8/01/05 BACKSTROKE - Aggressive Hand Entry
Text, photos, and video by Glenn Mills
Demonstrated by Jeff Rouse

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A common technique error in backstroke is letting the hands enter too softly. If the hands enter too softly and “sit” on the water, your body rotation will be slowed down, and there is a tendency to overreach on the entry.

A quick way to help line up the arms better on the entry, and to develop great rotation is to enter the hands more aggressively into the water. In these photos, and in the video clip, watch how Olympic gold medalist Jeff Rouse sends his hands immediately into a deep catch, and how this helps his rotation.

If the hand enters the water with a slam rather than a slip (when learning), the momen-tum created by the hand and arm will carry through to the shoulder and torso. As a result, the body will rotate more quickly. An aggressive hand entry gives you a deeper initial catch, and help you involve the body in the finish of the pulling hand.
When the hand hits the surface with force, it much more difficult to overreach, or cross the arm over the head during the entry. Usually, the faster you recover the hand over the water, and the more aggressive your hand entry, the more direct the line of the en-try. This means the hand will most likely enter the water directly above the shoulder.
When you first experiment with an aggressive hand entry, you’ll probably drag a lot of air into the water. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the air can also help the hand travel deeper, faster. And by the time the hand has escaped the air bubbles, it’s catching the water.

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

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