Swimming Backstroke in a Straight Line

How to Fix a Crooked Backstroke

Swimmer in a Pool
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A backstroke swimmer sent me this swimming question recently:

I have a backstroke swimming problem which I do not know how to correct. When I swim backstroke I am not swimming straight - I am a crooked backstroke swimmer. I have even been disqualified because I went over the lane ropes into another lane when swimming in a backstroke race. I need help to correct this swimming problem!

Swimming backstroke in a straight line is critical to success in a race. If you swim in a crooked line, bouncing from one side of the lane to the other, the total distance swum is longer, you may have to restart your stroke if you hit a lane line, and your rhythm is going to be thrown off. Swimming straight is important for all strokes, but it is much harder for some backstrokers.

The best advice I have for a crooked backstroke swimmer? It may seem obvious, but many of the swimmers I work with have to be reminded of this: find something to sight on while swimming - use your eyes to help you to swim straight backstroke.

If you are swimming on your back in an indoor pool, it may be easier to swim backstroke in a straight line.

  • You can sight on something overhead, like a seam or line in the ceiling.
  • You can look at something off to the side, like a bleacher railing or the line where the walls and the ceiling meet each other.

If you are swimming backstroke in an outdoor pool, it gets a little tougher to swim straight backstroke.

  • It is hard to avoid, but don't focus on clouds, birds, or a jet plane flying over the pool. You will be in trouble!
  • Instead, look for something that runs parallel to the direction you are swimming.
  • It could be a power line or telephone line, the top of a fence or wall, or a row of bleachers.
  • At lower eye levels, possibly right at the water level (and you will need to use peripheral vision - don't want to turn your head to the side) could be things like a short fence along the side of the pool, the lane rope, the swim pool gutter, or the side wall of the swimming pool.

You can also work on backstroke technique drills to help you swim straight and a hold a steady body position. A couple of drills that may help are:

  • You can swim lengths of the pool backstroke while balancing a coin or other small object on your forehead. If it falls off, you know you are moving your head while you swim, and that is one thing that could cause you to be a crooked backstroker.
  • You can practice swimming backstroke next to a lane rope, trying to stay as close as you can to it without swimming into it (or over it!).

There are a lot of things to think about when swimming backstroke, but if you take them one at a time you can get better at each of them. Swimming in a straight line is one of those things to master, and with a little practice, you will get it straight.

Try different techniques to swim backstroke in a straight line to find out what works best for you, and then practice those skills on a regular basis. If you practice it enough, it will become automatic in a race, and then you can focus on swimming fast instead of on swimming straight backstroke. Keep trying, and you will master the skill.