Common Backstroke Mistakes and How to Fix Them

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Backstroke is a popular swimming stroke that requires proper technique and body position to achieve maximum efficiency and speed. However, many swimmers, especially beginners, often make common mistakes that can hinder their performance and potentially lead to injury. In this article, we will explore some of the most common mistakes in backstroke and provide tips on how to correct them.

swimmer doing a backstroke with correct shoulder technique

1. Poor Body Position

One of the most common mistakes in backstroke is having a poor body position in the water. This can include a dropped or raised head, a sagging or arched back, and improper alignment of the hips and shoulders. These errors can cause increased drag and make it harder to maintain a steady and efficient stroke.

To correct this, swimmers should focus on keeping their head in line with their spine, maintaining a neutral position. The shoulders should be relaxed and rolled slightly back, while the hips should be level with the water’s surface. Engaging the core muscles can help stabilize the body and maintain the correct position.

2. Improper Arm Technique

Another common mistake in backstroke is improper arm technique, which can lead to decreased propulsion and increased drag. This can include crossing the arms over the centerline, overreaching or underreaching with the arms, and improper hand entry and exit.

To improve arm technique, swimmers should focus on maintaining a wide and relaxed arm pull, keeping the arms parallel to each other and avoiding crossing over the centerline. The hands should enter the water pinky finger first and exit the water thumb first, creating a smooth and efficient motion.

3. Incorrect Leg Movements

Leg movements play a crucial role in backstroke, as they provide propulsion and help maintain balance in the water. However, many swimmers make common mistakes with their leg movements, such as kicking too wide, bending the knees excessively, or not generating enough power.

To improve leg movements in backstroke, swimmers should focus on a narrow and fast kick, keeping the legs close together and the toes pointed. The knees should be slightly bent but not excessively, and the power should come from the hips and core muscles. Engaging the glutes and quads can help generate more power and speed in the kick.

4. Breathing Technique

Breathing is an essential aspect of any swimming stroke, including backstroke. However, many swimmers make mistakes with their breathing technique, such as holding their breath, exhaling too forcefully, or not exhaling fully underwater.

To improve breathing technique in backstroke, swimmers should focus on exhaling continuously and steadily while their face is in the water. This helps to release carbon dioxide and prepare for a smooth inhalation when the face rotates out of the water. It’s also important to avoid lifting the head too high during the breath, as this can disrupt body position and increase drag.

5. Lack of Body Rotation

Proper body rotation is crucial in backstroke, as it allows for a longer and more powerful arm pull and kick. However, many swimmers lack sufficient body rotation, leading to a shorter stroke and decreased propulsion.

To improve body rotation in backstroke, swimmers should focus on engaging their core muscles and initiating the rotation from the hips. The shoulders should follow the rotation of the hips, allowing for a full extension of the arms and a longer stroke. It’s important to maintain a balanced and controlled rotation, avoiding excessive twisting that can lead to a loss of balance and stability.


Backstroke is a beautiful and efficient swimming stroke when executed correctly. However, many swimmers make common mistakes that can hinder their performance and efficiency in the water. By focusing on proper body position, arm technique, leg movements, breathing technique, and body rotation, swimmers can improve their backstroke and achieve better results. Practice, patience, and attention to detail are key in mastering this stroke and becoming a proficient backstroke swimmer.

Table: Common Mistakes in Backstroke

Poor body positionMaintain a neutral head position and level hips and shoulders
Improper arm techniqueKeep arms parallel, avoid crossing over the centerline
Incorrect leg movementsKick with narrow and fast movements, engage core muscles
Breathing techniqueExhale continuously, avoid lifting the head too high
Lack of body rotationEngage core muscles, initiate rotation from the hips