Swimming: How To Swim Straight in the Backstroke

Swimming: How To Swim Straight in the Backstroke

Pat Aitken

Many backstrokers have trouble maintaining a straight course down their lane.  How can you help students who are zigzagging all over the pool?

The problem may be a lack of body roll. Since the arms move alternately in the backstroke, if your students don't roll their body as each arm sweeps through the water, their legs and hips will move from side to side as a way of countering the single-side push of the arms. As a result, they will zigzag down the pool.

How to Correct Zigzaggers

Your backstrokers should roll their body in the same direction as the  pulling arm as it dips into, and sweeps through, the water.

So, as your swimmer' right arm sweeps down into the water, the body should roll to the right.  As the left arm sweeps down, the body should roll to the left. Although the head does not move, be sure the whole body rolls, not just the shoulders. 

And the correct amount of roll is important. Most swimmers roll less than they should. The optimal is about 45 degrees to each side—which occurs about midway through the arm sweep.

1. D. L. Costill, E. W. Maglischo & A. B. Richardson, Swimming, Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1992. 
2. Jim Montgomery, Mo Chambers, Mastering Swimming, Human Kinetics, 2009. http://www.humankinetics.com

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