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Nick Thoman


Missy Franklin

Ryan Lochte

USA Swimming Sports Performance
National Team & Club Development
Natalie Coughlin

Mainstream Backstroke Teaching
• Is the best technique being emphasized?
– Two common points of emphasis are:
• Deep catch
– Dig deep upon arm entry to find the “still” water
– Then pull up and finish down
– Bernoulli-based propulsion (lift)

Matt Grevers

Beisel & Pelton

The Foundation
Head and Body Position
• Best head position:
– Extended neck line and slight head tilt
• A relaxed position in the arms and shoulders!
• Arms and shoulders can move about very freely
• Best body position with rounded back and hips at surface

• Rotation
– Swim on your side, rotate as much as possible
– Generate velocity/power through constant hip rotation
Good (extended)

The Foundation

Frontal Resistance


The Foundation • Don’t push the head too far back – Not relaxed in the neck and shoulders – Arched back and hips low – Legs are restricted The Foundation Kicking!! • The legs are CRUCIAL to body position • The legs also impact: – Rotation – Distance per cycle The Arm Stroke & Rotation Backstroke Arm Stroke Moving Forward Anchor the arm as early as possible • Path of the arm stroke • Amount of rotation • Timing of the rotation Backstroke Arm Stroke Moving Forward • Keep the arm anchored throughout the arm stroke – Path of hand should be flat – Palm and forearm should always be facing back – Fingers should be pointed toward the side 2 .

Backstroke Arm Stroke A deep catch? • A deep catch is both inefficient and weak – Pushes downward with hand/arm before pushing back – Arm is in a relatively weak position behind the body Backstroke Arm Stroke • From a front view… – The arm is strongest when it remains to the side of the body and connected to the core Rotation Backstroke Arm Stroke How much?? • Arm should be at a natural angle relative to the body – Not over reaching behind the back • Shoulder angle depends on flexibility. there is no need to rotate a lot – This lends to faster tempo. • Rotate just enough to get the ideal catch and for the shoulder of the recovering arm to clear the surface Rotation • • • • Hand depth ≈ 8-12 inches below the surface Shoulder angle ≈ 170-180º Elbow bend ≈ 120º Rotation angle ≈ 30-40º Our best backstrokers rotate in the range of: 30º ± 10º Elizabeth Beisel Natalie Coughlin Leila Vaziri Lauren English 3 . but should normally be about 170-180º • The magnitude of rotation is dictated by the depth of the arm stroke – If not rotating to get a deep catch.

the body rotates toward the arm stroke which supports the arm propulsion. Aaron Peirsol Rotation Timing Klete Keller Rotation Timing • Rotating too much puts the swimmer in a situation where they will be rotating against the strongest part of the arm stroke • In order to get the most out of the arm stroke. and rotation must be dynamic – It cannot be slow and lazy 4 . if rotation occurs during the arm stroke. in turn.Our best backstrokers rotate in the range of: 30º ± 10º Peter Marshall Aaron Peirsol Michael Phelps Rotation myths • Rotating all the way onto the side does not reduce drag any more than a 30º rotation. late rotation – Can result in entering while still rotated to the opposite side • That. creating a weaker stroke – In freestyle. the body rotates away from the arm. • Rotating during the arm stroke does not increase arm propulsion (unlike freestyle rotation). minimal rotation should occur between the catch and finish Rotating Timing • Rotation should be quick and snappy • Rotation should be connected to both the finish and entry of the stroke!! • The combination of those two movements (downward push & dynamic entry) will get the hips over as quickly as possible A Common Rotation Flaw • Many swimmers rely on the shoulder to rotate • Not using the entry/finish combination… – Can result in a slow. can result in entering with the back of the hand or entering too narrow • The entry. finish. – In backstroke.

Shoulder rotation Backstroke Drills • Six kicks per side – Teaches connecting the rotation properly • Double arm – Teaches wide shallow stroke • One arm backstroke – Be careful because it relies partly on a shoulder rotation • Drills that exaggerate the rotation – Can teach balance in the water. but be careful of how it translates to whole stroke Kayak Drill Backstroke Drills • Surgical tubing extended from above Double Arm Back Drill – Catch Position – Can teach the proper arm mechanics and help strengthen all the right muscles 5 .

slightly tilted with extended neck • Body position: Rounded back.Backstroke Summary Interesting… The very best haven’t changed much • Head position: Relaxed. shallow catch with hand/arm at side and always pushing back • Rotation: Quick and tight occurring in conjunction with the entry and finish Backstroke Finish Backstroke turn Backstroke Finish Backstroke turn • Take advantage of 2nd to last arm stroke! – Carry more speed into the wall – Roll over sooner and take a freestyle stroke – Adjustments: • Start turn further away from the wall • Hold breath for a little longer 6 . not arched • Arm stroke: Early.

start v. Front • Kicking on your back is much easier to have good technique because the up-kick keeps the swimmer underwater. Phelps. Grevers. the average tempo of their kicks off the start is between 0.47 seconds per kick – Crocker. differentiate by stroke. the down-kick pushes the swimmer toward the surface. the optimal technique for speed is compromised with a lot of hip movement. not up or down • Upper body movement varies among the best – Nearly everyone has a distinct “stretch” with the upper body at the finish of each kick Dolphin Kick: Tempo Dolphin Kick: Back v. Irie (JPN). purely so the kick moves the body forward. Lochte. Thoman. In order to stay underwater. and stabilized by the core • Knees must bend to set-up the kick • Follow through and finish the kick in front of the body Dolphin Kick: Hips/body • Aim to minimize hip movement. gender. turn 7 . • Kicking on your stomach. Backstroke Kickouts • Looking at 9 of the best dolphin kickers over 18 races. Pelton. Shields • In the future: larger sample. Coughlin.37 – 0. 100/200 event.Backstroke Turn Dolphin Kick • The power from the kick comes from the legs (quads).

1 7.3 6.50 14.00 0 1 0 1 1 1 Koga (10 Pan Pacs) Thoman (10 Pan Pacs) Grevers (10 Austin GP) Stravius (10 Euros) Peirsol (10 Nationals) Lochte (10 Pan Pacs) LaCourt (10 Euros) 6.1 11 11 12 11 11 13 14.00 14.00 14.50 14.50 1 1 1 -1 1 1 Coughlin (11 Worlds f) GO USA!!! 8 .3 6.2 6.50 14.8 6.9 7.1 6.Backstroke: 15m Stats Athlete Time # kicks b/o dist strokes Zhao (11 Worlds f) Coughlin (11 Worlds r) Coughlin (11 Worlds sf) Seebohm (11 Worlds) Terakawa (11 Worlds) 6.9 6.00 13.0 6.75 14.9 6.00 14.75 14.50 14.2 6.3 10 11 9 -11 8 9 14.00 14.