How To Learn Backstroke

...and download a free Backstroke Book

Discover how to learn backstroke in easy stages, piecing the swimming stroke together step by step.

Download a free copy of my Backstroke Technique book so that you can refer to the images and diagrams as you work through each step. 

Scroll down to get started.

Learn how to swim backstroke for beginners

Step 1: Backstroke Body Position

Correct backstroke body position is an essential starting point in the how to learn backstroke process. The best drill to begin with is the 'push and glide' from the pool side:

  1. Start by facing the pool wall, grabbing the poolside with both hands and putting your feet up against the wall, so your knees are bent up between your arm.  
  2. You are poised and ready to spring away from the wall. 
  3. Let go of the wall and push hard with both feet...
  4. ...stretch out away from the wall keeping both arms by your sides.
  5. Glide across the water surface maintaining a horizontal position.
Backstroke body position from a push and glide

Ensure you have:

  • your feet together
  • your chest and hips push up towards the water surface
  • your hands together and fingers closed

For more detailed information about backstroke body position, click here.

Download a Free Backstroke Technique eBook

Step 2: Backstroke Kicking Technique

The leg kick for backstroke is a relaxed, alternating action.  The upbeat of the kick provides a small amount of propulsion, but the main purpose of the leg movements are to balance the arm pulls.  A good drill to practice is kicking whilst holding a float or kickboard across the chest. 

  1. Push away from the poolside with one foot and with your head back, facing upwards.
  2. Begin to kick using a relaxed and alternating action, flicking your feet upwards to break the water surface. 
  3. Your relaxed ankles should enable your feet to kick in a flipper-like action. 
basic backstroke leg kick drill, using a float held across the chest

Ensure that:

  • the legs kick from the hips
  • only the toes break the water surface
  • knees bend only slightly, not excessively

For an in-depth look at backstroke kicking, click here.

Step 3: Backstroke Arm Pull

The arm action for backstroke is a large movement that begins with the arm at the side.  It rises up and backwards over the water surface and pulls under the water surface through to the hip, rather like an oar on a rowing boat.  A great drill to practice the technique is a single arm pull whilst holding a float across the chest. 

backstroke arm pull for beginners

  1. Push gently away from the pool side holding a float across the chest with one arm and with the other arm by your side
  2. Extend your arm up and over the water with your thumb leading the movement
  3. Keeping your arm straight, rotate your hand so that your little finger enters the water in line with your shoulder and arm fully extended
  4. The arm pulls through the water to the hip with the forearm and the palm of the hand providing the propulsion
backstroke arm pull drill for beginners hold a float on the chest

Ensure that you:

  • Fingers remain together
  • Upper arm brushes past your ear
  • The arm pull is a continuous action

For more information about backstroke arm technique, click here.

Step 4: Backstroke Breathing

Because backstroke is swum in a supine (face up) position, breathing can often happen naturally.  However, inhaling and exhaling in time with each arm pull can help to maintain a steady rhythm as you swim.  

  1. Push away from the wall and begin to swim a backstroke, using a standard alternating arm action. 
  2. Breathe regularly with each arm pull
  3. Inhale with one arm pull and exhale with the opposite
  4. Ensure you are not holding your breath or breathing too rapidly
basic breathing when swimming backstroke

For a more in-depth look at backstroke breathing, click here.

Step 5: Backstroke Timing and Coordination

Now piece the whole stroke together, using a steady and rhythmical timing pattern of alternating and balanced arm and leg movements.  

  1. Push and glide away from the poolside with arms by your sides. 
  2. Begin to kick, using a relaxed alternating action
  3. Add an alternating arm action, ensuring the kick continues
  4. Ensure that one arm begins to pull as the opposite arm exits the water
  5. Count 3 leg kicks with each arm pull
basic backstroke timing and coordination for beginners

For more information about different backstroke timing patterns, click here.

How To Learn Backstroke With Loads More Step By Step Drills

The 5 drills outlined here are a great starting point.  There are many more in my book 'How To Swim Backstroke' - drill to suit everyone of all abilities, ensuring progress as they help to eliminate the most common mistakes.  They all come with professional teaching points to ensure that you make progress. 

Grab a copy of my book here and discover how to learn backstroke today...

how to swim backstroke guidebook
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