By Matt Barbini//National Team High Performance Consultant | Saturday, July 1, 2017
Trying to increase your tempo at the end of a backstroke race isn’t as simple as it sounds. Your legs are burning, your arms feel like lead, and the last thing in the world you can imagine doing is moving your arms faster. Fortunately, your arms don’t have to do all of the work when it’s time to temp up, and in fact they shouldn’t.
The key to properly speeding up your tempo is to use your core muscles and allow them to increase the pace of your rotation from one side to the other. Simply spinning your arms will only cause you to slip, compromise your catch, and most importantly disrupt the timing of your stroke. Think of it as increasing your tempo from the inside out. Your core (inside) dictates the pace and subsequent connection of your arms (outside), not the other way around.
In the first video below (slowed down to highlight the timing) you can see that the swimmer maintains connection between the components of their stroke and is able to keep their entry in line with their core. Increasing the pace of that core-driven rotation is how you should think about increasing your tempo.
In the next video you can see an athlete whose arms are working independently from their body, forcing the tempo without a matching rotational pace from their core. Notice how the right hand is entering while the body is still rotated to the left. This is a common mistake and can lead to a number of ancillary stroke flaws.
Driving your stroke from your core, not your arms, also helps to alleviate a mis-timed rotation which is the most common of the ancillary backstroke flaws that I mentioned above. If your core is leading your rotation, it is much more difficult for your arms to fall out of rhythm with that pace and for your timing to be disrupted.