Backstroke Swimming Drills – Head-Lead Supine Balance

Head-lead supine balance is an important drill to learn to swim backstroke, as it teaches how to be balanced and supported on your back using the buoyancy of your lungs. Being balanced while swimming backstroke means that you can easily keep your body in a horizontal position in the water.

The video below demonstrates the swimming drill covered in this article:

Video Thumbnail

Swimming Drill Instructions

The drill will be easier to learn if you already have practiced some of the exercises to learn the flutter kick in backstroke. Do the following:

  • Put on a pair of swimming goggles.
  • Put on a nose clip if you are afraid of getting water into the nose.
  • Go to the shallow area of the pool.
  • Push off the ground and get into a horizontal position on the back.
  • Start to flutter kick to provide for propulsion and to get into a horizontal position.
  • Leave the arms along the sides of the body.
  • Now try to move forward only using a flutter kick for propulsion and without using the arms for balance.

As a beginner, it will most likely be difficult for you to keep your balance. So keep in mind the following points:

  1. You need to ensure that your body is in a straight line from head to toes. A friend or your swim teacher can be of great help to spot mistakes in your posture, for example, if you are bending the body at the hips.
  2. If your legs and hips tend to sink, don’t kick harder. Try instead to push the back of the head and the upper back down in the water. Because your lungs are buoyant, this will create leverage and push the hips and legs up to the surface.

This last point is the main skill to learn in this backstroke drill. Once you have learned how to push your upper body down in the water to keep the legs and hips up, it will become second nature. As a consequence, you won’t need to kick so hard anymore, which will allow you to breathe more easily.

Additional Tips

  • Use swim fins if your flutter kick doesn’t provide enough propulsion.
  • To be more relaxed you can use swimming goggles and a nose clip. This avoids that water enters the eyes or the nose.
  • While you are learning balance on the back, the best might be to hold your breath and to drill for a few seconds, after which you stop to breathe.
  • Finally, once you have learned how to keep balance on your back, you can remove the nose clip and breathe freely.

Conclusion

Once you can keep balance on the back using only a flutter kick for propulsion, you are a big step forward on your journey to learn to swim the backstroke. So take your time to master this drill and have fun while practicing!

2 thoughts on “Backstroke Swimming Drills – Head-Lead Supine Balance”

  1. Hi Christophe

    Came across your blog. Was interested in it because it’s written for a non-commercial purpose, unlike many other blogs.

    I’m 44 and have been learning to swim on and off. This time it’s been 6 weeks. I’m determined to learn swimming because this is a low impact exercise compared to running.

    I’ve been running for 4 years but its impact on knees is well known. So, want to switch to swimming.

    One of the troubles is sinking legs. I think what you refer to here ‘push the upper body down in the water’ makes sense.

    What’s your view about using the core? Asking as on some other blogs I read the sinking problem is because we don’t activate our use or use or core but your blog doesn’t refer to it.

    1. Hi Vikas,

      I’ve come across the ‘using the core’ concept as well while reading other blogs.

      In my understanding, what is meant is that you consciously contract the abdominal and lower back muscles to keep your hip and torso aligned.

      It makes sense, and I’ve played at times with this technique in the pool.

      However, while it may keep your body straight and reduce the drag you create in the water, I don’t think it’s sufficient to avoid the dreaded sinking legs problem.

      I think the additional step of leaning into the water with your back and head, so that your body acts like a seesaw and your legs move up, is also needed and in fact more important.

      Once you have learned this latter technique, it becomes natural and automatic, and you won’t have to think about it to keep your body horizontal and your legs up.

      Good luck!

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