. Click here to download a free sample and take a look.
Alternatively click here for some basic technical exercises.
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