How to Swim Backstroke Perfectly

Two Parts:Perfecting Your FormLearning Related Skills

Learning how to do the backstroke perfectly is a simple matter of practicing your form. Learning a few related skills like how to turn and how to stay headed in a straight line can also help greatly. With a little practice, you'll be able to power down the pool with a vigorous backstroke or float along at a leisurely pace.

Part 1
Perfecting Your Form

  1. Image titled Swim Backstroke Perfectly Step 1
    Keep your body flat like a plank. When you're doing the backstroke, you want your body to lay as flat on the surface of the water as possible. The smaller your profile in the water, the less resistance you'll feel as you swim and the easier it will be to go fast.
    • Most people have a hard time getting their hips to float on the surface of the water, so they sink down a little below the surface. This is OK but try to keep your hips as close to the surface as possible. It will be easier to keep yourself flat once you are moving.
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    Be comfortable with the water covering the sides of your head. The backstroke (like most swimming strokes) is all about making the most efficient use of your energy possible. One easy way to do this is to let your head sit semi-submerged in the water. The water should cover your ears almost completely. It may touch the corners of your face, but it shouldn't be getting into your eyes, nose, or mouth.
    • If you don't like the feeling of the water covering your ears, consider investing in a swimming cap or a set of swimmer's ear plugs. Trying to keep your ears out of the water will tire out your neck and spend energy that you could be using to swim.
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    Use a "flutter" kick. As soon as you're in position on your back, start kicking. Your legs should be straightened, close together, and lined up below your hips. Use short kicking motions to propel yourself forward. As you raise one leg, kick the other down (and vice versa).
    • For best results, keep your legs straight and kick from your hips rather than from your knees.[1] This will give you more power and prevent you from getting sore knees.
  4. Image titled Swim Backstroke Perfectly Step 4
    Use a long, fluid arm motion. As you start to kick forward, keep your arms at your sides. Reach one arm up in front of you. It should point toward the sky or ceiling. Bring it up over your head, by your ear, and down into the water — it will be pointing in the direction you're traveling.
    • When your arm hits the water, bring it down and scull outward to propel yourself forward. As you do this, raise the other arm and perform the same motion. Repeat. This should feel natural. Try to keep a steady rhythm between your arms and legs because that will make your swimming faster and easier!
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    Position your hands to minimize resistance. To swim as importantly as possible, remember that your hands should enter and exit the water with their edges first, not their palms. When you lift your arm out of the water, lead with your thumb. When it enters the water, lead with your thumb as well. This minimizes its profile and keeps its water resistance low.
    • When your hand is under the water pulling you forward, rotate it so your palm is facing your feet. This will give you the propulsive energy to go forward.
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    Rotate your shoulders and hips with each stroke. Your motions in the pool shouldn't be rigid like a steamboat. Instead, keep them fluid and flexible to get through the water as efficiently as possible. See below:
    • As you raise each arm, rotate your shoulder upwards. Rotate the opposite shoulder downwards — you should be using it to pull the other hand under the water anyway.
    • Similarly, twist your hips slightly with each kick. You should have an ever-so-slight "wiggling" motion — your right hip should go down when your right leg kicks and vice versa.

Part 2
Learning Related Skills

  1. Image titled Swim Backstroke Perfectly Step 7
    Breathe once per arm cycle. A good policy is to breathe in as one arms leaves the water, then breathe out as the other leaves the water. Repeat this pattern with deep breaths to keep your breath steady.[2]
    • Deep, steady breathing is important even though the backstroke allows you to breathe whenever you want. Breathing at a regular pace allows you to keep your backstroke up (with good form) for as long as possible.
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    Use flip turns to turn around quickly. As you approach a wall, turn over on to your front so you can see where you're going. Stroke forward with both arms, then stop them at the thigh. Somersault forward underwater, then stretch your legs out to plant your feet on the wall. Kick off with your legs as you squeeze your arms to your ears and make a "point" with your hands. As you slow down and reach the surface, start the backstroke again.
    • It can take a little practice to learn when exactly to turn over onto your front. Ideally, you want to do it when you're just a stroke or two from the edge of the pool.
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    If indoors, use the ceiling to keep yourself straight. When you're swimming in an indoor pool, you can use the ceiling to make sure you don't veer off course. Look for a line or pattern in the ceiling material. As you swim, keep your eyes open and focused on the ceiling. Keep this pattern oriented the same way as you swim to keep yourself traveling in a straight line.
    • If you're swimming outside, you have fewer options. If there are clouds out, you can keep the clouds oriented the same way to travel in a straight line. If not, try keeping the sun on the same side of your body. Keeping your bearings when it's overcast is difficult since you have few visible reference points.


  • Though they aren't required for the backstroke, goggles are a good idea, especially if you're doing flip turns.
  • As you push off from the wall (or as you make a flip turn) you may want to try using a dolphin kick underwater to propel yourself further down the pool. To do this, keep your legs together and kick with both at once.[3]

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Categories: Swimming and Diving