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  • Backstroke is one of the four competitive swimming strokes, performed on the back in a horizontal position. 

  • Key Takeaway

  • Test bar 120

What is Backstroke?

Backstroke is one of the four competitive swimming strokes performed on the back with the body facing upwards. It is swum in a horizontal position with the arms and legs alternately propelling the swimmer through the water. Backstroke requires a good technique to maintain propulsion and balance at the surface of the water.

Breathing 3,5,7,9

Breathing 3,5,7,9, is to take a breath every 3, 5, 7, or 9 strokes. Increasing durations between breaths is known as hypoxic training, which is to training with less oxygen.

In backstroke, swimmers swim on their backs and use alternating arm movements and flutter kicks to generate forward propulsion. The arms move in a continuous motion, with one arm recovering above the water while the other arm pulls through the water. The hands enter the water pinky finger first and then sweep underwater towards the leg, pushing against the water to generate power. As one arm recovers through the air, the other arm initiates the pull, maintaining a steady cycle.

The legs play a significant role in backstroke, executing a flutter kick similar to freestyle. The legs remain relatively straight and move up and down, originating from the quads (thighs) alternately, generating additional propulsion. It is essential the legs feel extended with the ankles relaxed. When the legs feel extended, the knee will naturally bend slightly on each kick. 

Backstroke requires swimmers to maintain a stable body position, with the head positioned to look straight up at the ceiling or sky, maintaining a dry chin. This helps maintain balance and allows for better control and direction. With the mouth always outside the water, swimmers should maintain comfortable deep breathing. 

Backstroke races are typically conducted over distances ranging from 50 meters to 200 meters in competitive swimming. The stroke places less strain on the shoulders compared to butterfly or freestyle, making it a popular choice for swimmers with shoulder injuries or those seeking variety in their training.

Proper technique, body positioning, and timing are essential for achieving efficiency and speed in backstroke. It requires a strong core, good body control, and coordinated movements between the arms and legs. With practice and refinement of technique, swimmers can excel in backstroke events, showcasing their skill, strength, and endurance in the water.

Understanding Backstroke?



As per FINA swimming rules 2023 - 2025


  •  SW 6.1 Prior to the starting signal, the swimmers shall line up in the water facing the starting end, with both hands holding the starting grips. Standing in or on the gutter or bending the toes over the lip of the gutter is prohibited. When using a backstroke ledge at the start, at least one toe of each foot must be in contact with the end wall or face of the touchpad. Bending the toes over the top of the touchpad is prohibited.

  • SW 6.2 At the signal for starting and after turning the swimmer shall push off and swim upon his back throughout the race except when executing a turn as set forth in SW 6.4. The normal position on the back can include a roll movement of the body up to, but not including 90 degrees from horizontal. The position of the head is not relevant.

  • SW 6.3 Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race. It is permissible for the swimmer to be completely sub-merged during the turn, and for a distance of not more than 15 metres after the start and each turn. By that point the head must have broken the surface.

  • SW 6.4 When executing the turn there must be a touch of the wall with some part of the swimmer’s body. During the turn the shoulders may be turned over the vertical to the breast after which an immediate continuous single arm pull or immediate continuous simultaneous double arm pull may be used to initiate the turn. The swimmer must have returned to the position on the back upon leaving the wall.

  • SW 6.5 Upon the finish of the race the swimmer must touch the wall while on the back

Backstroke FINA Racing Rules

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