Backstroke Swimming Technique Tips
Category: Swimming Tips

Backstroke Swimming Technique Tips

Backstroke swimming technique tips by Lucy, a Turner Swim coach in Manchester.

Backstroke is the only stroke done entirely on your back, relying on spatial awareness, timing and balance to keep the stroke flowing. It can be great for any level of swimmer, due to the more relaxed breathing aspect of the stroke. Your face should be out of the water at all times and therefore making the ability to breath much easier. I love this stroke as you can relax and take your time with the technique, without having to focus on too many aspects at once!

With that, here are my 5 top tips within each section of backstroke, as well as some health benefits (in case you needed any other reason to hop in the nearest pool!).

Breathing while swimming backstroke

The ideal breathing pattern in backstroke is one breath per arm cycle. This means that when one hand exits the water, you breath in and when the opposite hand exits, you breath out. Breathing is often overlooked in swimming, especially backstroke, however, a routine pattern will help you to relax and enable you to swim further for longer!

Backstroke leg kick

Think front crawl… But flipped. For our kick during backstroke, we use the same flutter kick as front crawl, ensuring the movement starts from the hips rather than the knees, to prevent them from becoming stiff and sore. Our legs should be almost straight, (just a slight knee bend) with our legs close together, producing narrow kicks just below the water surface.

Backstroke arms

Whilst sounding basic, this is one of the most effective tips in backstroke; ‘thumb exits, pinky enters’. By this, we mean that as your hand exits the water, it should be our thumb that is seen first. When the hand re-renters the water, our little finger should enter the water first. This will also help to roll our shoulders, which is where the arm movement should initiate from!

Backstroke body positioning and spotting your finishing

Whilst the shoulders roll, our body position should stay fairly flat in the water, with just a very slight, natural dip (1-2inches) at the hips. Keeping our head still is one of the most important (and most difficult) aspects of the stroke. It helps to imagine you have a cup of water on your forehead and if your head moves during the stroke, that cup will fall off. The same applies if you’re looking down at your toes or back at the wall behind you! Keeping your head still also helps you to keep in a straight line, as you can pick a spot on the ceiling and follow it!

If you’re a little worried about bumping into the wall on your finish. Don’t worry, there are a few things you can do to minimise this risk! Firstly, if you swim in a pool with flags at 5m away from the wall, you can practice counting how many arm strokes it takes to get from the flags, to the wall. Then use this number whenever you’re finishing a length, to know when to stop! If you’ve not got any flags then pick an object or a spot on the ceiling near the wall and whenever you reach this point just turn over onto your front and swim front crawl the rest of the way!

Health benefits of swimming backstroke
  • Backstroke is the best stroke for spinal position. The back should remain flat, therefore flattening out the spine and avoiding hyper-extension as well as helping to ease off back pain.
  • This stroke strengthens the upper back, which helps to pull your shoulders back and improve posture – especially great for anyone with a desk job, to loosen off muscles that tighten during the day whilst sat down!
  • Swimming as a whole, is great for anyone with osteoarthritis or who struggles to bear weight, due to the low impact on joints.

So, whether you’re an elite swimmer, or just beginning your journey in the pool, backstroke is a great addition to your water workouts and should be incorporated within most (if not every) session! Remember, no one will have perfect technique straight away, take your time and practice makes perfect!

Lucy is a former national level swimming and level 2 swim coach based at the Worsley Marriott hotel and country club near Manchester. Impressed with Lucy’s knowledge and swimming style?

Join Lucy for one-to-one adult swimming lessons near Manchester and improve your swimming technique. Click here to book a swimming session with Lucy.


© 2023 Turner Swim || Turner Swim, 21 Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BH || Tel 0207 157 9902 || Web Design London