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by Matt Donovan

December 28, 2018

These will help your entry, catch, and body rotation

Poor backstroke technique usually stems from problems with one of these three parts of the stroke: entry, catch, and body rotation. Here are three drills to help you with these aspects of the stroke.

Double-Arm Backstroke, Three-Second Pause

Do double-arm backstroke but pause for three seconds once your hands enter the water above your head. This helps you achieve two major goals.

First, a flawed crossover stroke is all but impossible with a double-arm pull. Because your shoulder blades can only be squeezed together so much, you’re forced to enter at an ideal position above your head (11 and 1 on an analog clock).

Second, when you’re doing double-arm backstroke, your hands are more likely to be in an ideal position. It’s best to keep your fingertips pointed to the side wall. Don’t over-rotate and point your fingers to the bottom of the pool as in freestyle. This most effective pull (think about Aaron Peirsol or Missy Franklin) is when your hand is just a few inches beneath the surface of the water.

Fist/Open Hand

In traditional fist drill, swimmers go the entire length of the pool with a closed fist. Here, you should swim three stroke cycles with closed fists and three stroke cycles with open hands. The goal is to get a feel for the water, particularly in the catch phase. If you can catch the water and engage your stroke sooner, you’ll receive more from the power phase of your stroke. This can be done as one-arm backstroke or with the normal alternation of your arms on backstroke.

Three-Pull, 10-Kick

The three-pull, 10-kick drill is executed just as it sounds. After pushing off the wall and surfacing, you should do 10 flutter kicks on one side with bottom arm extended above your head and your top arm resting on your thigh. Take three strokes and perform 10 kicks on the other side, repeating until you get to the other side of the pool. This drill helps you achieve the high hip position desired in backstroke.

A Few Important Notes

Combine most drills with actual swimming—endless drilling is rarely beneficial. Adding drills into set work can spice up your workout and ensure that you’re performing good technique. For example, you could do five rounds of 2 x 25s drill on 40 seconds with 1 x 50 backstroke on 1:00 and descend the swim each round.

Adding equipment can be helpful with backstroke drills, especially fins and Tempo Trainers. If you choose to add paddles to backstroke sets, use paddles smaller than the ones you use for freestyle.


  • Technique and Training


  • Backstroke