Backstroke Swimming Drills – Hand-Lead Side balance

Hand-Lead Side Balance is the next drill in our series to learn to swim backstroke. It is a variation of the previous head-lead side balance swimming drill. See the video below:

Video ThumbnailThis swimming drill to learn to swim backstroke lets you practice balance on your side with one arm extended overhead.

In the video above you see that you keep one arm extended forward while you hold the other one at your side. This teaches you how to maintain balance while swimming on your side and having one arm extended overhead. This is typically the position you are in at the end of the arm recovery before starting the propulsive arm sweep in the water.

Swimming Drill Instructions

The drill starts in the same way as Head-Lead Side Balance:

  • Go to the shallow area of the pool.
  • Lean on your back, push off the ground, start to flutter kick and get into a horizontal position, with both arms resting at your sides.
  • Once you feel balanced, roll to one of your sides, and adjust your balance again.

Once you feel comfortable flutter kicking in this side position, sneak up one of your arms and extend it overhead.

  • When the arm is extended, the palm should either face the side wall or the ground.
  • Try to get balanced again in this new position.
  • Keep this position for the rest of the length, and switch sides for each new pool length.


  • Play with the depth of the arm in the water until you find its ideal position. For some people, the arm is nearly parallel to the water surface while for others, the arm is angled down 45° or more.
  • You should experience that it’s easier to keep your hips and legs up in this position because the extended arm provides additional leverage.
  • As you are taller with the extended arm, you should also feel that you slip better through the water and need to kick less to travel at the same speed than in head-lead side balance.

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