Does your backstroke start look like a precise blast off the wall or a plunging back flop? This sometimes awkward take-off can make or break your race. The goal is to get as far ahead of your competition as possible by maximizing your forward speed from the start. Here’s how to do it:
The biggest obstacle in most backstroke starts is slippage. It can happen twice: during the pull-up from incorrect foot placement and during take-off from uneven body weight distribution. Your toes should be just under the surface and about six inches apart for best balance (adjusting for your body size). To distribute weight evenly over your body instead of just your feet, don’t pull up as high as possible on the blocks. Rather, pull both your body and hips in towards the wall. This way, your legs can push your body out. If you try to push upwards, that’s when your feet will slip down.
Explode, in the right order. When you take off: 1) throw your hands away from the block, 2) throw your head all the way back to see the water and 3) explode your legs as though you are launching a missile. This sequence allows your feet to push your body away from the wall instead of forcing your legs down.
Remember your arms. Experts agree that during take-off, throwing your arms over your body is faster than around the side, but only if your back is arched. If you are new to this, practice in the deep end first, as you can overextend and hit a shallow bottom.
Streamline. Just like in fly, breast and free starts, your feet should enter through the same hole created by your hands. Arch your back and your hands will break the surface, followed by your head, then your body and finally your feet, all through the same entry. Once submerged, squeeze your head inside streamlined arms and kick hard, using your first arm pull to explode to the surface.
Practice. Like anything else, if you want to be good, practice constantly. You can easily turn an awkward backstroke start into a weapon of speed.