Which swimming stroke is good for my back? I always use breaststroke, but I understand crawl is better for my lower back. I try front crawl, but my legs ache, and I cannot get far with a proper motion. I am 70yrs old and have swum since 6yrs old. I want to keep fit and find walking my dogs and swimming the best way. Do you think I need lessons?
Front crawl is not the only swimming stroke that will take pressure away from your lower back. In fact, there are a few ways of swimming that will help complement your breaststroke.
Before spending money on swimming lessons, try some of the following suggestions.
Swimming on your back is a great alternative to breaststroke and is better for the lower back. You do not have to swim full-stroke backstroke, using the arms and all that. You could swim on your back with your arms by your sides, using your hands to paddle under the water gently. If you are unsure, using a float or a swim woggle under your arms will help give you confidence.
Many people make the mistake of kicking too much when swimming front crawl, resulting in aching, tired legs. Most propulsion for front crawl comes from the arm action, and even that does not have to be fast.
Try your front crawl, placing less emphasis on the leg kick and more on the arms, but perform the stroke slowly. You may find you will go further without really trying.
You can also try swimming breaststroke but place less emphasis on the leg kick. Although this is technically incorrect, the fact that you are swimming and doing some exercise is more important. The goal is to keep fit, not qualify for the Olympics.
Breaststroke can place pressure on the lower back in two ways. Firstly the powerful whip action leg kick places a slight impact and compression on the lower spine. Secondly, the body position is at a slight angle rather than flat, like front crawl and backstroke, which places an unnatural arch at the lower back.
Both can be adjusted to take some pressure away from the lower back. Firstly kick with less power and use your arms more, as mentioned already. Secondly, make your body position flatter by swimming with your chin lower (maybe even face down) and extending your legs out further and higher behind you.
You do not have to eliminate breaststroke from your swimming. Maybe reduce the amount of breaststroke you swim and replace some of your lengths with my suggestions above.
My best-selling book The Complete Beginners Guide To Swimming contains over 80 separate swimming exercises to help all parts of basic swimming. You can download it, print out the parts you need and take them to your pool to try out. Click the link below for more information.