How to Do a Backstroke Start: A Step-by-Step Guide

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The backstroke start is a crucial aspect of competitive swimming, as it sets the tone for the entire race. A powerful and efficient start can give you a competitive edge, allowing you to gain momentum and achieve optimal performance in the water. In this comprehensive guide, we will take you through the step-by-step process of mastering the backstroke start, providing expert tips and highlighting key elements for a flawless launch. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced swimmer looking to enhance your backstroke start technique, this guide will help you achieve your goals.

Step 1: Positioning Yourself on the Starting Block

The first step in mastering the backstroke start is to position yourself correctly on the starting block. Follow these steps to ensure proper positioning:

  1. Stand at the edge of the starting block, facing away from the water.
  2. Place your dominant foot at the front edge of the block, gripping it tightly to maintain stability.
  3. Bend your knees slightly, keeping your weight evenly distributed between both legs.
  4. Extend your arms forward, placing your hands on the edge of the block, shoulder-width apart.
  5. Engage your core muscles to maintain balance and stability.

Step 2: Entering the Water

Once you have positioned yourself on the starting block, it’s time to enter the water smoothly and efficiently. Follow these steps to ensure a seamless entry:

  1. Push off the starting block with your dominant foot, using a powerful and explosive motion.
  2. As you push off, extend your other leg backward, pointing your toes towards the water.
  3. Keep your body streamlined, with your arms extended overhead and your head aligned with your spine.
  4. Enter the water with your fingertips first, followed by the rest of your body.
  5. Aim to enter the water at a slight angle, rather than straight down, to minimize resistance.

Step 3: Underwater Dolphin Kick

Once you have entered the water, it’s time to initiate the underwater dolphin kick. This powerful and efficient kick will propel you forward, allowing you to gain momentum. Follow these steps to perfect your underwater dolphin kick:

  1. Extend your arms forward, reaching towards the water’s surface.
  2. Engage your core muscles and initiate a quick and powerful downward dolphin kick.
  3. As you kick downward, imagine your body moving in a wave-like motion, generating forward propulsion.
  4. Maintain a strong and steady kick rhythm, ensuring that your legs generate maximum power.
  5. Keep your body streamlined and your head aligned with your spine throughout the kick.

Step 4: Transition to Backstroke

After executing the underwater dolphin kick, it’s time to transition to the backstroke. This step requires precision and proper body positioning. Follow these steps to achieve a seamless transition:

  1. As you complete the underwater dolphin kick, bring your arms back to your sides.
  2. Initiate a swift and smooth rotation, rolling onto your back.
  3. Keep your head aligned with your spine and your eyes focused on the ceiling or sky.
  4. Extend your arms overhead, entering the water with your fingertips first.
  5. Maintain a streamlined body position, with your legs and arms fully extended.

Step 5: Surface Swimming and Stroke Technique

Once you have transitioned to the backstroke position, it’s time to focus on your surface swimming and stroke technique. Follow these steps to achieve optimal performance:

  1. Maintain a relaxed and fluid body position, with your head aligned with your spine.
  2. Keep your arms fully extended overhead, entering the water with your fingertips first.
  3. Execute a smooth and powerful alternating arm stroke, with one arm pulling while the other recovers.
  4. Coordinate your arm stroke with your leg kick, ensuring a steady and synchronized rhythm.
  5. Breathe regularly by rotating your head to the side, taking a breath every few strokes.


Q: What is the ideal starting block height for a backstroke start?
A: The ideal starting block height varies depending on the swimmer’s height and preference. It is recommended to experiment with different heights during training to find the most comfortable and effective option.

Q: Can I use a backstroke start in open water swimming?
A: Backstroke starts are primarily used in pool competitions where starting blocks are available. In open water swimming, a floating start or a treading water start is more common.

Q: How can I improve my underwater dolphin kick?
A: Improving your underwater dolphin kick requires regular practice and focusing on core strength and flexibility. Incorporate drills specifically targeting the dolphin kick, such as underwater kick sets and dolphin kick on your back.

Q: Should I use a pull buoy during backstroke training?
A: Using a pull buoy during backstroke training can be beneficial for isolating and strengthening the upper body. It helps swimmers focus on their arm technique and build endurance.

Q: How can I prevent slipping on the starting block?
A: To prevent slipping on the starting block, ensure that your feet are dry and clean before stepping onto the block. Additionally, gripping the block tightly with your toes and engaging your leg muscles can provide better stability.

Q: How important is body positioning during the backstroke start?
A: Body positioning is crucial for a successful backstroke start. Proper alignment and a streamlined body position minimize resistance and allow for efficient propulsion through the water.

Q: Is it necessary to maintain a steady kick rhythm during the underwater dolphin kick?
A: Yes, maintaining a steady kick rhythm is essential for generating maximum power during the underwater dolphin kick. Consistency in the kick rhythm helps propel you forward and maintain momentum.