Backstroke: Rotation Timing is More Important Than Amount



Backstroke rotation should be quick and snappy, happening all at once as one arm is finishing and the other arm is entering. The rotation isn’t large – far from being all the way onto your side. Most of the best backstrokers rotate less than 30 degrees to each side.


The best backstroke pull is shallow with a good catch, and the arm stays to the side of the body. By rotating the body about 30 degrees to each side, that’s just enough to get your arm into that best position and to have your arm and body work together through the pull. Since the arm isn’t pulling deep, it’s not necessary to rotate anywhere near onto your side. 30 degrees is not a lot!


One myth in swimming is that if you rotate all the way onto your side, you will reduce drag. This is incorrect because the amount of your body that is submerged in water will not be any different if your body is rotated 30 degrees or if it’s rotated 90 degrees.


Check out how much these elite backstrokers are rotating:



Backstroke rotation illustration.


WHEN you’re rotating is actually much more important than HOW MUCH you’re rotating. Your rotation must be completed BEFORE you start the pull/catch. Rotate quickly and only at the finish and entry of each pull. To do this:

  • Use the downward finish to rotate your body onto the other side.
  • Drive the hand, arm, and shoulder into the water on each entry.

Many swimmers rotate too late – after the arm is entered – and are still rotating as the arm starts the pull and catch. This usually leads to a weak catch.

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