How often do we hear people say “I do not like the backstroke because you swim belly upwards”.
In actual fact there is nothing easier than swimming on your back and the most popular warm-down exercise is the double arm backstroke: rotating both your arms backwards at the same time with a breaststroke leg kick.
It is true that we cannot control our hand movements during the power phase, because they are out of our visual field but, seeing as the mouth is always out of the water, we can breathe however we like.
It is important to perform some technical exercises to learn how to breathe at the right time, improve your style and make it more economical and fun in practice.
Here are some simple exercises that can change your swim stroke very quickly. Remember to perform each exercise at least twice with 15”/20” rest between one lap and the next.
1.Using a kickboard: holding a kickboard in your hands with your arms extended and lying on your back, swap hands after every stroke. Perform four strokes holding the kickboard at hip height and four with it extended above your head.
2.One arm only: swim the backstroke using just one arm, keeping the other alongside your body.
3. Breaststroke legs: swim backstroke inserting a breaststroke leg kick at the end of each set of arm strokes (breathe in while moving your arms and breathe out during the leg kick).
4. Glass placed on your forehead: swim backstroke with a glass placed right in the middle of your forehead making sure it does not fall off.
5. Fists clenched: swim the backstroke with your fists clenched.
6. Front crossovers: take a short pause after every three arm strokes when one arm is extended along your side and the other behind your head; at this point, describe two complete semicircles in front of your body crossing your arms over in front of your face, first in one direction and then the other.
7. With a low pullbuoy: swim the backstroke holding a pullbuoy between your knees.
8. Alternating: pause for 2” as one hand enters the water and wait for the other hand to come round. Continue your stroke and then take another break when your arms are along your sides.
9. Seated: swim the backstroke attempting to adopt a seated position and keeping your arm cadence extremely high (exercise to be performed for just a few seconds alternating with the two armed backstroke).
10. Swap over: swim the backstroke with one arm holding a pullbuoy in front of your face; as your arm swings past, swap hands and continue your stroke using the hand that was holding the pullbuoy.
If you perform these exercises properly, you will soon realise that it is not so horrible to swim “belly upwards”!