FINIS Tip Of The Week: Backstroke Hand Entry

Welcome to the “FINIS Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore with drills and concepts for you to implement with your team on a regular basis. While certain weeks may be more appropriate for specific levels of swimming (club, high school, college, or masters), each tip is meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This week’s tip gives you some suggestions related to your hand entry in backstroke. How your hands enter the water in backstroke is critically important for setting up a solid catch and helping you keep a consistent tempo come race time.

Whatever you do, you always want your hand to enter the water with the pinky first. Entering with the pinky first makes it much easier for you to immediately turn your hand to the side and set up a strong catch underwater.

You also want to make sure that your hands are entering slightly wider than shoulder-width. If you think of your arms as hands on a clock, you will be entering at what would be 10:00 and 2:00 o’clock for each arm.

Finally, you want to make sure your hand is accelerating when it enters the water. This will help you get a stronger hold on the water right away to set up a strong underwater pull.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Looking at your hand entry can also reveal some inefficiencies in other areas of your stroke. If you have trouble getting your pinky to enter into the water first or your arms are entering too narrow, chances are your rotation late and you need to find a stronger connection between your shoulder and hip rotation.

Your body should be relatively flat when your arm enters the water, putting your body in a position to finish your rotation to the pulling arm side as you complete your underwater pull. Whether you are working with age group swimmers, masters, or senior level swimmers, remembering these keys to the hand entry are important to set up your best backstroke. Happy swimming!

All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

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Author: James Sica

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James Sica is the Men and Women's Assistant Coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an assistant coach at CMU in Pittsburgh, PA (2015-2017), a volunteer assistant coach with the Harvard women’s program (2014-2015) and an assistant with the Ithaca College men's program (2012-2014).

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