The following article will highlight everything about backstroke swimming and how to become an expert in backstroke swimming especially if it is your first time trying it.


Backstroke is one of the most common and popular swimming strokes used by athletes. Backstroke swimming also known as back crawl is one of the four most competitive swimming strokes. The other three competitive swimming strokes are butterfly, breaststroke, and freestyle. When performing backstroke the swimmer tends to lie face-up in the water and then move their arms in an asynchronous motion while also kicking their legs using a flutter kick. This flutter kick motion will be a continuous one.

7 Health Benefits of learning the backstroke technique

There are a lot of benefits when it comes to the backstroke technique. However here are the top 7 benefits of using the backstroke technique while swimming:

1. It provides a whole-body workout:

This is one of the best strokes as it provides a complete body workout and it is especially beneficial to the latissimus dorsi muscles otherwise also called as lats present in your back. It also helps you work out your chest, legs, arms, and glute along with the core. Consistent swimming on the back will also help improve the muscle to grow stronger. You will also be likely to notice that your muscle becomes more toned along with an increase in your strength level.

2. Heart health improvement

With a low to medium impact, backstroke swimming gives a fantastic workout experience. Because the water tends to be supportive of your weight as and when you swim, the backstroke is far gentler on your body than heavy-impact cardio workouts such as jumping or skipping. There is no chance that you might hit the ground especially when you are swimming on the back which means there will be no injuries even if you are new.

3. A fun way to burn calories and gain muscles

You can burn anywhere between 240 to 350 calories per 30 minutes when you spend time practicing vigorous backstroke swimming. The heavier your body weight the better calories you are likely to burn in the timeframe. This is almost equal to the number of calories you burn playing basketball for an hour or by playing beach volleyball.

4. Relieves pain in your back

Backstrokes in swimming tend to relieve back pain. You might also want to consult your doctor if you have severe back pain as it might result in a counter problem. Apart from this, backstroke swimming is a great pain relief therapy that a lot of people have checked out for themselves.

5. Improvement in posture and correct rounded shoulder problem:

Most people who have rounded shoulder problems tend to use the backstroke technique in swimming as it helps correct this problem. When executed correctly it will also help correct your posture issues. At the same time, it will strengthen muscles which will provide better spine and shoulder conditions.

6. Helps build muscle faster

The muscles tend to grow faster if you are consistently practicing swimming. Normally when you weight lift there is a lot of resistance used to increase your muscle mass. The role of resistance is played by water when you adopt swimming as an option to increase your muscle mass.

7. Reduces osteoarthritis pain

Stiffness in joint and the pain experienced can be very hard to get rid of however when you consistently practice backstroke swimming you tend to get good results where you can see that the stress on joints become lesser and hence relieving you of osteoarthritis pain.

Improve Your Health with the Correct Backstroke Technique

Body Positioning

Positioning your body in the right way is also important when it comes to backstrokes in swimming. In the backstroke technique, you tend to float on your back in the water and your body is almost horizontally laid with just a slight tilt towards your feet. This slight tilt is the part that allows you to easily perform flutter kicks without having to break the water surface with your legs.

Beginners however this trouble maintaining the horizontal position. Their legs and hips tend to sink and hence the whole body eventually gets dragged down to the surface. The face drops below the water level and hence breathing also becomes difficult.

Two of the main causes for the sinking of legs can be provided as follows:

1. You are not leaning back enough in the water

2. You can not maintain a straight portion of your body and instead bend it at your hips

Also, while swimming you might want to check whether your body is rolling from side to side between a 30-degree and 45-degree angle from a flat position. Rolling from side to side will allow you to use your chest and back muscles along with your shoulder muscles which helps increase propulsion.  It also decreases the strain from your shoulder which lowers the shoulder injury chances. The head must stay in a neutral position and should be in line with the trunk. It should neither be too rolled forward nor too tucked in.

Arm Technique

In a backstroke technique, the arms perform alternating opposite movements. While one arm is brought forward from the hip above the water level, the other arm pulls back from the front to the hip under the water which creates propulsion. In backstroke swimming, the arm movements tend to consist of the following phases:

1. Entry and extension forward:

The arm is completely extended and the palm will be facing outward. The upper arm tends to enter the water followed by the elbow, forearm, and then hand. The hand enters the water ahead of the shoulder and with the pinky finger in first. Then the arms extend for a short time before it starts with the first downspweep. The entrance will be gentle here as you do not want to push the water downward.

2. First downsweep:

The first downsweep tends to be non-propulsive and hence prepares the arm for the catch. The arm moves downward and outward. The elbow eventually bends and the palm and forearm are kept aligned.

3. Catch:

The catch tends to be the phase of the arm stroke where the swimmer will now start applying propulsive force. It starts at the end of the first downsweep and when the arm is bent at 90 degrees.

4. First upsweep

The first upsweep tends to be the first propulsive phase of the arm stroke. During this phase, the arms tend to move in a detailed backward, upward, and inward direction.

5. Second downsweep

The second downsweep is the second propulsive phase of the arm stroke. The arms here move downward, backward, and outward from a position from the surface of the water to a much deeper position away from the body.

6. Second upsweep

The cond upsweep can be a third propulsive phase and can be added at the end of the second downsweep.  To do so the palm here is turned upward and then backward and then the arm moves upward, backward, and then inward toward the hip by giving the water a push backward and upward.

7. Release

The most commonly followed kind of release is by pointing the thumb upward and the palm turned inward. There should be no excessive force that will be used during the release. Or else the water will be pushed upward which increases drag.

8. Recovery

The recovering arm tends to move in a half circle from the hip to an upward position to the overhead part from where it again hits the water. The arm in this phase must be extended and must be kept neither too relaxed nor too tensed.


  • The swimmer's body will roll towards the side during the recovery phase. Rolling also helps arms swing in a better fashion.  
  • The head will also be needed to be kept in a neutral position with a face toward the ceiling.

Leg Technique

The backstroke kick also called the flutter kick is an alternating up-down kick where the hip is the driving factor for the kick. The legs here kick in vertical or oblique positions and based on the body position the feet will remain pointed. There need to be quick and compact movements for the best effect. The feet should always stay in the shadow of the swimmer's body and the knees must not break through the surface of the water. When performing backstroke swimming most swimmers tend to use the six-beat kicking pattern where each foot kicks three times per backstroke cycle and hence a total of six kicks. This gives the required propulsion. To save energy during long-distance matches a two-beat or four-beat kick can also be used.


  • Make sure you point your toes and keep your kicks to a rapid speed to get a better combination of both speed and power.

Breathing Technique

In order to breathe correctly you need to keep your face above the water surface level which needs good balance. This means a swimmer's body position needs to be in a horizontal position on the water. Once you’ve got good valance it becomes easier to start breathing and hence no risk of inhaling water.

Water splashing can become an obstacle, especially when trying to breathe. When you recover arm splashes of water all you need to do is exhale at that moment. While it takes some practice it will eventually become easier. There is also a breathing pattern where you inhale during the recovery of one arm and then exhale during the recovery of the other arm. This breathing pattern is not only simple but also efficient.


  • Avoid holding your breath as much as possible.
  • A consistent breathing pattern will also aid as a rhythm for your stroke.

Drills and Exercises

Here are some of the drills and exercises that you can perform to increase the efficiency of your backstroke technique.

1. Streamline kick on back + cup on the forehead

Fill in a plastic cup with water halfway through it and place it on your forehead. Now start kicking in streamline on your back. Once you get comfortable add a few arm strokes to make it challenging.

2. Dolphin Kick + backstroke arms

Try to do this one dolphin kick per arm stroke. It will take some practice but eventually, you will get it right.

3. Double arm backstroke

This drill reduces the rotation of your body and hence forces you to have a more shallow pull.

Tips for Efficient Swimming for Good Health

In order to improve your backstroke swimming efficiency here are some tips that might help:

1. Keep your body straight while swimming:

The water tends to be a lot denser than air hence it becomes important to keep your body in a straight line by imagining a central axis passing through your body and the pool. Rotate along the axis and use each stroke while stretching your arms as far as you can.

2. Heavy rotation:

Each stroke begins with the leading arm entering the water and the low side of your body pointing almost at the bottom of the pool. The other side remains high. When you bring down the high side that is when you get the power to move forward while pulling the arm underwater backward.

3. Keep your head down:

You might want to keep your head down as this cut out drag reduces strain on your neck and lower back.

To conserve energy you might want to focus on your breath and not waste it. Exhale air from your lungs before you inhale on the high side. You need to try breathing on alternate strokes which will reduce the strain on your neck.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Do check out for some of these common mistakes made while swimming in a backstroke position.

1. Feet out of the water while you kick

2. Holding your breath for too long

3. Not focusing on bent arm recovery

4. Not holding the water in the pull

5. Head being placed above the water looking at the feet


Now that you are aware of backstroke swimming and how to overcome all of the challenges in backstroke swimming it is time to practice backstroke swimming and gain a better experience. Remember to practice it regularly to ensure correct breathing and other techniques are being incorporated.

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