the top 10 drills to improve your backstroke

the top 10 drills to improve your backstroke

Backstroke is a great stoke once perfected, don’t be afraid of this unique backstroke position that you need to maintain. Yes, it is a very different stroke to the popular front crawl stroke performed during freestyle and IM’s swim events, but with the right training and knowledge of backstroke techniques, plus backstroke drills you can be stokes ahead of your competitors.


Lets help you understand the fundamentals of how to swim and improve your backstroke. Its important to understand how to hold the correct body position, how to rotate the body, good arm pull, kick, and of cause breathing techniques.

To help you improve and perfect your backstroke, look at these 10 drills you can practice, each one including a short video to explain the drill more so you can also view the proper form used for the drill.


Body Position – you need to focus on your body position

Back stroke body poition

Technique is key for your swimming, and you need to starts with an excellent body position. First of all to develop good backstroke technique, you need to understand how your body should move through the water. Maintaining a good technique and body position during the backstroke drills will allow you to swim faster, further because your body will be in a position where the water flows over the body giving more speedo.

The ideal body position for backstroke is to be parallel with the surface of the water, with your legs positioned slightly downward towards the bottom of the pool. Having your legs in this tilted downwards angle, will be enough to keep your feet from coming out of the water while you kick. To avoid resistance to the water and ensure a good flow Do not allow your hips to sink too low.

Keep your neck and head in a neutral position so that you are looking up. avoid looking down toward your feet, this will only cause discomfort to the neck muscles and will create drag, slowing you down.  Just rest your head in the water, ears should be at the surface of the water to just underneath it.


Discover the how much Body Rotation you need to perfect your stroke

Backstroke body rotation

You will need to rotate your shoulders and hips as you swim backstroke. Imagine yourself pivot around the line of your spine this will help your hips and shoulders rotate simultaneously. Very similar to swimming freestyle, keeping the correct amount of shoulder rotation means you will generate the power through your arms to drive yourself through the water. 


It is recommended that the shoulder should not rotate too much, ideally it should be around 30 degrees above the surface of the water, trying to go higher than this can affect your technique and efficiency of your stroke. Keep this in mind when you start out on your backstroke drills.


Focus on your Arm Pull During the Backstroke Drills

Backstroke arm pull

In backstrokers you must focus on your pull, this is what will truly speed you up propelling you across the water.

As your hand enters the water, your little finger should touch the water first. And should break the force of the waves on the same line that your shoulder is on. 

As you begin to pull your hand back into the water towards your thigh, your arm will naturally start to bend. This is where you begin the power part of the stroke: your wrist and hand need to be positioned downwards towards the direction of your feet and fingers open, from here power the stroke into a steady pulling motion right through to the leg.


As your arm comes to the thigh, you will then lift it straight up, the thumb should exit the water first, you are now in a recovery phase before taking you take your next stroke. At this stage you should keep your arm straight as you continue into your next stroke.

Concentrate on the way each arm moves through the water. It is natural for your body to have dual imbalances; you need to ensure each arm performs the technique proficiently. You can train one side of the body at a time using the single-arm backstroke drill.


Getting the Backstroke Kick right

Back stroke kick technique

Getting your backstroke kick right can determine the efficiency of your stroke. You will use a flutter kick with the tops of your feet facing towards the top of the pool rather than the bottom.

A common error in backstrokers, is to have your feet too close to the surface of the water, therefore it is important to concentrate on your kick and the position of your feet relative to the surface of the water. If feet are too close you are in danger of finishing the kick with the feet out of the water and losing power to propel in the water. 

You should ensure your feet are angled down a little towards the bottom of the pool. This will ensure that your kick does not break the water’s surface, giving you the ability to maximize the amount of water displaced with each kick.

Dryland training can be massively beneficial to strengthening your legs outside the pool. during dryland training

Using a kickboard will improve your backstroke flutter kick drills. It is beneficial to, as well as, kick on your back, also train on your stomach and both sides as well to develop well-rounded strength in your legs. 

You should train your legs for strength and flexibility (Note: you must discuss your training with your swim coach or physical training professional before beginning new strength and flexibility routines to ensure they agree with this training schedule and that it is suits you).


Breathing correctly and techniques

Backstroke breathing technique

With backstroke your mouth and nose are always out of the water during, but it is still extremely important to ensure you regulate your breathing pattern, so concentrate on your breathing during your drill.

Try this breathing pattern, inhale as the right arm starts to entry into the water and to exhale as the left arm starts its entry into the water, reverse this if its suits you better. You need to perfect this breathing pattern during training and races.

10 Backstoke drills for you to Practice

Some simple exercises to improve your swimming stroke with regular practice. Its advised to see improvement, to practice each exercise at least twice with 15-20 seconds of rest between each lap.


Use your kickboard:Holding your kickboard with arms extended, lying on your back, after each stroke swap hands. do four strokes holding the kickboard above your head and repeat at hip height.

Kickboard Drill VIDEO        kickboard video 


One arm drill:keep one arm alongside the body and use other arm to do a backstroke movement.

One Arm Drill VIDEO          one arm back stroke drill video


Breaststroke leg movement: at the end of each set, perform a breaststroke leg kick movement while swimming backstroke (breathe out during kick and breath in when moving arms).

Breastroke kick Drill VIDEO Breastroke kick drill


The Glass challenge: Place/balance a glass right in the middle of your forehead, making sure it does not fall off (please use a plastic glass for safety) this can be fun at training sessions

Glass Drill VIDEO               glass drill


Clenched-fist drill:Swim the backstroke with your fists closed.

Clenched Fist Drill VIDEO    Clench Fist Drill


Crossovers:Take a short break after every three arm strokes. put one arm at your side and extended the other behind your head. without your arms going underwater, change over your arm positioning using a half circular motion, so your arm above your head is now by your side and the arm by your side is now above your head

Crossover Drill VIDEO           crossover drill


Pullbuoy:put the pullbouy between your knees and swim backstroke to improve and concentrate on the backstroke pull, while isolating your legs from kicking.

Pullbuoy Drill VIDEO             Pullbuoy drill


Backstoke catch up drill: As one hand enters the water pause for 2 seconds and wait for the other hand to come out, as you continue your stroke with your arms at your side kick and start again

Pause for two seconds as one hand enters the water and wait for the other hand to come around. Continue your stroke and then kick with your arms at your sides before starting again.

Catch up Drill VIDEO            Backstroke catch up drill


Sitting:attempt to adopt a seated position, swim backstroke with arms raised high ,do this for a few seconds, alternating with double arm backstroke,

Sitting Drill VIDEO               Backstroke sitting drill

Swapover:with one arm holding the pull buoy in front of your face swim backstroke. Swap hands as your hands swing past, swap and continue your stroke.

Swapover Drill VIDEO          Backstroke swapover drill


Backstroke Drills will improve your backstroke,

We hope these swimming tips and drills will help you in your practice sessions.

It is important to focus on perfecting your technique while you train. So concentrate keeping your body in the correct position during your drills: legs should not be too high and hips should not be too low. Rotation of the hips and shoulders at just under 30 degrees is perfect, your arms should be moving through the water with good form. Concentrate on keeping your breathing consistent and your kick powerful. Do this and without a doubt your backstroke drills training are sure to see you improve your backstroke, you will see it in your next race times.

Training at a new stroke can be difficult, especially on those muscles getting used to new demands, one great way to reduce sore muscles is to wear compression recovery wear after training. Womens compression wear

Mens Compression wear


Finally Back stroke start training with the Finis Backstroke Wedge


Once you have mastered your Backstroke technique the next thing will be to get race ready and here you will need to discover the back stoke start, as you can’t dive in to start a backstroke race. Finis have launched a low cost device to allow you to practice these starts where the pool you train in doesn’t have the backstroke starting blocks fitted during normal training sessions


A Great device to help you with your backstroke start

Backstroke starts

FINIS have developed the backstroke start wedge as an affordable way for swimmers to practice with a backstroke wedge before championship swim meets. The Backstroke Start Wedge is FINA compliant and can be used during training and competition as a way for swimmers to get an explosive start without slipping.

Practice before competition - Allows you to learn how to use the device, find your setting and optimize the benefits prior to competition

Explosive race start - Adds power and agility to swimmer’s backstroke start

Affordable way to gain experience - Coaches are finally able to outfit every lane with a backstroke starting device

Manual system- much more affordable and versatile than automatic devices

The FINIS backstroke wedge fits all standard block, it is compatible with single post, two-post, four-post and large-base blocks

 Swimmers can easily customize the wedge height through five different settings thanks to the adjustable feature.

 FINIS worked in collaboration with Vince Harris at WEDGE Swim Start Systems (County Cork, Ireland) to develop the FINIS Backstroke Start Wedge. Vince is an Irish engineer and swim dad who began making his own wedges for his daughter's swim team after learning how expensive they were. He had one goal in mind: to create an affordable alternative that fits all standard blocks.


For further advice and videos on back stroke technique take a look at our You Tube Channel

Improving your swim technique

Improving your swimming technique

Improving your swimming technique

Pullbuoy, use a pullbuoy so that you can concentrate on perfecting each arm pull, by isolating the legs you can concentrate on perfecting your arm pull efficiency. Watch our video on how to use a Pullbuoy

Stroke Break down:  concentrate training on each part of your stroke, by breaking it into separate parts and concentrate on them individually. For example, hand entry, breathing, arm pull, and arm recovery over water.

Hand paddles.  When training on  backstroke and front crawl and wear hand paddles with using just one finger strap. This will help you create the perfect pull – the flatter the paddle stays to your hand, the better your technique.

Finis ISO hand Paddle

Or use the “Finis ISO paddle” which has no straps and watch our video on this great product

Variety of drills which exaggerate different parts of the stroke, such as ‘chicken wing’ for high elbows, and ‘4-second reach’ to stretch forward on each arm pull.

Check out our swim drills on our You Tube site 

Join a swim club or Invest in a swimming lesson – it’s a great way for an expert to identify how you can improve your technique further. Don’t forget, the more you swim, the greater the opportunities to practice and perfect your technique.

Don’t get disheartened if you’re not where you want to be today – check out our huge online library of videos training videos and swim related vidoes to help you on your way to better swimming technique at our 

You Tube Channel

Lastly, enjoy the learning process, as swimming is fun and a great way to stay fit even if you don’t intend to be the next Michael Phelps

Improve your competitive swim times with a stronger underwater Dolfin Kick - FINIS FOIL MONOFIN

improve your Dolfin kick

If you watch a lot of competitive swimming, you will see a lot of races are won and lost on the underwater kick at the turns, if you want to improve and dominate underwater against your competitors? Here’s how a Finis foil Monofin can help you considerably improve your swim times and considerably up your swimming.


All swimmers love to train with swim fins on in the water: We are able to swim far faster than we ever would without them,  on top of this our legs get a great power workout, and swimming at faster speed is simply a load of fun.


How one piece of equipment can seriously improve your underwaters speed, which is key off the wall at tumble turns in all race situations you can also introduce one powerful dolphin kick of the wall in Breaststroke turns before your first breaststroke kick will give you a much faster turn of speed than just using the two underwater stokes allowed in breaststroke style.


Underwater dolphin kick is the dominate feature of short course back stroke as you get so many turns with 15 metres underwater every 25 metres. Actually, the dolphin kick underwater has more effect in all short course events as there are twice as many for each distance swam. But all good long course swimmers need not to lose distance on each turn, just to swim harder to regain the loss down each length.


The monofin helps you get the feel and motion of the dolphin kick. Helping you to experience the whip like motion of the dolphin kick. Its large surface area has a way of forcing your core and lower back to engage in the kicking motion, which extends the range of the kick to gain full dolphin kick effect once you have trained with the mono fin it will become natural without it also.


Power work for your dolphin kick. Using a FINIS foil monofin will strengthen your core, lower back, and your legs.


The Monofin Trains better motor neuron pattern memory in your brain to repeat it continuously without thought. Strapping on a Monofin will help you experience those upper tier speeds and help train the motor neuron patterns necessary (streamlining, tightening your core, snapping the full kick through, etc) to get closer to those speeds without the fin on.


Improves undulation. Often you will see swimmer’s dolphin kick from their knees with a very rigid and limited undulation with little success or speed. The dolphin kick should originate from your upper body—not your knees. Training with a Monofin will deepen and enhance the undulation in the butterfly kick, by forcing you to use all your body not just your knees.


Helps build better rhythm. The first thing you notice when your fly kick gets better is that you can bang them out quickly and with almost rapid-fire precision. This kind of rhythm is built via training repetition but can be speeded up by training the rhythm you want to hit when racing. By emphasizing the muscle groups with the monofin that stabilize and drive the kick you are developing a stronger kicking rhythm.




The FINIS Foil is the ideal choice for competitive swimmers looking to level up and develop their dolphin kick. the fin is long enough to give you a sense of the full range of your dolphin kicking motion.

Watch the video on our You Tube channel and many other interesting video’s

Finis swimmers Snorkel use and history


When John Mix the founder of Finis Inc designed the first swim competitive centre mount snorkel “FINIS Swimmers Snorkel” , it was a revolutionary idea to help coaches iron out the lack of stroke technique in certain swimmers which become obsessed with the breathing to the side over fluid swimming, the snorkel allows the swimmers to improve rhythm and body position and alignment when swimming, by allowing swimmers to focus on the smooth technique without worrying about turning to breathe, after regular coaching sessions using the snorkel, the swimmers technique and alignment becomes natural and aligned, even when the snorkel is taken off and breathing to the side is resumed, technique and body positioning are maintained.

Finis Cardio Cap

It also has the benefit to build lung endurance as it is slightly hard to breathe and for extra resistance, to build more lung capacity Finis introduced the “FINIS Cardio Cap” to make it even harder to breathe.

Finis Snorkel Dry Top

One complaint among certain swimmers is the water entering the snorkel on tumble turns and the technique is to give one large exhale of breathe after completing the tumble turn, to clear the tube, but for swimmers who find this hard, Finis introduced the “FINIS Snorkel Dry Top

Finis Freestyle Snorkel

To go one further in Freestyle technique the “FINIS Freestyle Snorkel” was introduced, this introduced a further bend in the snorkel tube that only allows the swimmer to still breathe air when swimming freestyle in the correct head down looking at bottom of pool you need to swim the Freestyle the most efficiently.

Finis Stability Speed Snorkel

Finally Finis introduced the “FINIS Stability Snorkel: Speed” This was to address the concerns of some swimmers that the snorkel was cumbersome and uncomfortable and not as easy to adjust to all head types.

This is the final evolution in the Finis swimmers snorkel history to date but check back here regularly as we will update this if new products or new technology is introduced.

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