Learn to Swim Backwards Freestyle

Free Swim Lessons Beta - 360swim.com

Sep 30, 2012

Learn to Swim Backwards Freestyle

There is no doubt in my mind that anyone can learn how to swim and anyone can swim with ease if the right approach to learning is taken. In order to convey a certain feeling or a message to the swimmers and to keep swim workouts interesting, every coach should once in a while think outside the box. Nothing is more boring than doing the same workout routines over and over with only slight variations. So let's spice up your today's swim workout with backwards swimming. I use this technique with my swimmers quite frequently and it always is fun for them to do and definitely fun to watch. In addition to being only fun, it also serves a specific purpose.

First, let's focus on how to swim freestyle backwards (just to clarify, I am talking about swimming on your stomach feet first). The most important advice I can give you here is to attempt to mimick all the aspects of a good freestyle stroke into the backwards swimming. Streamline your body means to keep your legs pointed straight forward and keep your toes together. The pitfall to watch out for here is not to be tempted to kick with the feet. Just trust the water and balance yourself in a very similar way as you would when you do your side kicking exercises. The next thing is to roll your hips as you are suppose to during regular freestyle swimming. Backwards swimming is no exception, you will rotate your body from side to side. So stay away from flat stomach swimming. Another important tip is to keep your head low as if you are pressing your entire chest and head into the water. This will make sure to keep your legs at the surface while you move backwards. Another way to think about it is to try to utilize your lower back and buttocks to keep your legs afloat. This next tip is important. Your arms should not be rotated outwards, instead swim with the top of your hands and forearms. I wasn't kidding when I said it is total backwards freestyle, so even the underwater motion of your arms is just the opposite to what you'd do when swimming regular freestyle. So keep those palms always facing back and use the top of the hands and forearms to propel yourself forward. Maintain nice and long body line by making sure you extend your arms as far forward as possible during your body role. By extending forward with your arms you are adding more weight to the front of your body thus allowing your legs to stay closer to the surface. The last and the most complicated skill to master is the breathing. You need to get good mental understanding about what supports you in the water and how you balance yourself on a side without spreading your legs apart. Without gaining practice in the support and balance skills, you will have a tough time to breathe. Breathing is perfomed in a similar fashion as in freestyle by rotating your head to the side while your top arm is moving backwards to the entry position by the hip. Restrain from breathing backwards, instead press deeper into the water with your front arm and chest and make sure to be roled to the side.

You might think this is a totally useless exercise. However, let's think a bit more about what happens to your body and what you are practicing by swimming backwards. You are forced to rediscover your balance in water, your trust in the water support, your head position during breathing, also your early vertical forearm placement and probably many other things. Finally, you are giving your shoulders a counter force which should make them stronger and healthier in the long run as you exercise both directions (if you don't over do it).

The sets I like to do with backwards freestyle are very short not to stress the shoulders too much. For example 4x25 with 30 seconds rest or 4x50 (25 backwards swim and 25 all out freestyle swim) with 1 minute rest. You will be amazed on how awesome it feels to sprint right after you swam backwards. It's almost as if you had some antipaddles on and then took them off. You should feel very powerful. You can combine the sets with counting how many strokes you take per 25 and then try to minimize that count by improving your backward pull, your breathing and your body position. Or if you are really good at it, why not put on a pair of techpaddles with their wrist straps and do a few laps backwards.

Even though, I only talk about backward freestyle swimming in this post, similar principle can be applied to all the other strokes, however, this is a bit more challenging to master and the benefit is not as high as in the backward freestyle swim. I'd suggest getting accustomed to freestyle backward swimming before going the route to explore other backwards strokes. So go out there, be patient with it and get out of your swimming routines and swim outside the box today. The Rome was not build in a day and the world was not created in 7 days (even though some crazies still believe this in 21st century :)), so getting to understand your body in the water while swimming backwards freestyle takes some time as well. Enjoy.

Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.


Gy Bx said...

Yes, I'm one of the few who do this as a drill using webbed gloves. Why? 1) Strengthens the anterior deltoid. 2)concentrate on high elbow motion 3.)concentrate on balance and body position 4)concentrate on breathing 5) develop coordination 6) force streamlining 7) add workout variation for fun (fun is not illegal yet in the USA). Imho, this is a very specialized drill to be used only for 2 laps per session. People who are against variation in swimming drills are like people who only have sex in one position. Some of us like variety. I have created many "strange" drill strokes based upon Crossfit kinematics and gymnastics. Every drill has at least one purpose and some of them can be used for open water and survival swimming. Let those who are boring move aside.