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Learn To Swim Backstroke: Drills and Exercises

This article proposes a series of exercises for learning backstroke. The backstroke is a swimming style that is swum on the back.

The arms perform similar but alternating movements. The arms recover from the hips forward above water and pull back to the hips from the front under water.

A female backstroke swimmer in an outdoor swimming pool.

The legs perform a flutter kick. They kick alternately up and down.

You can find out more about the swimming technique of the backstroke here.

Swimming Drills and Exercises

Learn The Flutter Kick

A novice swimmer practicing flutter kick drills for the backstroke.

Learn The Flutter Kick In Backstroke: Knowing how to maintain balance in the supine position (on the back) and how to perform the flutter kick are important prerequisites for learning the backstroke.

This article teaches you this basic swimming technique.

Head-Lead Supine Balance Drill

A novice swimmer who practices the head-lead supine balance drill for the backstroke.

Learn To Swim Backstroke – Head-Lead Supine Balance Drill: This is an important drill to learn the backstroke, as it teaches how to be balanced and supported on the back using the lungs’ buoyancy.

Being balanced means that the body is horizontal in the water while swimming the backstroke.

Head-Lead Side Balance Drills

A novice swimmer who practices the head-lead side balance drill for the backstroke.

Learn To Swim Backstroke – Head-Lead Side Balance Drills: These swimming drills are the next in the sequence to learn how to swim backstroke.

Here you’ll learn how to float more on the sides rather than flat on the back and using a supple flutter kick.

Learn The Arm Stroke On Dry Land

A swimming instructor who demonstrates the arm movements of the backstroke in a standing position

Backstroke Technique Drills – Learn The Arm Stroke On Dry Land: This article demonstrates how to do the arm movements in backstroke.

Learning the arm movements is easier when you first rehearse them on dry land.

Hand-Lead Side Balance Drill

A novice swimmer who practices the hand-lead side balance drill for the backstroke.

Learn To Swim Backstroke – Hand-Lead Side Balance Drill: The next drill to learn to swim backstroke is a simple variation of the head-lead side balance drill.

But instead of keeping both arms at your sides, you’ll extend one arm in front of you while keeping the other at your side.

This teaches you how to keep balance while swimming on the side with an extended arm.

Under Water Arm Sweeps

A novice swimmer who practices an underwater arm sweep drill for the backstroke.

Learning to Swim Backstroke – Under Water Arm Sweeps: The next swimming drill to learn to swim backstroke lets you practice your balance in combination with underwater arm sweeps for propulsion.

Single-Arm Backstroke Drill

A novice swimmer practicing a single arm backstroke drill

Learning to Swim Backstroke – Single-Arm Backstroke: The next swimming drills let you practice the arm recovery above the water.

However, to learn the arm movements correctly and to keep things simple, you’ll only practice one arm at a time.

This lets you focus better on the arm movements and avoids synchronization issues between both arms.

Slide and Glide Drills

A novice swimmer practicing a slide and glide drill for the backstroke

Learning to Swim Backstroke – Slide and Glide Drills: The Slide and Glide swimming drills are the last ones of our series to learn to swim backstroke.

You will now practice simultaneous arm movements.

Learning Path for the Backstroke

Below is an overview of our series of articles on learning the backstroke. Each article in this series contains one or more drills that have to be mastered. The current article is highlighted:

Once you have gone through all the steps of this learning path, you should be able to swim backstroke without any problems.

Good luck!

Hulya Ozdemir

Sunday 26th of June 2016

Hello, I'm Hülya.

I have been learning swimming for a week. But I can't swim with backstroke technique even if it seems easier than freestyle.

The biggest reason is I don't know how to stand up again properly. I tried it in the very shallow pool.

I could float but I couldn't stand up easily, in other words, I sank while trying to come to the vertical position.

Could you please suggest me the easiest and practical way for this?


Monday 27th of June 2016

Hi Hülya,

To stand up from the backstroke position what I do is this:

* I bring my arms to my sides underwater.

* At the same time I curl up my body, which means I round my back, I bend my knees and bring them toward my chest. It's as if I assume a crouching position in the water.

This automatically moves me in a vertical position, then I just need to stretch my legs to stand up.

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