6/3/05 BACKSTROKE - Steady Head
By Glenn Mills
Demonstrated by Jeff Rouse

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Maintaining a steady head position while swimming backstroke can help improve your speed in several ways. One is obvious: You’ll swim more directly down the lane. Two is more about technique: You’ll develop a more equal degree of rotation to both sides. A stable head gives your body a stable foundation – something around which to rotate. And three is about body position: A stable head position allows you to experiment with the depth of your head. It gives you a better platform from which you can lean into the water, allowing the hips to ride higher in the water.

How steady is steady? As you watch Olympic Gold Medalist Jeff Rouse in the accom-panying video clip, imagine that he’s carrying a cup of water on his forehead, and then decide whether it would fall off or not as he swims. In fact, this is a great technique drill you can try next time you head to the pool. Place a small water bottle or cup, filled about 1/3 so it’s a little bottom heavy, on your forehead and swim backstroke. See how far you can go without dropping the bottle or cup. As you develop a steadier head, bet-ter balance, and smoother rotation, you can start going faster and faster, eventually al-lowing the bottle to drop off as you begin to sprint – still trying to maintain that stable head position.

Glenn Mills is Swimming World Magazine’s technical advisor. Check out his website at