There’s no denying that backstroke starts are tough. But with enough practice, you can explode off the wall like a rocket!
To help you learn how to do a perfect backstroke start, we teamed up with Syrian Olympic swimmer Ayman Klzie to show you a step-by-step progression.
From finding the best position on the blocks to maximizing your underwater dolphin kick, follow our tips and you’ll master your backstroke start in no time!
Step 1: Focus on Streamline
A good streamline is key for your backstroke start. After you explode off the wall, you should end up in a tight streamline before you break through the surface of the water and start swimming.
Our first step is to make sure you’re comfortable in streamline on your back! Practice dropping underwater and pushing off the wall in perfect streamline. Focus on looking straight up at the ceiling or sky as you glide off the wall. No dolphin kicking just yet!
Step 2: Add Dolphin Kicks
Once you’ve mastered gliding in your streamline, it’s time to add dolphin kicks for an extra speed boost.
Do the same push and glide drill as Step 1, but add five dolphin kicks. Be sure to maintain a tight streamline!
Step 3: Backstroke Push From the Wall
Now that you’re comfortable pushing off on your back underwater, it’s time to add a bit of amplitude!
You’re going to practice arching your body over the water before tightening up your streamline. Start holding onto the side of the pool first…we’ll get to the racing blocks soon enough!
Place your feet about half a meter under the water, with your toes pointing up to the sky. Your hands should be about shoulder width apart and have a good grip on the side of the pool.
Related: The 5 Best Backstroke Drills
When it’s time to “take your mark,” engage your arms to pull your body toward the wall slightly. Think of your legs as coiled springs…this is your opportunity to load them up and get ready to explode!
When you hear “go!” push with your legs, swing your arms overhead and throw your head back. You should arch over the water slightly, with your hands ultimately connecting in streamline. Once you enter the water, do five dolphin kicks in streamline.
Think about pushing your hips forward when you arch your back – a strong arch will help you enter the water at the right angle. If you arch too much, you’ll go really deep, and if you don’t arch at all, you’ll do a painful “back flop.” This will take some practice, but you’ll find your optimal entry point soon enough!
Step 4: Backstroke Push From the Wall With Height
The next step? Do the same thing as Step 3, but try to pull yourself a big higher out of the water. The higher you can pull yourself up, the more potential energy you have going into your start. You may also notice that it’s easier to arch your back the higher you are on the wall.
Step 5: Backstroke Start on the Diving Blocks
If you’ve mastered Step 4, it’s time to move on to the real deal: the diving blocks! There are quite a few different types of blocks, so your grip will depend on the type of block you have access to. Find what’s most comfortable for you!
Some pools also have a backstroke wedge, which you can add to the block to give your feet more grip and leverage. If your pool has a wedge, try a few starts with and without the wedge to see what feels better to you. Just make sure at least a portion of each foot is underwater…if not, you could be disqualified in competition!
Related: How to Dive Off the Blocks Faster
No matter which type of block you use, your number one goal for your start is to explode off the wall and get some nice height before entering the water in streamline.
When you lift your body up on “take your mark,” you’ll notice that you’ll be able to pull yourself up a bit higher when using the blocks compared to the wall.
As you push off, arch your back and move your arms into streamline. Add some dolphin kicks and you’re good to go!
Drills to Improve Your Backstroke Start
To refine your technique and speed in your backstroke start, try these three drills!
Seated Cup Drill
This drill will help improve your explosiveness. Ultimately, you want to explode out toward the other end of the pool instead of up toward the sky.
Place your feet and prepare to do a start as normal. When you push off, don’t arch your back and instead explode back, landing on your butt in the water with your legs and arms extended.
Challenge yourself and see how far you can go!
Kick the Ball Drill
For this drill, you’ll need a buddy! Have your buddy stand outside the pool with a volleyball or water polo ball. They will hold the ball right over you as you prepare to start. On the start, your buddy will drop the ball and you’ll try to kick the ball up toward the sky.
This helps you practice kicking up on the start, instead of letting your legs drag. It’s also a great way to work on your reaction time.
Physio Ball Drill
If you struggle to arch your back enough during backstroke starts, this drill is for you. Grab a buddy and a larger exercise ball (also known as a physio ball). Have your buddy hold the ball directly behind you. Do a start, and arch your body over the ball.
Make sure to do this drill in a deep pool to avoid any safety issues!
Ultimately, the best way to get better at backstroke starts is to practice them a lot. Make time for five to 10 minutes of starts during each workout, and soon enough you will be ready for competition!
For more technique tips and personalized daily workouts designed to help you swim faster, download the MySwimPro app.