How to improve your backstroke – kick technique

Training & Technique
Written by: Leila Vaziri at 9 June '14 0
You are reading: How to improve your backstroke – kick technique

Having a strong and steady kick is essential to backstroke. Out of all of the strokes, backstroke requires the most vigorous and continuous of kicks.

A few important aspects to work on:

A constant leg motion is required. This doesn’t mean you have to hammer with the legs, but rather keep a gentle steady motion. If the kick stops, the whole lower half of the body sinks, so a steady kick is vital to keeping a long buoyant position on your back.

If you are looking to improve your leg endurance,  focus on pure kick sets whilst on your back. Leg strength is one of the most important aspects of backstroke.

Ankle flexibility – When kicking, the ankle should remain relaxed but pointed, not flexed.  The ability to bend and point your ankle allows for a snapper motion. Increasing your ankle flexibility will benefit your kick greatly. Try ankle stretches on land or kicking sets using fins.


When kicking, bend into your knees. A misconception is that your legs must remain straight. Hips are long and straight but you shouldn’t lock out at the knees. Instead, allow your knees to naturally bend like a hinge. Imagine you are kicking a soccer ball, you are bending into your knee and focusing on the power coming off your foot.

Keep your kick small and narrow.  Avoid taking long leg strides (like when running or biking), the feet should not travel further than half a foot up and down.



Backstroke kick momentum is upward. Try to flick your toes up and put propulsion in the upward swing of the foot. Don’t think of kicking downward into the water.

A good way to check on your kick is to tilt your eye gaze down while you’re on your back. You should see your toes break the surface, but not your knees, and should feel like your body position is maintained long at the surface.

Stay tuned for more backstroke advice!


Written by:

Leila Vaziri

Leila Vaziri is a former World Record Holder, World Champion, and member of the US National team. Currently Leila is a private Swim Coach based out of New York City and South Florida.