What are the essential elements of backstroke? 

There are some key concepts that all backstroke swimmers should adhere to.

Listed below are the essential elements of backstroke.

If you would like to see these points discussed in a video format that you can watch over and over again, check out the backstroke stroke model produced by Australian Olympic Coach Leigh Nugent.

1.Body Position
The body position should be high and flat. This position allows the hips and shoulders to ride high in the water creating the position for minimal resistance and maximal ventilation. The ears, shoulders and hips should form a relatively horizontal line.

2. Head Position
The correct head position is vital for achieving correct body position. The head should be laid back in the water so the eyes look upward toward the roof or sky.  If the head is too far back, this creates arching of the spine and ploughing through the water. If the head is too far forward, this creates a bending of the spine and lowering of the hips and legs.

3. Kicking Action
The kicking action is generated from the hips and upper legs with feet below surface. Swimmers should use a continuous 6 beat action. Lower abdominal and back strength is important when doing backstroke kick.

4. Hand  Entry
The hand enters directly in front of the shoulder. Arms should be fully extended and the little finger enters first.

5. Arm Action
The hands initially sweep and catch in a downward and outward pattern.  They then sweep up and in maintaining the elbow lower and forward. They then complete a down sweep keeping the hand 90 degrees to the body. At the completion of the pull, the hand releases the water. The recovery begins with a relaxed wrist and forearm, with the wrist firming on entry.

6. Timing
Propulsion is initiated with the leading hand as propulsion is released with the trailing hand.
7. Hip and Shoulder Rotation
Hip and shoulder rotation occurs as part of the natural stroking sequence with natural levels generally being insufficient to create the propulsive forces necessary for optimal performance. Specific drills must be included in the training program to enhance the rotational capabilities of the competitive backstroker.

If you would like to see all these aspects of backstroke in an instructional video for coaches, swimmers and parents go to Backstroke Stroke Model.

Leigh Nugent