The best way to get better at backstroke? Refine your technique! Regularly incorporating backstroke-specific drills into your warmup (or even a dedicated drill set) can pay off big time when it comes to speed and efficiency in backstroke.
Remember: speed doesn’t mean much if your technique isn’t rock solid. Check out 5 of our favorite backstroke drills that help you improve your head position, stroke tempo, rotation and more, plus a free backstroke swim set to try!
1. Streamline Kick on Back + Cup on Forehead
It’s common for many swimmers to move their head excessively or look forward in backstroke, and this drill helps correct those issues.
Fill a plastic cup halfway with water and place it on your forehead. Start kicking in streamline on your back. As you get comfortable, you can try adding a few arm strokes to make this drill more challenging!
The cup forces you to keep your head back, encouraging you to look straight up rather than down at your toes. When your head is in the right position, your hips stay near the surface of the water, reducing drag and helping you swim faster.
This drill isn’t as tough as it seems. Give it a try during your next workout!
2. 12-Kick Switch
12-Kick Switch will help you work on balance and rotation in backstroke. When you swim backstroke regularly, you’ll only rotate about 45 degrees to each side. This drill exaggerates that rotation, encouraging you to rotate 90 degrees to each side and find balance.
Take one stroke with your right arm and rotate fully onto your right side. Keeping the right arm extended, take 12 kicks. Look straight up at the sky or ceiling. After completing all 12 kicks, complete your underwater pull with the right arm, and swap to the left side.
When you take each stroke, focus on driving your rotation with your hips. Wear fins to keep your momentum going through the water.
3. 3 Strokes + 12 Kicks
To expand upon 12-Kick Switch, try 3 Strokes + 12 Kicks! Adding more full strokes helps you work on rotational momentum and finding rhythm.
Take 3 strokes. On the third stroke, keep the arm extended, rotate to the side, and do 12 kicks. Like the previous drill, keep your eyes looking up to the sky. After completing 12 kicks, take 3 more strokes and repeat the 12 kicks on the other side.
When doing this drill, think about your hand positioning throughout your pull and recovery. Your hand should exit the water thumb first. As your arm moves overhead, rotate your forearm so your hand enters the water pinky-first.
Pinky-first entry sets you up for a strong and efficient Early Vertical Forearm pull.
4. Dolphin Kick + Backstroke Arms
This advanced drill helps you work on stroke tempo. When you can move your arms faster with maximum power, you’ll swim faster — simple!
Try to do one dolphin kick per arm stroke. It might take some practice to get right, but once you do you’ll be flying down the pool! Think about lunging through the water.
5. Catch Up Drill
You’ve probably done a version of this drill for freestyle.
In backstroke Catch Up Drill, one arm will always be pointing straight up to the sky, perpendicular to the surface of the water. As the other hand completes a pull cycle, tag the other hand out of the water to swap sides.
Wearing fins for this drill will help you keep your hips up. Swimming with faster tempo can make this drill easier, too.
Bonus Drill: Double Arm Backstroke
Double arm backstroke is a classic recovery stroke for swimmers post race or tough workout, but it’s also a valuable drill to improve your pull.
This drill reduces your rotation and forces you to have a more shallow pull. Some of the other drills featured earlier encourage over-rotation, and if you rely on just those drills too much, you can hurt your performance. Incorporate double arm backstroke to maintain your feel for a shallower pull.
Backstroke Swim Set
This backstroke swim set is designed to help you improve your underwater dolphin kick in backstroke! For more personalized backstroke Workouts, download the MySwimPro app! Enter your times and get customized intervals for every Workout, plus personalized Training Plans and 1-on-1 coaching.
- 4 x 100 Backstroke/Freestyle by 25
- 4 x 75 Backstroke (increase # of dolphin kicks off the wall by 25: Ex. 3, 4, 5 kicks)
- 4 x 50 Backstroke (negative split dolphin kicks – take more dolphin kicks on 2nd 25 than 1st 25: Ex. 5, 7)
- 4 x 25 Backstroke (Descend 1-4, focus on power in dolphin kick)
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Give these drills a shot and let us know what you think in the comments! For more backstroke tips, Workouts and Training Plans, download the MySwimPro app — start a free 30-day trial of ELITE to unlock all of our swim training resources.