BY RUSSELL MARK // HIGH PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT
In backstroke, it’s widely known the hands should enter pinky-finger first and above the shoulder or just outside of the shoulder. Yet one of the most common and recognizable flaws are hand entries that are too narrow and/or with the back of the hand. It’s also frustrating because it’s not easy to correct, even though you know exactly what to do. Why is that? No matter how hard a swimmer tries or exaggerates, the entry could still be wrong.
It’s because a poor hand entry is from late body rotation, not from bad hand placement. Trying to change the hand/arm position doesn’t address the root of the problem.
- The body should be flat (halfway rotated from one side to the other) when the hand is entering. (Left-side images below.)
- A bad entry goes jointly with the body still being rotated away from arm that is entering the water. (Right-side images below.)
- Rotate earlier and the correct hand entry should be much easier to achieve. Use the finish of the opposite arm to help rotate your body earlier to the other side.
Good hand entries are very important because it means the body, hand and arm are in the best position to subsequently hit a great catch and pull, the most critical aspect to fast backstroke.
Author’s note: I have seen a few swimmers who have a great catch, but do not have good hand entries. I would recommend thinking twice before changing the hand entry in that case, because it could negatively impact the catch. The catch is the most important aspect and should not be weakened just to make the hand entry better.