How to Master the Backstroke: 10 Tips for Perfect Technique

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The backstroke is a beautiful and graceful swimming stroke that can be a challenge to master. With the right technique and practice, however, you can achieve flawless execution and maximize your efficiency in the water. In this article, we will explore various tips and techniques to help you perfect your backstroke and become a more confident swimmer.

swimmer doing backstroke

Understanding the Basics of Backstroke

Before diving into the specific techniques, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the basic elements of the backstroke. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  1. Body Position: The backstroke is performed while lying on your back. Your body should be aligned horizontally in the water, with your head resting comfortably and facing upwards.
  2. Arm Movement: The arm movement in backstroke involves an alternating motion. As one arm extends out of the water, the other arm begins its recovery phase. The arms should move in a straight line from the shoulders to the hips.
  3. Leg Kick: The leg kick in backstroke is similar to a flutter kick, with the legs moving up and down in a continuous motion. The kick should be initiated from the hips, with the knees slightly bent and the toes pointed.
  4. Breathing: Breathing is an essential aspect of backstroke. Unlike other strokes, where you turn your head to the side to breathe, in backstroke, you simply rotate your body slightly to the side while maintaining the horizontal position.

Perfecting Your Backstroke Technique

Now that we have covered the basics, let’s delve into the techniques that will help you achieve a flawless backstroke:

1. Maintaining a Stable Body Position

To maintain a stable body position, it’s important to engage your core muscles and keep your body aligned. Here are a few tips:

  • Focus on keeping your hips and shoulders in line with each other.
  • Avoid arching your back, as this can lead to drag in the water.
  • Imagine a straight line running from the top of your head to your toes, and try to maintain this alignment throughout your stroke.

2. Streamlining Your Arm Movement

Efficient arm movement is crucial for a powerful backstroke. Here are some tips to streamline your arm movement:

  • Keep your arms relaxed and extended throughout the stroke.
  • Enter the water with your pinky finger first, and then follow through with your entire hand.
  • Avoid crossing your midline when recovering your arms, as this can create unnecessary drag.
  • Focus on maintaining a high elbow position during the underwater pull, as this will maximize your propulsion.

3. Mastering the Leg Kick

A strong and coordinated leg kick is essential for an efficient backstroke. Here are a few tips to help you master your leg kick:

  • Initiate the kick from your hips, rather than your knees.
  • Keep your legs relatively straight, with a slight bend at the knees.
  • Point your toes and maintain a continuous up and down motion.
  • Avoid excessive splashing, as this can indicate an inefficient kick.

4. Breathing Techniques

Proper breathing technique is vital for maintaining a smooth and steady backstroke. Here are some tips to help you improve your breathing:

  • Coordinate your breathing with your arm movement. Take a breath as your recovering arm exits the water and begins its forward motion.
  • Rotate your body slightly to the side while maintaining a stable body position.
  • Exhale gently into the water through your nose or mouth, depending on your preference.
  • Practice rhythmic breathing to establish a consistent pattern.

Training and Exercises to Enhance Backstroke Technique

In addition to mastering the basic technique, incorporating specific training exercises can help you further improve your backstroke. Here are a few exercises to consider:

  1. Backstroke Drills: Incorporate drills that focus on specific aspects of the backstroke technique, such as arm movement, leg kick, or body position. Examples include one-arm backstroke, catch-up drill, and backstroke kickboard drill.
  2. Strength and Conditioning: Strengthening your core muscles and improving your overall fitness can greatly enhance your backstroke performance. Consider incorporating exercises such as planks, Russian twists, and flutter kicks into your training routine.
  3. Video Analysis: Utilize video analysis to identify any flaws or areas for improvement in your backstroke technique. Recording yourself swimming and reviewing the footage can provide valuable insights and help you make necessary adjustments.
  4. Interval Training: Incorporate interval training into your swimming routine to improve your speed and endurance. Alternate between high-intensity sprints and recovery periods to simulate race conditions and build stamina.
  5. Dryland Exercises: Enhance your backstroke technique through dryland exercises that target the muscles used in swimming. Examples include resistance band exercises, medicine ball rotations, and lat pull-downs.

By incorporating these training techniques and exercises into your swimming routine, you can enhance your backstroke technique and become a more efficient and confident swimmer.


Mastering the backstroke requires a combination of proper technique, practice, and dedication. By understanding the basic elements, perfecting your body position, arm movement, leg kick, and breathing techniques, and incorporating specific training exercises, you can unlock your backstroke potential and take your swimming skills to new heights. Remember to focus on maintaining a stable body position, streamline your arm movement, master your leg kick, and practice rhythmic breathing. With time and consistent effort, you can achieve a flawless backstroke and become a true master in the water.