Your backstroke swim technique can be improved by several important drills. In this Swimisode, you will see world champion backstroker Junya Koga utilize one of our favorite techniques to increase your power with every stroke by learning to rotate the body quickly. Body rotation in backstroke, like in freestyle, is one of the best kept secrets for developing more power and speed. The energy that you will invest in this carefully timed rotation of the body, will serve you well by increasing your power during each pull. Junya shows you how to first rotate slowly, then later with more velocity and energy to produce a powerful backstroke technique.
Watching Junya swimming backstroke in the water is like seeing a ballet. His motions are so strong and well timed, yet so graceful. He carefully brings his shoulders out of the water, turning to his side as he recovers his arm over the water, preparing to snap the body quickly to the other side. Together with his strong kick, his fast body rotation and powerful recovery of his arms over the water lead to an amazing demonstration of backstroke speed. Practice the six kick, three stroke backstroke drill and you will see a big improvement in your backstroke speed.
Breaststroke kick is one of the most challenging techniques of swimming. A powerful breaststroke kick relies on having great flexibility in the hips and dorsiflexion of the ankles. To kick with power in breaststroke, a swimmer must be able to push backward with the instep of the foot with great force and quickness. The hip flexibility may enable that to happen, but a swimmer must also develop strength in the hamstrings to draw the legs up quickly and in the quadriceps to push the feet backward with force in breaststroke kick.
Many swimmers that do not have enough flexibility in the hip attempt to increase the power of the kick by widening the distance between the knees. Yet this technique creates a problem. With widened knees, a swimmer cannot get through the kicking cycle fast enough to take advantage of the tremendous coupling energy from the upper body pressing forward and the head snapping down. By the time they start pushing the feet backward, the body’s motion downward has already stopped, lessening the propulsive force of the breaststroke kick. Olympic Champion Rebecca Soni has extraordinary hip flexibility and leg quickness. She draws her legs up quickly, once her pull force is completed, and begins to push backward quickly just as her upper body strikes the water. It is the exquisite timing of these motions that makes her so powerful in breaststroke.
At The Race Club, we have found the Finis yellow elastic band , placed above the swimmer’s knees, is an extraordinary tool to help swimmers keep their knees closer together during the breaststroke kick and develop a more effective and faster breaststroke.
The 6 Kick 1 Stroke drill is one of the most transformative freestyle swim drills we teach at the Race Club Camps. Ultra Marathon Swimmer Lexie Kelly and World Champion Junya Koga demonstrate this classic drill also known as ‘6 Kick Switch’ at the Race Club training grounds in Islamorada, Florida. This drill teaches two very important swimming techniques, body rotation and a relaxed wrist on the recovery. By placing an imaginary string from your shoulder to the sky the swimmer is asked to ‘touch the string’ on the recovery forcing a vertical position with the body. Swimmers that keep the wrist stiff or the fingers clenched together on the recovery can not recover the arm muscles for the next pull nearly as well as with a relaxed recovery. Junya Koga shows us another variation of these freestyle swim drills by sculling when his arm is out front.
It’s not the position on your side that gives you speed rather the quick rotation to the opposite side that creates a coupling motion with the kick and pull that makes them more powerful. Once you’ve mastered the 6 Kick 1 Stroke drill, move onto the 6 Kick 3 Stroke drill using the same arm recovery motion, the same body rotation and the same wrist relaxation for 3 successive strokes followed by 6 kicks on your side. Using these 3 freestyle swim drills; Body Rotation Drill, 6 Kick 1 Stroke Drill and 6 Kick 3 Stroke drill you can transform your stroke into a stronger more efficient technique leading to a faster freestyle.
The backstroke spin drill is one of the most effective ways of teaching swimmers to accelerate the straight arms quickly through the recovery phase of the stroke cycle. One of the greatest challenges we see with our swimmers at The Race Club is getting them to turn their arms over fast enough in backstroke. In this Race Club Swimisode, World champion backstroker Junya Koga demonstrates how fast one can move the arms with the backstroke spin drill, preparing for a strong backstroke race. While a fast stroke rate in backstroke is not the only important technique to swim faster, it is critical, since most backstrokers turn their arms over way too slowly.
Many backstrokers are taught to deliberately slow their arms down before the hand enters the water, yet that is not what you should do. The faster the arm accelerates through the recovery, the more energy is coupled with the arm pulling underwater and the faster you will go. Don’t worry about being delicate or getting air bubbles trapped behind your hand. It is far more important to throw the arm backward aggressively and forcefully,with the little finger entering the water first, increasing the power and the speed of the stroke.
At the Race Club we are proud of the many backstrokers we have helped by using the backstroke spin drill. Try the spin drill with hands open or closed to increase your backstroke speed.
Butterfly is a tough stroke to swim. It demands excellent fitness, strong legs, upper body and core, along with exceptional shoulder and ankle flexibility in order to perform well. Olympian and former butterfly world record holder Roland Schoeman makes it look easier with his graceful, yet powerful strokes across the pool. One of Roland’s secrets to swimming a faster butterfly is to enter his hands directly in front of his shoulders, rather than over or under reaching with the arm swing. He then initiates the pull quickly but maintains the elbows in a rather high position as he forcefully pushes his hands backward through the water . The high elbow position enables him to create propulsion from his hands without causing an excessive amount of frontal drag from the upper arms. Similar to the freestyle pull, but with both arms moving underwater at the same time, the high elbow pull in butterfly is a compromise from the maximum power possible, but is a technique that is required to reach the fastest speeds.
In swimming, we often need to learn to do what is right, rather than what feels right. That can be a challenge when we don’t feel the frontal drag forces working to slow us down. At The Race Club, we teach the right technique for each swimmer for all strokes With every stroke of butterfly taken, the precise timing of the two down kicks coupled with the recovery of the arms and the high elbow underwater pull is absolutely crucial for speed. Keeping the arm pull in the high elbow position enables the swimmer to get the hands through the stroke cycle faster, while reducing frontal drag. Watch Roland in this Race Club Swimisode and see how he has mastered this challenging butterfly stroke.
Dolphin kick backstroke is one of the best ways to learn how to develop a fast stroke rate. Many swimmers struggle in getting their arms through the stroke cycle fast enough in backstroke. It is difficult to know how to maintain that high stroke rate throughout a race if it is not practiced so we like to use the dolphin kick backstroke drill to learn how to maintain a high stroke rate. Synchronizing each kick with a single arm pull, Junya shows us how this technique enables a swimmer to pull faster and increase the overall speed of the backstroke. In this Race Club #swimisodes, you will see how Junya still manages to rotate his body quickly from side to side while pulling at this higher stroke rate, gaining power and speed.
There are only two stroke rates for backstroke, fast and faster. Dolphin kick backstroke drill is a wonderful technique to develop a faster stroke rate. Swimmers who cannot find a way to turn their arms over quickly might discover a faster way to swim with dolphin kick backstroke. Introduce fins using this technique while synchronizing the arms and suddenly the swimmer is backstroking on the freeway, motoring down the pool. At the Race Club, we have found this technique to be very effective in improving backstroke among swimmers who come to us of all ages and abilities.
Getting the backstroke kick right can be very challenging. In this installment of #swimisodes, World Champion Junya Koga first shows you what a typical backstroke kick technique with too much knee bend looks like, causing an increase in the frontal drag slowing you down. Then, using an elastic band above the knee, Junya demonstrates a more correct and faster technique of backstroke kick using less knee bend and a lot of power derived from the hip flexors and relaxed, loose ankles. To kick properly and to avoid the temptation of over bending the knee to get more power out of each kick, Junya and Olympic champion Roland Schoemann demonstrate two important dryland exercises that help increase the flexibility of the ankle. Achieving such flexibility with loose and relaxed ankles is one key qualities needed to develop a faster backstroke and freestyle kick with a tighter, narrower kick.
We use the Finis Ankle Strap in a variety of ways at our Race Club camps to improve kicking technique. When you first try using the elastic band you may get frustrated by the slower speed of your kick. Be patient and continue to work on ankle flexibility with this narrower technique of kicking. Eventually you will see your kicking speed and, more importantly, your backstroke speed begin to increase. Using the flick kick and freestyle kick dryland exercises, you can see great improvement in your ankle flexibility occurring within weeks. The technique of kicking with less knee bend takes time and practice to perfect.
Purchase the Finis Ankle Strap here
Having great speed in breaststroke kick is one of the techniques that led Olympian Rebecca Soni to gold medals in the Beijing and London Olympics. In this #swimisodes learn Rebecca’s favorite breaststroke kick drill which helped build her strong legs to maintain a faster stroke rate than her competitors. Developing such speed in the legs in order to get through the breaststroke kick cycle so quickly, requires a lot of work on swim drills such as this speed kick drill and the wall kick. We often see swimmers who breaststroke kick with the knees too wide, lengthening the time for the kick cycle. The kicking speed of many breaststrokers is often too slow and cannot be improved without specifically working on bringing the legs forward and pushing the insteps backward as quickly as possible. These speed drill techniques are often done for short bursts of time of 10 seconds up to 30 seconds, as they are difficult to sustain for longer periods.
In this Race Club Swimisodes you will also notice how Rebecca’s knees draw closer together during the quick bursts of speed drill, then spread further apart during the few recovery kicks that are relaxed. It is critical in using a fast breaststroke kick technique that the knees by held fairly closely together, at the hips or inside the hips. Otherwise, it is simply impossible to get through the breaststroke kicking cycle fast enough. In order to keep the knees close together and kick with power, the swimmer must also have great hip flexibility for external rotation. Just a few more degrees of flexibility in the hip can result in a much more powerful kick. Come to The Race Club camp and learn several dryland exercises that can help you develop the hip flexibility necessary for fast breaststroke technique. Thanks for watching!
Body Rotation is one of the key ingredients to a fast freestyle swim technique. At The Race Club, we believe a swimmer should rotate the shoulders maximally during most races. One of the most important drills we have found in teaching swimmers how to rotate their body for freestyle swim technique is the body rotation swim drill. In this swim drill we use fins and a snorkel to allow the swimmer to focus on the act of rotating. The swimmer rotates their body aggressively so that the shoulder is vertical after 6 kicks. Turn the body slightly or slowly and you won’t feel much increase in power, turn the body quickly and aggressively and the increase in speed will be dramatic. You can also try this drill with 12 kicks or for a real challenge try every 3.
We use many dryland exercises at the Race Club to improve our body rotation in the pool . Bicycle Sit Ups are a great exercise we regularly incorporate into our dryland as well as Roundhouse Boxing. By using the core for these exercises one can feel a stronger connection in the pool and lead to a faster freestyle swim technique. Learn the secret to improving your rotation by learning this drill and these dryland exercises in this #swimisodes
There isn’t an elite swimmer out there that doesn’t excel in what we call The Fifth Stroke or dolphin kick. Many are talented kickers, but all fast swimmers work their kick a lot. Dolphin kick not only requires tremendous leg strength, it demands the whole body to move to create maximum propulsion.In order to become a faster swimmer, the dolphin kick deserves a lot of training attention. In short course, for good kickers, the underwater dolphin kick is more a part of the backstroke race than is the backstroke swim itself. So one needs to train using this technique often to improve the backstroke races. Of course, with this technique a swimmer can improve in all four strokes, butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. That is why the dolphin kick is called the Fifth Stroke.
In this third #swimisodes on The Fifth Stroke, we examine how to kick dolphin kick on your back and why it helps develop on faster swim kick. Olympic gold medalist Roland Schoeman has an extremely powerful and fast dolphin kick. He trains considerably using this technique, both with fins and without fins. Although he works the up kicks very hard, providing about 80% of the total propulsion, Roland is careful to quickly pull the feet downward firmly after each up kick. Doing so, he avoids excessive frontal drag from the feet not pointing backward and he creates a bigger vortex, augmenting the propulsive force of the following up kick. Basically, the turbulent water going back and propelling a swimmer forward from their powerful up kick can be used on the less powerful down kick, if it is a quick and technique efficient kick. It may be easier for you to use the dolphin kick backstroke technique with a nose clip to avoid water going up the sinuses. Practicing dolphin kick underwater on your back is a great swim technique to improve your backstroke, as well as all four of the other strokes.
Watch The Fifth Stroke Part I
Watch the Fifth Stroke Part II