Improve your buoyancy and position: perfect your backstroke

Training & Technique
Written by: arena coaches at 20 October '15 0
You are reading: Improve your buoyancy and position: perfect your backstroke

Level: beginner

Having learnt the basic technical notions, how to perform a proper turn and how to dive in, let’s try and improve our backstroke technique.


Particularly those of us who have never swum competitively, when we swim the backstroke we tend to make two basic mistakes that are actually inseparable, because both concern our body  position in the water.

The first frequent “error” we can rectify involves swimming with our body in line with the surface of the water. This is fine with the freestyle, but not when we are swimming on our back. In actual fact, the effort to keep our body in a perfectly horizontal position so that it is hydrodynamic must be counterbalanced by the fact that this position means our legs are too high to serve their purpose.

If you get the chance to be filmed while you are swimming the backstroke, you will be able to see that your body is lower in the water than for the freestyle. That is why it is often said that the backstroke is swum in the water and not on the water.

Correcting this mistake often leads to a second “imprecision”: allowing your bottom to sinke lower than your feet, so that you are in the so-called “sitting position”.


Of the two errors the second certainly slows you down more, but it is also the easier to rectify: you simply need to increase the speed of your leg kick and move your chin backwards a few centimetres and the problem is solved!

On the other hand, making sure your body is less on the water surface requires greater effort. Here are some tips for you to follow:

  • Move your chin a few centimetres closer to your chest
  • Try not to push downwards with your hand during the pull phase, attempting to find just the right depth of arm stroke as soon as your hand enters the water.
  • Maintain a fluid arm stroke attempting to rotate-push with your arm as smoothly as possible.

As we have mentioned, as well as slowing you down in terms of less specific buoyancy, these errors in position will also cancel out the thrust  from your legs.

To make sure our legs help us avoid these mistakes, you have to train them to kick in all positions, both upwards and sideways. The following is a specific legs-only exercise for this purpose: 25 m on your back – 25 m on your right-hand side – 25 m freestyle keeping your hands motionless along your sides – 25 m on your left hand side.

By making these adjustments you will increase your speed while making the same effort and, no bad thing, you will also look much better in the water.


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arena coaches

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