Backstroke Timing & Coordination

Improve Your Timing and Swim Smooth

Backstroke timing and coordination of arms and legs develops with practice.  A smooth and effortless stroke is achieved with correct timing and coordination. Ideally there should be 6 leg kicks to one arm cycle. 

Arm pull and leg kick timing patterns will vary from person to person, depending on their level of coordination.  Some will have a 6 beat cycle (6 kicks to every arm pull cycle), some a 4 beat cycle (4 kicks to every arm pull cycle) and some may even have a 2 beat cycle (2 kicks to every arm pull cycle).  It should be noted that one 'arm pull cycle' is defined as each arm performing one complete arm pull. 

The opposite leg kicks downwards at the beginning of each arm pull. This helps to balance the body.  This may vary according to the swimmer's level of coordination.

Backstroke technique timing and coordination
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Actual exercises to practice in the pool with technique tips and coaching points to perfect your backstroke.  Download them in an instant.  Click here to fast track.

Arm action should be continuous. i.e. when one arm enters and begins to pull, the other should begin its recovery phase. 

Like front crawl, the timing and coordination for this stroke can be a 6 beat, 4 beat or one beat cycle, depending on the ability and level of coordination of the swimmer.

Common Backstroke Timing Mistakes That Cost Energy

A common mistake is performing one arm cycle at a time, resulting in an uneven and unbalanced stroke overall.

Timing and coordination problems occur with back stroke when the legs are allowed to sink below the water surface and the arm lose their continuity and pull one are at a time.  

Counting in your head can sometimes help to maintain stroke rhythm and timing.  If you are able to perform a 6 beat cycle then you should count to 3 during each arm pull, therefore kicking 3 legs kicks per arm pull.  

If a one beat cycle comes more naturally then there should be one leg kick for each arm pull.  Performing the stroke slowly at first will help to establish the rhythm and timing and only when you are proficient swimming at a slow steady pace should you try to increase speed.

With increases in speed comes the greater potential for the timing and coordination to become disrupted and the overall swimming stroke to lose it efficiency.

Focus on your timing and coordination with these simple exercises

Download this document to your computer, tablet or mobile device and fine-tune your backststroke coordination and timing using the technique tips and key focus points. 

Timing cycle from a push and glide


Timing during the full stroke


Click here for more backstroke exercises.

All of these documents are PDF format and are compatible with all tablet and mobile devices.  Some computers may need PDF reading software such as Adobe Acrobat.

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