Swim Drill Of The Week: Single Arm Backstroke


Welcome to the “Swim Drill of the Week”. Swimming World will be bringing you a drill, concept, or tip that you can 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), Drill Of The Week excerpts are meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This week’s drill is single arm backstroke. This is a great drill for developing a strong, deep catch in the pull while also working on reinforcing full body rotation with each stroke.

Much like single arm freestyle, to perform this drill simply pick an arm to swim down the length of the pool. The opposite arm will be at your side, tight against your torso. This arm acts as a “ghost arm,” with your body and stroke tempo continuing as if you were taking an actual stroke with this arm with each pull. With the pulling arm, concentrate on setting your catch as soon as your arm hits the water overhead and pulling through with a deep elbow and a shallow hand, making a “v” shape in the water with your arm.

While simple, this drill is also very easy to do incorrectly. When your swimmers are performing this drill, watch to make sure that they are rotating their opposite shoulder and hip up after each single arm stroke. This should be difficult and more exaggerated than when they are normally backstroke.

Also, make sure they are not slipping through the bottom of their catch with their pulling arm. While this may slow their tempo slightly, the point is to get maximum distance per stroke and an exaggerated hip rotation so that when they go back to full stroke swimming those pieces are still present in their stroke. 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.