4/15/05 Backstroke Spin Drill
Text and Photo/Video by Glenn Mills
Demonstrated by Lenny Krayzelburg and Jeff Rouse
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Lenny Krayzelburg and Jeff Rouse have many things in common. They’ve both held
world records in backstroke. They’ve both won Olympic gold medals for the USA
in the 100 backstroke and 400 medley relay (Lenny in 2000 and Jeff in 1996 and
1992). And they both have the same favorite drill. Take a look, try it for
yourself, and you’ll under-stand why the Spin Drill rules.
Backstroke Spin Drill is one of the most FUN drills in swimming because it lets
you do all the things you’re not supposed to do, and lets you do them in a BIG
way. No splash? You want to be covered in spray when you do this drill. Stay
hidden and bal-anced? Fugettaboutit. Look up? Rotate your hips? Soft, clean
hand entry? No way! No time!
In Backstroke Spin Drill, the key words are aggressive…fast…and quick. You want
to move your arms through the recovery phase as fast as you can, and send your
hands IMMEDIATELY into the catch.
Why would you want to ignore all the rules? They’re good rules, of course, but
some-times you have to shake things up a bit to add a new dimension to your
stroke. In backstroke, sometimes we spend too much time thinking about a soft,
clean, and smooth hand entry. This is an OK thing to think about, but it can
lead to a slow recov-ery, slow rotation, and over-reaching. The tendency is to
let the hand “sit” on the sur-face of the water, when what you need to do is
drive it THROUGH the surface and into a deep catch. Think of a golf or baseball
swing. Would you stop your arms, or pause the rotation of your body, just
before you hit the ball? No. You’d send everything THROUGH the movement until
WAY after the ball has been struck. Letting the hand hesitate on the water in
backstroke is the same as slowing your baseball swing to hit the ball.
How To Do It;
Backstroke Spin Drill is an intense, fun drill for swimmers of all ages.
Usually, the swimmers who do this the best have pink and red arms after the
drill. Don’t worry…it only stings for a couple days. The lessons this drill can
teach will last forever.
1. Get ready to ATTACK! This drill is so intense
that you should do it for only 12 1/2 yards, so remember: no more Mr. Nice Guy.
Forget all the rules and think AGGRES-SIVE.
2. Push off on your back and come up right away (see, you’re already
breaking one of the rules)! You should be SPINNING your arms before you get to
3. When you come up, you should be WAY UP. You
should feel as if you’re almost sit-ting in the water. Your head and shoulders
should be completely out of the water and your eyes should be looking back at
the wall, or at your feet. To hold your body out of the water like this, you
must do two things. First, you have to keep the arms moving very quickly. If
you take too long between strokes, you’ll sink. Second, you need to send the
hands THROUGH the surface of the water. This will send you up rather than
forward, but remember: Don’t get hung up on rules. This drill is all about
breaking rules to learn something valuable in your stroke. When it’s time to
lie back in the water and settle into your “normal” stroke, you’ll have a
better under-standing of how to send the hands deep and hook into the water
4. Get UGLY! Be BAD! This ain’t no time to worry
about smoothness, flow, and grace. Grit your teeth, grunt, groan, and get MEAN.
You can barely see Lenny in these pho-tos, right? That’s because HE’S CRANKING!
Your goal is to spin your arms as FAST as you can. You can’t do this AND be
smooth or graceful. You’ll be able to see this when you watch Jeff Rouse in the
accompanying video clip.
5. When you stop SPINNING, it’s always good to
ease into a couple strokes of regular backstroke. As you return to a balanced
body position, try to maintain the things you learned in the spin drill: fast,
aggressive turnover and a deep, immediate catch with the hands.
Glenn Mills is Swimming World Magazine’s technical advisor. Check out his
website at www.goswim.tv