BY RUSSELL MARK // HIGH PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT
There was a time when people thought the best backstroke pull started in deep water and then swept up and then back down at the finish. Video of the best backstrokers in the world shows us differently – that the backstroke pull should start and stay shallow until the downward finish. The proof is definitive. All of the best backstrokers swim this way: Ryan Lochte, Aaron Peirsol, Missy Franklin, Elizabeth Beisel, Camille LaCourt, Natalie Coughlin.
The principle is simple: You want to move forward, so you want your arms to push as much water backward. You also want to use the strongest muscles, and do so by keeping your arm shallow and by your side. The opposite isn’t as strong – reaching for “deep water,” where your arm has to reach behind your body.
The best motion is also relatively simple. The best backstroke pull…
• Starts and stays shallow, with the hand just underneath the surface of the water. Notice that the hand is hidden behind the lane line, which means the hand is never deeper than the lane line. [Pictures (a), (b), (c)]
• Catch and cradle as much water as possible. The goal is to catch the most water with your palm and forearm and push it towards your feet. [Picture (b)]
• The palm always faces towards the feet. The fingers also point to the side of the pool. The palms never face downward toward the bottom.
• The finish of the pull is downward to help the body pivot to the other side. Throughout the finish, the palms are still facing back and pushing water that way. [Pictures (d), (e)]
• The pull ends deeper than the hips and the arm fully extended.