Swimming backstroke poses a few challenges in terms of breathing. You have to keep your face above water to breathe and splashing water can be a problem. But these difficulties can be overcome. This article explains how.
Keeping Your Face Above Water
To keep your face above the water surface you need good balance. This means you know how to position your body so it stays horizontal in the water. This is more difficult in backstroke than in front crawl because you need to balance while floating on your back.
Once you have mastered good balance, breathing becomes easy because your face stays above water and there is no risk of inhaling water. On the other hand, without balance, your face will sink below the water surface at one point or another and breathing will be disrupted.
There are two aspects to balance in backstroke swimming:
- You need an at least moderately effective flutter kick to keep your legs up and provide propulsion. In the beginning, if your kick is ineffective, you can use swimming fins as an aid.
- You need to learn how to lean on your upper back to attain a horizontal position. This helps keeping your hips and legs up. Head-lead supine balance is a good swimming drill to practice this technique.
While practicing balance or swimming backstroke, a nose clip can help prevent getting water into your nose. You then only need to focus on your mouth. Later one you will be able to get rid of the nose clip once your technique has improved.
Dealing with Splashing Water
Water splashing in your face during the arm recovery is another issue that can disrupt your breathing. To avoid this, exhale at the moment when water is projected in your face during the arm recovery. It takes some practice but over time it becomes second nature.
Inhaling quickly through the mouth and nose, then exhaling slowly through the nose only while keeping the mouth shut also helps keeping water out. That's because water can't get into the nose as long as you are exhaling and your mouth is shut anyway.
While swimming backstroke, a breathing pattern you can use is to inhale during the recovery of one arm, then to exhale during the recovery of the other arm. This breathing pattern is simple and efficient.
Another breathing pattern you can use is to breathe every arm stroke. To do so, for each arm, inhale quickly at the beginning of the arm recovery, then exhale slowly for the rest of the arm recovery. This avoids the aforementioned problem of water getting projected into your face and disrupting your breathing.