Wear a Noseclip in Backstroke

Winning is Cool

At one time, it may have been uncool to wear a noseclip for backstroke in either workout or in competition, but not any more. With backstroke superstars like Missy Franklin and Tyler Clary, among others, sporting their noseclips on television, coaches and swimmers are starting to realize that there is more to it than what meets the eye…or nose.

The first advantage of the noseclip is the obvious avoidance of the unpleasant experience of getting water up the sinuses. Ouch! Nothing puts a damper on a good race better than that. OK…maybe missing a wall on a turn does.

Holding Pressure

The second advantage of the noseclip is gained by avoiding what is needed to do in order to keep water from crawling down the nose and into the sinuses, blowing out your air. Unless you are one of those freaky swimmers with a long nose and big upper lip and can curl that lip up against your nostrils to keep water out, then you must provide a steady stream of air from your lungs out your nose in order to provide the positive pressure to keep the water out. The problem with this maneuver is that if you are staying underwater for any length of time doing the dolphin kicks, by the time you are ready to surface, the lung has run out of air.

If you were to blow all of the air that you can out of your lungs in the pool, the first thing you would notice is that you sink like a rock. The truth is, you would then weigh about 8 pounds in the water. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but when compared to the neutral weight of the body with a lung filled with air, it is significant. Imagine putting on an 8 pound weight belt and trying to kick to the surface; not impossible, but requires a lot more work.

Wear a Noseclip

By the time you blow out all the available air in your lung on your underwater dolphin journey to the surface, you have added about 8 pounds more weight to the task. Why burden yourself with the extra work? Wear a noseclip, keep the air in your lung and explode out of the water on your breakout, instead of resurfacing like a submarine floating to the surface. Not only will you pop up easier, but you will also have one less thing to worry about, getting water up your nose.  With a relatively small investment in a Finis noseclip, you will do yourself two big favors.

In our Race Club camps, we work a lot on improving the underwater dolphin kick, now considered the fifth stroke. The use of the dolphin kick on backstroke is of the highest importance in developing good swimming technique. Getting fast underwater and staying down for the maximum allowed distance is essential to win. We highly recommend you wear a noseclip from Finis in backstroke as an important part of that process.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

11 Responses to Wear a Noseclip in Backstroke

  1. Tom J Meade

    Another solution and one several swimmers use is to just squeeze your nose with your nose muscles. Then you just put a little pressure on exhaling through the nose which forces very little air out.

  2. Josh

    I never had a problem without a nose clip. I also didnt blow air out when doing under dolphin on backstroke. I just put the back of my tongue against the roof of my mouth and blocked everythibg out that way.

    • garyhallsr

      Some have the ability to keep the water from going into the sinuses using their upper lip or positive pressure. If so, a nose clip is not needed. Unfortunately, I did not have this gift.

      • CaOCLA

        Positive pressure works. But I noticed a high correlation between using it, and sinus infections. So avoid it.

        Still think a nose plug is cheating though.

  3. Mark

    This makes good sense, Gary. Three more obscure reasons for using a noseclip: (1) I have noticed that I lift my head slightly on the streamline to limit the water running into my sinuses but this increases resistance, so a clip would remedy this, (2) the chemicals in pool water irritate my sinus linings and increase the risk of infection, and time out of the pool, and (3) if you’ve noticed that freedivers who are competing for distance under water use nose clips even though they are swimming breaststroke or fly finning in a pool? This makes it easier to hold your breath without tensing your neck and abs and using valuable oxygen.

    • garyhallsr

      All excellent points, Mark…..ones I hadn’t considered. After using a nose clip for about a week…and getting comfortable with it, I will never go back.

  4. James

    Interesting! I wear one for frontcrawl (to minimise chlorine irritation)… any performance concerns doing this or same/similar story here too?

    • Gary Hall Sr.

      No performance concerns wearing a nose clip for any stroke. Most of the air exchange occurs through the mouth without it…so you are not missing anything to my knowledge.

  5. Carin

    I wear a noseclip bc I was born with a split palate, and a harelip. Many surgeries left me without a uvula,a high and longer than average palate, and artificial bone in my left nostril. Though my tongue will close off my throat, it can not close off the opening to my nose. Nor can I use my nostril’s muscles to close my nose. I.e. I am always leaking air, no matter what I do. Specifically in the flipturns. As Gary stated, not everyone has the phsycical ability to close off their nostrils. If swimming with goggles or ear plugs is not cheating, why would this? Trust me, that plug is not comfortable to wear, at all. Especially not after about 2 – 3 miles.

    • Gary Hall Sr.

      Hi Carin. I don’t think people think of wearing a nose clip as cheating. It is just they don’t always recognize the benefits. So far as I know, one can wear a nose clip legally in any race in pool or open water.

  6. Gary Hall Sr.

    Hi Carin. I don’t think people think of wearing a nose clip as cheating. It is just they don’t always recognize the benefits. So far as I know, one can wear a nose clip legally in any race in pool or open water.


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