Activities Sports & Athletics The Secret to Perfect Backstroke Starts What is the best way to shave your seconds off your time? Share PINTEREST Email Print Getty Images/ Al Bello Sports & Athletics Swimming & Diving Technique Gear Workouts Health & Safety Diving Baseball Basketball Bicycling Billiards Bodybuilding Bowling Boxing Car Racing Cheerleading Cricket Extreme Sports Football Golf Gymnastics Ice Hockey Martial Arts Professional Wrestling Skateboarding Skating Paintball Soccer Table Tennis Tennis Track & Field Volleyball Other Activities Learn More By Gary Mullen Gary Mullen is a world-renowned swimming expert, writer, and speaker. He is a member of the advisory board of the International Society of Swim Coaches. our editorial process Gary Mullen Updated March 18, 2017 Are you having trouble on the wall when you start your backstroke? If you look like a log flopping in the water when you start your backstroke, you need a new strategy. Whether you are first starting out, wading through a difficult season, or you just want to improve, there is a secret to the best backstroke start. What Should the Backstroke Start Look Like? It is about time we pay just as much attention to the start at we do to the strokes. A successful and efficient start has the potential to shave seconds off your time. To get faster, continue working to perfect your backstroke start. The perfect backstroke start must have these three things: powerful thrust, arched back, and streamline as soon as you hit the water. There must be no splash when you get in the water. Cut into the water. Common Backstroke Start Mistakes What can go wrong with the backstroke start is a lack of training and attention to the start in the first place. Backstroke starts are highly technical, perfectly timed, and when done properly, an asset to your time. The more time you work on starts and turns, the less likely you are to experience a setback on the starting block. Many backstrokers agree that slippage and velocity off the wall are two areas of concern. When you experience either one, you can’t have a successful start. Many times, this is caused by poor foot position. Not as much attention is given to foot placement as it should be, but it is definitely a highly debated technique of the start. Your feet must be fixed and sturdy on the wall, but they must also be comfortable so you can thrust off the wall the most power (unless you’re using the new Omega backstroke wedges). What is the Best Foot Position? There are two foot positions favored by swimmers: feet in the water, and feet out of the water. Watch your toes when you start. The rules prohibit swimmers from standing in or on the gutter, and bending the toes above the gutter lip or placing toes above the gutter lip. Place your hands on the gutter and situate your feet on the wall. The feet should not be too wide apart, but they should not be too close together either. The distance is about 6 to 8 inches apart, or shoulder-width apart. When the feet are too wide—outside the shoulders—your stance is not strong enough. If the feet are too close together, you lose power and balance. Some swimmers place their toes directly under the surface of the water, while others make sure their toes are out of the water. A 2013 study discovered that when the feet are immersed, the body’s center-of-mass was more horizontal and the method increased horizontal velocity when the hands released. In the same study, when the toes were emerged in the water, the swimmers had longer contact with the wall and horizontal center-of-mass and velocity during the take-off phase, and during the flight phase, downward center-of-mass and vertical velocity during the flight phase of the start. Basics of the Backstroke Start The feet are comfortable and solid, and now it is time to start. When you take your mark, don’t pull yourself too far into the wall, and don’t lean so far back that you cannot launch yourself into the water. Don’t rest your bottom on your heels. Get your butt out of the water and make a 90-degree angle with your knees. Pull your chin upWhen the gun fires, throw your head back and explode off the block. Push off with your hands and drive your body back with your legs. Get your hips off the wall and quickly extend your hips. Arch your back and bring your legs together so that it is easier to be in streamline as soon as you hit the water. The secret to a perfect start is solid foot placement. When your feet are solid and powerful, every other part of the start is more powerful. You explode off the wall quicker, and you get more airborne. Ideally, with the perfect backstroke, the swimmer in the next lane will be at your thighs when you start kicking.