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Learn How To Swim 101 - Improving The Backstroke Pt2

When you first start to learn how to swim backstroke don't get too concerned about how your arm enters or leaves the water. You have enough to concentrate on without overwhelming yourself.

Once you have started to gather some momentum and you are managing to consistently keep your head above water, you are then ready to begin to improve the efficiency of your arm action.

The entry of the arm into the water for the backstroke should always be with the little finger first. This is to minimize the resistance of the arm entering the water.

Image of a swimmer doing Backstroke. She has a nice straight arm working towards an improving swimming stroke.
Backstroke Arm

Common Faults:

Splashing the Back of your Hand

If you are splashing the back of your hand into the water you are not only causing too much turbulence but your arm is actually pushing water in the opposite direction to the way you are heading. The result is that you are slowing yourself down.

Entering the Water Palm Down

If your hand is entering the water palm down you are forcing your arm to bend and thus not getting enough reach so that you are limiting the amount of push that you will have.

Have Someone Watching You

At this stage, you need to have someone watching you and giving you feedback about what you are doing in the water. It is often if not always the case that we cannot see our own faults.

Brushing Your Arm Too Hard Against Your Ear

Another common fault is brushing your arm so hard against your ear that it causes your head to tilt out of the way. Your head thus acts like a rudder and you end up zig-zagging in the water. You may have even had a swimming instructor tell you that you should brush your arm past your ear and this does allow for a longer reach. But if it causes your head to tilt then you are overdoing it.

The solution is to swim your arm away from your ear. If you have been doing this arm action for a while you may have to exaggerate your arm movement away from your head to the point where it feels unnatural. If you are concerned about this you need to remember that the incorrect action is what feels natural now and so you cannot rely on the feeling.

Again you will need to get someone to watch you, to see if the new action is having an effect.

Wait... Get Your Lesson Plans Here

Not Reaching Far Enough Behind

Not as common is the reverse fault where you are not reaching far enough behind to get a maximum push. The solution is to bring your arm closer to your ear but not so close you are forced to tilt your head.

Wrist Bend

If you are keeping your arm straight most other faults will be avoided. But there is one that I regularly come across that cannot be corrected in that way. That is the wrist bend.

This is where you have your arm straight but your wrist bent over your head just before it enters the water. It is usually caused by the swimming student having concentrated so hard for so long on getting their arm straight that they have forced their wrist to bend. The little finger still enters the water first but the hand is pushing against the water too early thus causing unnecessary resistance and slowing the swimmer down.

The solution is simple. Bend the wrist the other way.

Again as with the arm being hard up against the ear, if you have been doing this wrist action for a while you may have to exaggerate your wrist movement in the opposite direction in order to correct it.

Well, that's more information than I thought. I'd better leave the last of this series of "Learn To Swim 101-Improving The Backstroke" till next time. After that, we will begin on a different stroke.


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