FINIS Tip Of The Week: Backstroke Pull


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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 we’ll offer some tips on ways you can improve your backstroke pull. Whether it is grabbing some equipment, taking video, or trying a new drill, check out some of the suggestions below to read about how to get the most out of your backstroke pull.

Before you start toying around with the backstroke pull, make sure the fundamentals of the pull are correct. Generally swimmers should be focusing on exiting with the water with their thumb first (the start of their recovery), entering with their pinky first into their catch, and pulling through with a deep elbow and shallow hand that finishes by the hip.

Taking head-on video, either above or underwater, can be a good way to check that the basic elements of your technique are correct, specifically the angle of your rotation and of your pull. USA Swimming’s Russell Mark recommends a rotation that is under 30 degrees to either side. That should be accompanied with a deep elbow catch that creates a strong paddle perpendicular to the rest of the body. Check out the image below to see what you should be looking for when taking underwater video:

Backstroke, Russell Mark Presentation, USA Swimming

Photo Courtesy: USA Swimming

If you are struggling with finding a strong catch, adding equipment is a good way to target specific aspects of the pull to generate more power. Using paddles will help swimmers emphasize the finish of the stroke by their hip. Try incorporating this in warm-up or add in small backstroke pull sets with paddles to find the feel of holding onto water.

Swimming against resistance (power towers, power racks, cords) can also help you develop a feel for a stronger pull by making any slips through the catch more apparent. 

Finally, after looking at specific areas where your pull may be weak, try adding in specific drills to target what you feel is a weak point in your stroke. Single arm backstroke, double arm backstroke, six kick switch, and 2-2-2 drill are just some of the drills you can use to slow down your stroke and work on developing a strong, even pull on both sides.

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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