Glide and Kick

Backstroke is the one stroke I see novice swimmers always get excited for. Sure, I remember a time when that was true for me as well. Think about it, you don't need to think about breathing or some of the other magnitude of components that go into a fast Freestyle, Butterfly, or Breaststroke. You get to lay on your back, relax and just go. Of course, this is never actually the case. There are so many variables that make up a great Backstroke and we're going to cover one component of that today.

Incorrect position. Hand is too high out of the water.

Incorrect position. Hand is too high out of the water.

The 'glide and kick' is one of the most difficult parts of becoming an efficient Backstroker. The reason most novice swimmers find holding a full streamline very hard when laying on their backs. Novice swimmers often hold their arms in the air with their chins tucked in, which makes back flutter kick extremely difficult.

To better teach this technique, we often use the single-arm streamline approach. This means that the swimmer holds one arm up over their heads while the other stays straight and back their sides extending past their hips. The arm that is up by your head should be hugging the ear, straight and reaching for the far wall. Anything less is poor streamline and will create a drag factor in your stroke. I often see novice swimmers making this exact mistake. They break their straight arm right as their arm sweeps past the head by bending their elbow. By keeping the arm straight and tight to your head will help keep your hand in the water, which gives us the opportunity to understand the catch portion of our stroke.

Include sexy shoulders

The final part of this stroke technique is to include a high opposite shoulder. This will help you prepare your body for a deep pull. If you stay perfectly flat in the water, then you have a much higher likelihood of washing out your pull. This means that you'll basically be skimming the water with your hand, rather than pulling below the surface with a powerful pull. You will also be creating more drag through the water, rather than cutting through the water since you'll be putting your body in a more streamlined position.

If you perform the single arm streamline position well, you'll find that your body position will be more horizontal and you'll be more balanced throughout the rest of your stroke. Some drills that can help you learn how to properly use this single-arm streamline approach within your stroke include kicking on your side, 6-kick or 12-kick drills. 

For the kicking on your side, this is the technique mentioned above. Hold the single-arm position while also holding a high shoulder with the arm by your side. This will cause your body to rotate slightly, lowering your upheld arm in the water so that it's deeper. Again, this gives you the ability to work on some sculling, catch and anchoring positioning. We usually have swimmers, change positions every half lap, depending on their skill level and comfort with this drill.

6-kick & 12-kick drill

For 6-kick and 12-kick drills, you can play with different variations of this. We usually begin with a holding drill then rotate to your other side. Then we build up to doing 3 full strokes then hold and finally 5 or 7 full strokes then hold. We are looking for balanced rotation from the shoulders and the balance from their glide and kick portion of a swimmer's stroke.

Wrapping Up

By learning how to maintain a straight arm that hugs your ear while keeping your hand in the water, you'll be more balanced and put yourself in a much stronger position to get an efficient pull with each arm in Backstroke.

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