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nhc
July 15th, 2009, 12:06 AM
I find it much harder to reduce the stroke per length in backstroke than in free. In free, you can glide a long distance in each stroke, but not so in backstroke. What should I work on, the pull, or the kick, or the coordination of the hand and leg? Appreciate any comments.

orca1946
July 15th, 2009, 12:32 AM
Try to roll more the the stroke side & hold a glide to improve the distance per stroke.

Couroboros
July 15th, 2009, 01:18 AM
Uh... kick a lot more. That's all I can think of.

ande will have much better advice!

Redbird Alum
July 15th, 2009, 11:22 AM
The most obvious responses are to:

increase your SDK off each wall to the maximum limit allowed
maintain a rapid (6 beat and up) kick once you breakout
increase the effectiveness of your catch and pull. Use good body positioning, do not dropping the elbow during the upper half of the pull, and finish the push at the end of each stroke.
"Gliding" may reduce the number of pulls, but it does nothing for your propulsion and speed. The idea is not just fewer strokes, it is fewer, more efficient and powerful strokes.

Paul Smith
July 15th, 2009, 11:28 AM
Just in any stroke lots lots of drills that put intense focuse on catch, DPS & glide. In reality you should be taking pretty close to the same number of stokes in back as you do in free (if you do the same SDK).

Glenn has some outstanding drills you might want to check out: http://www.goswim.tv/entries/747/go-swim-freestyle-backstroke-drills.html

Redbird Alum
July 15th, 2009, 11:34 AM
Paul -

Thanks for the link... I'm always looking for different ways to get kids to drill.

nhc
July 15th, 2009, 12:09 PM
Thanks for the comments. The problem with fast kick is, if I kick more, my stroke count will go up. I use 6-beat kicks and anything more than that would mess up the rhythm. I would really like to increase the distance per stroke, for the sake of saving energy.




increase the effectiveness of your catch and pull. Use good body positioning, do not dropping the elbow during the upper half of the pull, and finish the push at the end of each stroke.



I'll work on that. Thanks.

Thanks for the link, Paul.

ourswimmer
July 15th, 2009, 01:08 PM
You don't need a fast kick; you need a strong six-beat kick with a lot of properly-timed torso roll. You cannot generate a strong catch and early pull unless you are rolled down toward the pulling arm. Also, the more you roll, the less strain you put on your shoulder in that catch position.

A lot of poor backstrokers lead with their elbows in the pulling phase. Due to poor torso roll, poor shoulder flexibility, or just not understanding what they really should be doing, they never get their arms in the right position to engage their back muscles in the pull. At the catch phase, you should feel the very same "over a barrel" feeling you feel in a proper freestyle catch. Then in the pull phase, the elbow should be pointed at the bottom of the pool and bent so that the upper and lower arms are about at right angles until the upper arm gets below the shoulder.

Meanwhile, while you are rolling from one side to the other, your head has to stay absolutely still.


In reality you should be taking pretty close to the same number of stokes in back as you do in free (if you do the same SDK).

If I come up at the flags, I actually take fewer strokes per length on my back than I do if I come up at the flags on my front. I think it is because my kick is more propulsive on my back than on my front. (I am working on that by doing more front kicking using my snorkel.)

Paul Smith
July 15th, 2009, 02:32 PM
If I come up at the flags, I actually take fewer strokes per length on my back than I do if I come up at the flags on my front. I think it is because my kick is more propulsive on my back than on my front. (I am working on that by doing more front kicking using my snorkel.)

IMHO if we are having a discussion about increasing DPS we leave the kick out of it entirely...

I probably should have asked this to begin with...why are you trying to reduce the number ps strokes you are taking? Can you tell me what that would be for a 25 (yards)?

RedBird nailed it...if you are looking to swim faster ultimately just focusing on reducing your number of stroke cycles won't help as it involves everything.

nhc
July 15th, 2009, 02:55 PM
Thank you very much for the very helpful reply, ourswimmer. I see a major thing is the timing of the pull. Also need to develop more about the "over a barrel" feeling.


Then in the pull phase, the elbow should be pointed at the bottom of the pool and bent so that the upper and lower arms are about at right angles until the upper arm gets below the shoulder.


"until the upper arm gets below the shoulder", meaning well after the other hand has entered the water? I think I finish my pull too soon.


I probably should have asked this to begin with...why are you trying to reduce the number ps strokes you are taking? Can you tell me what that would be for a 25 (yards)?

Because I want to make my strokes more efficient and energy-saving. At my current level, more kicks will only slow me down ;) I can now make it about 22 strokes per 25 yards.

ourswimmer
July 15th, 2009, 03:31 PM
IMHO if we are having a discussion about increasing DPS we leave the kick out of it entirely...

But the kick really contributes to the torso roll, which in turn contributes to the pull efficiency. And I think torso roll contributes a lot more to pull efficiency in backstroke than in freestyle. Many people swim a pretty flat freestyle pretty fast, but flat backstroke is nearly always slow backstroke. And while many people can pull freestyle with a pull-buoy just about as fast as they can swim, a lot of decent backstrokers can barely pull backstroke with a pull-buoy at all.


"until the upper arm gets below the shoulder", meaning well after the other hand has entered the water?

No. Watch some video of great backstrokers. You will see in the underwater shots how the forearm and upper arm are at about 90 degrees through the middle range of the pull. But their two arms are nearly in opposition to one another, with one entering the water just about as the other is leaving it.

nhc
July 15th, 2009, 04:14 PM
No. Watch some video of great backstrokers. You will see in the underwater shots how the forearm and upper arm are at about 90 degrees through the middle range of the pull. But their two arms are nearly in opposition to one another, with one entering the water just about as the other is leaving it.

Oh, just realized I mistook your "upper arm" to mean the other arm that is above ("upper")!

Confusions can arise when using words "above" and "below" when talking about the body lying in horizontal position. It could mean the absolute position (above = higher in space), or it could mean the relative position on one's body when standing upright. Now I think that by "until the upper arm gets below the shoulder" you probably mean until the upper arm (of the side that's making the pull) gets more closer to the foot than the shoulder ("below" the shoulder if standing upright). Did I get it this time?

Paul Smith
July 15th, 2009, 04:58 PM
But the kick really contributes to the torso roll, which in turn contributes to the pull efficiency. And I think torso roll contributes a lot more to pull efficiency in backstroke than in freestyle. Many people swim a pretty flat freestyle pretty fast, but flat backstroke is nearly always slow backstroke. And while many people can pull freestyle with a pull-buoy just about as fast as they can swim, a lot of decent backstrokers can barely pull backstroke with a pull-buoy at all.



No. Watch some video of great backstrokers. You will see in the underwater shots how the forearm and upper arm are at about 90 degrees through the middle range of the pull. But their two arms are nearly in opposition to one another, with one entering the water just about as the other is leaving it.

Rotation is intitated thru your core not as an extension of the kick...look at some of the underwater shots of Piersol, Lochte, etc. and you will see wildly different kicks...some are fairly level 6 beat, others have more of a scissor movement, some have almost no kick...but they all have huge core rotation and a very deep catch. You should be able to do single arm back drills with virtually no kick and focusing on that type of rotation to incease DPS...

Have you seen this?
YouTube - 2009 | Ryosuke Irie | World Record | 152.86 | Men's 200m Backstroke | 10 May 2009

* And yes I know that FINA did not recognize the WR because of the illegal suit.

tdrop
July 15th, 2009, 06:04 PM
a deep catch in backstroke is no longer regarded as "the way"...a shallow catch is in vogue...a la piersol.

also the stroke has flattened out. so, the best are currently swimming backstroke with less emphasis on rotation

I received an email presentation from russell mark the technical guy at usa swimming detailing this information.

ourswimmer
July 15th, 2009, 06:36 PM
Rotation is intitated thru your core not as an extension of the kick.

I completely agree. I didn't mean one should focus on kick to achieve rotation, just that I don't think you can or should disregard the kick's effect on the pull.


You should be able to do single arm back drills with virtually no kick and focusing on that type of rotation to incease DPS.

I also really like this type of drill for focusing on good rotation. If you don't get your shoulder and hand where they need to be at the catch, you just will not go anywhere.


also the stroke has flattened out. so, the best are currently swimming backstroke with less emphasis on rotation

I think it must take a lot of shoulder flexibility to do it this way, though. I know the only way I can swim backstroke without tweaking my shoulders is with a strong rotation.

Chris Stevenson
July 15th, 2009, 07:05 PM
A strong rotation allows one to pull deeper and engage bigger muscles, which increases DPS. I think that is what the OP is looking for, so I think those who have been pointing to drills to increase rotation are giving good advice.

My favorite backstroke drill along these lines is what one of my former coaches called the "shotgun" or "rifle" drill. As you swim backstroke, you pause the arm when it is pointing almost straight up, perpendicular to the water surface. Your shoulder should be out of the water and you should be able to "sight" down your straight arm like a rifle barrel. Watching the video Paul posted, you can easily imagine Irie doing this as he is swimming.

Keeping in mind that speed is a function of DPS and stroke rate...the main disadvantage to a strong rotation is usually a slower turnover. I notice that when I sprint backstroke I tend to sacrifice rotation for hand-speed (though I still rotate a lot compared to many) and I am not as clean in my hand entry. I do the same in freestyle too.

It is hard for me to compare strokes-per-length in back and free since I tend to go (much) further underwater in backstroke races and in pratice too. But even if the DPS is comparable -- and I suspect it is -- my turnover in free is definitely higher, which is probably why it is a faster stroke.

Paul Smith
July 15th, 2009, 09:14 PM
A strong rotation allows one to pull deeper and engage bigger muscles, which increases DPS. I think that is what the OP is looking for, so I think those who have been pointing to drills to increase rotation are giving good advice.

My favorite backstroke drill along these lines is what one of my former coaches called the "shotgun" or "rifle" drill. As you swim backstroke, you pause the arm when it is pointing almost straight up, perpendicular to the water surface. Your shoulder should be out of the water and you should be able to "sight" down your straight arm like a rifle barrel. Watching the video Paul posted, you can easily imagine Irie doing this as he is swimming.

Keeping in mind that speed is a function of DPS and stroke rate...the main disadvantage to a strong rotation is usually a slower turnover. I notice that when I sprint backstroke I tend to sacrifice rotation for hand-speed (though I still rotate a lot compared to many) and I am not as clean in my hand entry. I do the same in freestyle too.

It is hard for me to compare strokes-per-length in back and free since I tend to go (much) further underwater in backstroke races and in pratice too. But even if the DPS is comparable -- and I suspect it is -- my turnover in free is definitely higher, which is probably why it is a faster stroke.

Chris, have you ever done that drill with a pull buoy and a band around your feet?

Alsdo, would you say that the "flattening" out of your stroke at incresing speeds would be about the same as freestyle? I'm not an accomplished backstroker, i think I entered it for fun years ago but have nly toyed with it since..but i do see a lot of similarities with freestyle?

Chris Stevenson
July 15th, 2009, 09:34 PM
Chris, have you ever done that drill with a pull buoy and a band around your feet?

Alsdo, would you say that the "flattening" out of your stroke at incresing speeds would be about the same as freestyle? I'm not an accomplished backstroker, i think I entered it for fun years ago but have nly toyed with it since..but i do see a lot of similarities with freestyle?

I have not, and it has been a long time since I've worn a band and/or pull buoy in backstroke b/c I worry about shoulder stress. Although I wouldn't say the legs cause or initiate rotation, I think the kick does help stabilize & control it. I suspect I would have problems with over-rotation if I couldn't kick.

For me personally, I don't flatten out in backstroke as much as in freestyle (keeping in mind that I don't sprint freestyle very much). Maybe others do, I am not sure...it would be hard, I would think, b/c you just don't have as good an angle -- as much leverage for the pull -- on your back as you do on your front.

I do think underwater video is important to dissect the pull/roll of the great backstrokers. I've seen some that looked reasonably flat on top of the water, but when you look underwater the pull is surprisingly deep and the rotation greater than expected. Irie is unusual in how far his shoulders appear to come out of the water (compare him to the others in his heat). Most of that is real but part of it is, I think, that he just doesn't splash very much.

tdrop
July 15th, 2009, 09:35 PM
I'm not going to pretend to know a lot about backstroke. I haven't spent much time with it. So, I'm not disagreeing with anyone about what is the "best" way to do it. I'll just provide some food for thought.

Some of the technique that has been passed on to me regarding backstroke is as follows:

1. A deep catch is both inefficient and weak in comparison to a shallow early catch or anchor position.

2. A quick snappy rotation or flatter stroke allows for greater stroke rate. Stroke rate is very important in backstroke.

3. The amount of rotation is dictated by the catch. If the goal is a quick anchor position, then only a that amount of rotation is necessary.

Again, I'm not saying I believe this to be gospel. Instead, I think it is much like freestyle where it is very individual. Some swimmers work well with an open, windmill recovery. Others do better with a high elbow freestyle. So, whatever works for you. But with all the contradictory opinion on technique, I think it has become incorrect to attempt to apply blanket principles.

You've got to experiment and find out what is fastest for the individual.

ViveBene
July 16th, 2009, 08:54 AM
A strong rotation allows one to pull deeper and engage bigger muscles, which increases DPS. I think that is what the OP is looking for, so I think those who have been pointing to drills to increase rotation are giving good advice.

My favorite backstroke drill along these lines is what one of my former coaches called the "shotgun" or "rifle" drill. As you swim backstroke, you pause the arm when it is pointing almost straight up, perpendicular to the water surface. Your shoulder should be out of the water and you should be able to "sight" down your straight arm like a rifle barrel. Watching the video Paul posted, you can easily imagine Irie doing this as he is swimming.

Keeping in mind that speed is a function of DPS and stroke rate...the main disadvantage to a strong rotation is usually a slower turnover. I notice that when I sprint backstroke I tend to sacrifice rotation for hand-speed (though I still rotate a lot compared to many) and I am not as clean in my hand entry. I do the same in freestyle too.
<snip>.

There is a very nice set of photos of Chris Stevenson doing backstroke in the May-June Swimmer mag, including shots of rotation, depth of pull, and aiming down the "rifle barrel" arm. Very nice!
:)

quicksilver
July 16th, 2009, 09:36 AM
No. Watch some video of great backstrokers. You will see in the underwater shots how the forearm and upper arm are at about 90 degrees through the middle range of the pull. But their two arms are nearly in opposition to one another, with one entering the water just about as the other is leaving it.

This is how it's done. When I was coaching my daughter's team, I sketched some basic illustrations of stroke mechanics.
One of our 12 year old girls got 1st place at JO's this year.


This might help...
http://forums.usms.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=1187&d=1222539175

ande
July 16th, 2009, 10:26 AM
Grow longer arms, it's hard to say without watching you swim backstroke,

The key areas to focus on are:

1) push off, streamline, & SDK
push off harder, streamline skinny, & SDK further

2) head & body position,
high head & low hips increase a person's drag & stroke count
shoot for the opposite

3) pull,
concentrate on catching more water when pulling,
to increase DPS, do strong pulls & slower recovery, the real goal is to take fewer strokes at race pace.

4) kick
strong steady, & fast
work on faster flutter & bk kicking, plus using it when you swim

5) body shape & proportions
over weight swimmers have more drag to overcome
strong skinny swimmers slice through the water better

6) swim suit
the kind of suit you wear influences on your DPS
tech suits increase slipperyness, float and compress all which increase DPS


Do 25's, counting your strokes
pick different focus items, see if you can lower your count,
also do fast timed 25's & count your strokes

get someone to video you swimming backstroke from different angles
from the: side, head on swimming towards & away, & if possible, underwater

what matters most is, what you're doing underwater when you're swimming backstroke.


I find it much harder to reduce the stroke per length in backstroke than in free. In free, you can glide a long distance in each stroke, but not so in backstroke. What should I work on, the pull, or the kick, or the coordination of the hand and leg? Appreciate any comments.

knelson
July 16th, 2009, 10:51 AM
I have a poor backstroke and one of the things I wonder about is the effectiveness of my pull. When swimming backstroke my pull seems to be very wide and I sometimes touch people in the adjacent lane. Just curious if this happens to people with good backstrokes.

quicksilver
July 16th, 2009, 10:57 AM
Jeff Rouse has a very wide pull. It's very common to pull wide as opposed to freestyle where your pull is under your torso.

YouTube - Go Swim Backstroke with Jeff Rouse

nhc
July 16th, 2009, 11:57 AM
Thank you all so much. Will go get Swimmer magazine to see the photos of Chris.

quicksilver, you are a great artist as well, the picture is very helpful! One curiosity: what's the advantage of keeping the elbow locked in recovery? (It does look nice)

quicksilver
July 16th, 2009, 12:21 PM
Thank you all so much. Will go get Swimmer magazine to see the photos of Chris.

quicksilver, you are a great artist as well, the picture is very helpful! One curiosity: what's the advantage of keeping the elbow locked in recovery? (It does look nice)

Thank you. I'm an architect, so the doodling comes very naturally. It was a helpful way to convey a few key points to our kids.

To answer your question...too many of our age groupers were bending their arms as they recovered. They should be straight as possible for 2 reasons.

1.) To ensure the cleanest possible entry
2.) To ensure the longest possible reach for when the hand enters

You do not want the arm bent in any way as it slices into the water. It should come down like an oar, ready to dig in, and start sculling.

On that note...It's best to let the arm drop down a few inches, and lean into the stroke (ride the rails) before pulling back. A slightly deeper pull is important to grab onto still water. This may help too...http://www.svl.ch/backstroke.html

Redbird Alum
July 16th, 2009, 03:23 PM
Chris, have you ever done that drill with a pull buoy and a band around your feet?


Paul -

I am not a proponent of the buoy. Buoys create artificial lift which displaces body alignment, putting unusual pressures on the stroke. I prefer to train the individual to use their core to keep the hips higher and their rotation in order.

Bands I'm more indifferent about, provided they are loose, not tight.

bud
July 16th, 2009, 04:20 PM
...Although I wouldn't say the legs cause or initiate rotation, I think the kick does help stabilize & control it....

I do think underwater video is important to dissect the pull/roll of the great backstrokers....

I agree... I find my kick is indispensable in stabilizing and controlling my backstroke.

My flutter kick (both back and front) has been lame for a long time, but I've been working some kick drills in (finally), and I can tell the difference. It really feels good to have a strong(er) kick!

I've always been in awe of folks doing just kick practice who seem to be flying along.

I'll never forget one meet, standing poolside with a teammate, watching another in a 200 (free), who was pretty much kicking all-out through the whole race. "Look at Joe", he said, "If you want to do good in the 200 you have to be able to kick."

I took from this that a big kick in a 200 was something "new school" (I don't really know any "school", so I'm a bit of a blank slate in that regard.) And as the quest for new records continues, the "schools of thought" change.

Personally I think it is pretty simple... you just have to find your own stroke.

There are some Universal Truths... but after that you just need to play around with different ideas (and this is a great forum for ideas).

Finding videos that you can run through a viewer like QuickTime, where you can pause and step it frame-by-frame, are a fantastic educational tool.

Getting vids of yourself and comparing them to the experts is very educational too. Above surface shots are easy (use a tripod!) Underwater cameras are more common now too. There have been several threads here on the subject:
Digital Video Camera for Filming Swimming

Underwater Camera?

Underwater Video Camera?

Swim video tools

:)

I've seen underwater vids from one of the Olympus compact digital cams (a Stylus 720SW maybe?)... amazing quality for the price. (About a year ago I believe these cashed in around $300+)

Olympus currently has a STYLUS-550WP, estimated retail about $180, up to 10MP stills, with a vid rate (AVI, w/sound) of 640x480 (30/15fps).... It accepts a micro SD card (with an adapter, XD is the default)... and it is "Waterproof" to 10ft (3m).... This is a lot of tech for the price!

640x480 is the (old) VGA standard (remember the first IBM PC you laid eyes on back int he early 80's?)... and is substantially larger than most web vids you see posted (like at YouTube).

Just so you'll know what 640x480 (VGA resolution) looks like on your current monitor configuration, the attached image here is just that size.

Have Fun!

bud
July 16th, 2009, 06:17 PM
...When swimming backstroke my pull seems to be very wide and I sometimes touch people in the adjacent lane. Just curious if this happens to people with good backstrokes.

I think it is just the nature of the beast... and inevitable, regardless of your skill level.
:blush:
I remember seeing cracks on this forum about the backstrokers and breaststrokers scratching and kicking everyone who goes by. That's about all you can do with it. (Laugh it off.) Quicksilver's excellent doodles show pretty well why this is unavoidable.
U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums - View Single Post - Reducing stroke per length in backstroke


Technically I think I qualify as having a "good backstroke" (I'm just not real fast). I come in contact (the fateful "scratch") with folks, especially on the other side of the lane line, fairly frequently. Not much you can do about it if you keep good form, 'cause you just don't know they are there. I can still see the dirty looks. I've made plenty of apologies.

Fortunately I still have the ability to choose when I swim most of the time, and can get in at off-peak times. But there are always some times when it is busy. I amazed at how often there can be one person in every lane and the next one to get in chooses my lane... even though everyone but me is doing just front crawl... they obviously miss this, and don't know till it is too late that < 25% of my practice is front crawl, and well over 50% are "wide" strokes (fly, back, breast). Yeah, I like the IM. ;)

I can still see the looks of terror, the whites of their eyes, as they come up for air in breaststroke and see me coming at them fly. :afraid: They pause, which then throws off my timing and makes me miss even more strokes... oh well. :dunno:

ddunbar
July 17th, 2009, 01:40 PM
Ok - I have been waiting for any of my brethern breaststrokers to make the comment but since they haven't

The best way to reduce the strokes per length in backstroke is to avoid swimming it as much as possible. :D:D

humanpunchingbag
July 18th, 2009, 12:30 AM
Fantastic discussion. One that I really need to follow. When I was at my best form back in 1982 I actually had a fairly decent backstroke. 59:30 for the hundred meters, which was not too shabby for the times. No Olympic berth, but I could smile about it, at least that day. Now, over 25 years later I find that my backstroke is really my weak sister stroke. Maybe this is because it was my best stroke and now it has fallen into sub-par mediocrity like the rest of my swimming.

On the other hand, I have come to the conclusion that my complete loss of skill in backstroke has everything to do with my lack of kick. Put a pull-buoy and paddles on me and I can still rip-off a backstroke set I can smile about (though my shoulders will curse me for days after). Add my legs into the fray and I might as well just tie a lead weight to my feet.

Strokes per 25 meters free pulling: 11 to 12. swimming 14 to 15
Strokes per 25 meters back pulling: 13 or so. swimming 18 or so, and half as fast. The turns? doing it pull it's 1.5 strokes from the flags to the turn. Swimming its sometimes 4 strokes to the turn, with absolutely no inertia to carry me through the turn. I think kicking is an important element for increasing your distance per stroke.

Hey, here is a question (occured to me today while doing underwater kick off the wall): How many swimmers think that nose plugs are a good idea? It seems to me, especially doing backstroke, that a set of nose plugs might just improve the streamline off the wall by decreasing the amount of air wasted coming off the wall. Maybe I am weak, but I have to blow air as I come off the wall to stop water from flooding up my nose (hence making my eyes go wonky with pain:drown:). I find that lack of air is the major reason I have to come up (that and complete lack of movement since my pathetic kick is pushing me nowhere)

nhc
July 18th, 2009, 12:43 PM
Another question is, where do you look while on your back? I often have my nose full of water when I finish, even if I look at my feet (i.e. not directly straight up at the ceiling) while swimming.