FINIS Tip Of The Week: Backstroke Starts

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.

The tip for this week gives you some tips for improving your backstroke starts. As the only start that begins in the water, there are plenty of things that may feel unfamiliar with a backstroke start, but keep in mind the tips below to develop the most efficient and powerful start possible.

Drive Out, Not Down

When performing a backstroke start, you want explode off of the wall with as much power as possible. Ideally, you want your whole body to enter through the same point in the water. The more your body or legs drag through the water, the more resistance you are forcing yourself to push through.

Similarly, you need to be able to enter the water at the right angle with enough speed. The slower you are off the wall, the more likely it is that your back or legs are going to slap the water and slow you down off the start. To do this, you need to concentrate on driving from your legs out and away from the wall while also keeping in mind a few of the tips below.

100-backstroke-start-

Photo Courtesy: Peter Bick

Start Tall

Another key is to be aware of your posture in the water. To get in the correct position, place your toes just under the surface of the water with your feet about hips width distance apart. Make sure that you are not “sitting down” at the beginning of the start, but sitting up tall (think about being able to draw a single line from top of your head down your spine)

Keep a little bit of tension in your legs, and instead of curling up toward the block keep a flat back with a neutral head position. This will help direct your momentum back away from the wall and give you a much cleaner entry.

Photo Courtesy: Christopher Rattray

You Don’t Need A Block…

You can practice the basics of the backstroke start almost anywhere, even if you don’t have a block or backstroke wedge available. Simply playing with driving off of the wall (like you are diving for distance), or trying to blast off the wall and get your entire body out of the water are great exercises to learn how to properly direct your momentum off of the wall. 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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