Elementary Backstroke – The Basics

Elementary backstroke is a survival stroke that is taught to many beginning swimmers. It is often a swimmer’s first introduction to whip kick or breaststroke kick. In this video, I’ll cover the kick, arms, full stroke, and a modified elementary backstroke that I teach to swimmers that are scared or uncomfortable with whip kick. Like competitive backstroke, you don’t want to bend in a V. If you sit, you sink.

Elementary backstroke utilizes the same kick that we use for breaststroke. For this kick, we bring the toes back and make a V. Watch as I bring my heels back, make the V, and then whip my legs out and around. Back, out, together. Back, out, together.

Practice the kick with your back on the pool deck with your legs hanging out over the water. Bring your heels back to the wall, turn your toes out, push away and squeeze together. This is not a pointed toe kick. Heels back, toes out, push away, and squeeze together.

You can practice this kick on your back with your arms hanging relaxed at your side. Don’t bring your knees to your chest. Bring your heels toward your back side.

Next, we’ll look at the arms. On elementary backstroke, the arms stay in the water. Drag you thumbs slowly up your sides, extend your arms outward, then push the water down to your sides with your hands. Slow, slow, push. Slow, slow, push. Avoid fast, flailing arms. This is incorrect and tiresome.

Now, let’s put the arms and legs together. When teaching young kids, we often describe the stroke by saying, “Chicken, Airplane, Soldier.”  Bend your legs back while you drag the arms up. Then, finish the kick and pull at the same time in order to glide or propel yourself down the pool. Keep your body flat. If you sit too much, you’ll have trouble.

Now, let’s watch it in the water. Remember, elementary backstroke is supposed to be a calm, relaxing, survival stroke. Take it nice and easy.

If I’m teaching a beginner that is uncomfortable or scared, I’ll have them swim elementary backstroke with a gentle flutter kick instead of whip kick. This creates a relatively easy beginner stroke that enables the swimmer to get a feel for the water without having to put their face in the water.


What do you think?

Written by Chris B.

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