How to Swim Competitive Backstroke

Video Lectures

Displaying all 15 video lectures.
Lecture 1
What is the Backstroke?
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What is the Backstroke?

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, explains what is a backstroke. Backstroke, sometimes called the inverted freestyle, is a stroke that is swum on the back.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. Backstroke. Backstroke is basically one of the easier stokes and is generally known as the inverted freestyle stroke. There are many similarities to the freestyle, but instead, you're laying on your back, your head is up, your bellybutton is as high as it can be and your hips were up on top of the water. The biggest advantage to the backstroke that most swimmers find is that you have the ease of breathing. Your face is never in the water. There's not a matter of timing as far as when you can or cannot breathe. So, you have that free ability, that free access. Some of the competitive backstroke events include the 50, the 100 and the 200 individual races. Those are basically the two lengths of the pool, four lengths of the pool, the eight lengths of the pool. All backstroke, all individually done. The other competitive events include the 100 medley, the 200 medley, the 400 individual medley and the 4 x 100 medley race."

Lecture 2
Movement of Arms
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Movement of Arms

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to do the movement of arms for backstroke. It uses a simple arm motion that is opposite the arm motion of the freestyle.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. The backstroke arm movement is a rather simple motion. And again, it's just the opposite of the freestyle. The way that I like to describe the arm motion is basically starting with the thumbs out of the water, pinky in the water, bend that elbow and push through your stroke. So again, the basics of the backstroke arm motion is starting with your thumb, thumb out of the water, twisting, pinky in the water, bending your elbow just behind you so your palm is facing backwards or facing towards the opposite wall, pushing so that your arm goes down by your hip pushing down towards the bottom of the pool. Your arms will alternate with the stroke as such. Arm out, push, arm out, push, arm out, push. So, it's really important to bring that thumb out with your arm straight up like a flagpole, keeping it right here on the inside of the body, not on the outside and following all the way through, pinky in the water, push."

 

Lecture 3
Kicking
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Kicking

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to do the leg motion in the backstroke, which is similar to the flutter kick of the freestyle, but inverted.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. The leg motion in the backstroke is very similar to that of the freestyle except for, once again, your body is going to be inverted. Your belly will be on top of the water as well your hips. Toes pointed with your knees not breaking the water. But again, keeping your hips high, legs straight and toes pointed, utilizing the flutter kick. While I reiterate the point of keeping your legs straight, everybody kind of adapts their own approach to that. What I find with myself is that I utilize a slight 30 degree bend of the knees to really help with a wavelike motion or a flipper type motion with my legs. So again, it's just going to be a slight bend of the knee about 30 degrees starting in--beginning the kick with the hip going down to the knees with a slight bend and following it through all the way with the toes so and you get a nice steady rhythm as far as your kick is concerned. I'll give a small example of that right now. As you might notice of the backstroke kick that I just give an example of is that there is a nice boiling of the water as I was kicking through where my toes were. My feet or my toes didn't come out of the water but instead, caused a nice boiling of the water up on top. Another point that you might have noticed as well is that my knees didn't break the water surface. It's really important to keep those things in mind."

Lecture 4
Body Position
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Body Position

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to do the backstroke body position, which involves floating on your back on top of the water.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. The backstroke body position is rather simple that requires a little bit of relaxation and bravery at the same time as you'll be floating on top of the water, on your back, looking straight up to the sky. Basically, what you're going to do is you're going to put your head back to the point as where it's just surrounding your cheeks, bring your bellybutton up and also, bring your hips up to revive proper flotation. I'll give a little example of that right now. If you'll note, my head is back, my fuzzy navel is out of the water and the water line is just here at my cheeks. I'm comfortable, my feet are up and I'm relaxed. Some people tend to have a problem with this if they have a thick bone density or if they're just not comfortable. What I often see is that people have problems keeping their legs up which then, in turn, causes them to sink down a little bit and causing them to get a little frantic. What I suggest with that is maybe providing a little sculling motion with your hands in the water, back and forth on the sides just a slight, propelling upwards to help keep you afloat. You can also kind of give a little bit of a flutter kick to help keep those stronger legs up on top of the water. But again, if you keep your head back and you keep oxygen in your belly, your body will have a natural ability just to float on top of the water. And I guess that's one of the more important aspects is filling your lungs up with air, breathing nice and comfortably and you'll stay afloat on top. An example that I like to give to the children is that of a balloon. If the balloon doesn't have any air in it, it's not going to be able to float around and be light and floatable. If it's flat and there is no air in it, it's just going to fall on the ground and sit there. But again, if you fill it up with air, it'll float and fly around naturally." 

Lecture 5
Breathing Techniques
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Breathing Techniques

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to take breaths when swimming the backstroke, which is easier than breathing in other strokes, because your face will be out of the water.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. As we discussed before, the breathing advantages to backstroke are huge. You have the option to breathe whenever you wish without being concern about your face actually being in the water. Again, it's just a matter of being relaxed and keeping the air going in and out of your lungs to stay in top of the water and to stay afloat. Competitive swimming, the natural progression is to breathe in during the reach phase and to breathe out during the push phase or the pull and push phase. Really, if just keep those things in mind while their arms are alternating and then moving through the water, it's basically, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. But again, it's entirely up to you and whatever you feel the most comfortable with."
 

 

Lecture 6
Open Turns
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Open Turns

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to do open turns in backstroke, which are easy to perform, but it's important to pay attention to the lane lines and backstroke flags in the pool to make sure you know how close you are to the wall.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. Open turns in backstroke are probably the most comfortable and easiest to perform. But the thing you have to realize as you're doing backstroke is that you're not able to see the direction in which you're going. What you really have to pay attention to are the lane lines to your left and to your right as well as the backstroke flags above. At most facilities or most facilities using the regulation distance from the wall, they'll have backstroke flags that are 5 yards out from the wall. They kinda give you an indicator or a spot to focus on as you're coming close to it. With the 5 yards out, the general rule of thumb, and again, this is an approximation, is at its five strokes from the backstroke flags to the wall. So, that would be, one, two, three, four, five. For some people, it's five, for others, just four and a half, for taller people, it might be three. It's all relative to your size, height and strength per stroke. So, as you're coming into the wall on your open turn, be sure to recognize the flags. Count your strokes and then just as you're about--at about your fourth or fifth stroke, kind of glide, you don't want to go thrusting into the wall and hurt your hand. Kind of glide into that wall, touch it, pull your body towards it as you would in your open turn in freestyle and then push off on your back."

Lecture 7
Flip Turns
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Flip Turns

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to do the backstroke flip turn, which is similar to the freestyle flip turn.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. The backstroke flip turn is rather easy and it's very similar to that of the freestyle flip turn. However, once again, you are going to be utilizing the lane lines to your left and right and paying particular attention to the backstroke flags above. Again, as we discussed before, it's about four to five strokes from backstroke flags to the actual wall. Now, what I generally work on is as I get into my fourth stroke or just as I'm hitting my fifth, what I'm going to do is I'm going to reach back for my last pull, do my reach, pull myself over on to my stomach and I should be approximately at the wall as I pull myself onto my stomach. And I'm going to perform a freestyle flip turn, putting myself on the wall, but instead of rotating on to my stomach, I'm going to stay flat on my back, thrust my arms up and head up on top of myself, so then, going to a streamline position, performing the dolphin kick underneath the water up to approximately 15 meters. If you go anywhere beyond 15 meters in a competitive race, you will be disqualified. So, pay attention to that. So, you'll perform your flip turn, push off on your back, conduct a flutter kick and do a butterfly kick or the dolphin kick, surface and then go back into your thumb out pinky in, then, the elbow push motion."

 

Lecture 8
Kick Drills
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Kick Drills

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to practice the backstroke kick using a kickboard.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. Kick drills for backstroke are rather simple. And very similar to that are the freestyle kick drills. What I like to recommend for those beginning swimmers is to utilize a kick board while you're doing these. Not only does it help keep your body afloat but as you're going into the walls and you're becoming more familiar with the backstroke flags, this will prevent any sort of impact or damage to your head and or to your hands. So what I do generally recommend is use the top of the board, put it on top of your head just like so for the beginning swimmers, extend it and simply float to the back. Again, by doing so, you're going to reduce any possibility or reduce the possibility of causing any damage to your head and or to your hands. This will help you keep afloat and you'll simply utilize the flutter kick. Again, what it's going to help you do is really focus on your body positioning. Keeping your head back, keeping your bellybutton up and in particular, keeping those hips on top of the water. You want to keep those hips on top of the water to prevent any sort of drag. And that's really the key thing you're focusing in on while you're doing backstroke kick drills."

Lecture 9
Pull Drills
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Pull Drills

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to do backstroke pull drills, which help you focus on the upper body stroke technique for the backstroke.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. Backstroke pull drills provide the opportunity to focus in, again, on your distance per stroke and really gauging the flagpole effect of your arm coming out of the water, your thumb out, your pinky in, your pull and then your push portions of your stroke. Again, I like to utilize the pull buoy to do that specifically to isolate the legs but more importantly, the focus on the upper body and your stroke technique. During the pull buoy exercise, you're going to be practicing in working on your alternating arm rotation. So, basically, working on your breath, your breathing drills as far as breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. You're basically going to be focusing on your breathing, your arm rotations and keeping those hips up on top of the water. Those are the three most important aspects of your backstroke pull drills."

 

Lecture 10
Arm Up Swimming Drills
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Arm Up Swimming Drills

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to do the arm up drill, an excellent backstroke drill that will help you improve your body position and strengthen your legs.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. An excellent backstroke drill is the arm up drill which will help focus on body position and also help to strengthen your legs. The specific purpose of this drill is to help focus on keeping the hips up out of the water; working with your body rotation, so, your shoulder is lining up on each reach with your chin without moving your head is just getting that reach with that flagpole effect, doing approximately a six-beat kick, rotating the arm, bringing the arm other arm up a six-beat kick, rotating in a six-beat kick. Now, this drill is tough. There's no two ways about it but the more you focus on it, the better you'll become, the stronger body rotation and the stronger legs you'll have or develop."

Lecture 11
One Arm Swimming Drills
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One Arm Swimming Drills

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to do the one arm back stroke drill, which helps you focus on your body rotation and arm movement technique for swimming the backstroke.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. In backstroke, we have a drill that's known as the one arm drill. And much like the arm up drill, what this is going to focus on is this is really going to focus on your rotation, your body rotation. So, you're going to be lining up your shoulder with your chin working on your reach, catch, pull, push. But during that succession of technique, you're going to leave the other arm down at your hip which is really important. So really, you're going to be doing approximately at 25, isolating your legs with the pull buoy and just doing the reach, catch, pull, push, reach, catch, pull, push and much like the freestyle one arm drill, it's really aiming to work on the rotation getting that shoulder up and maximizing the distance per stroke. It'll give you a better idea as to how much distance you're actually getting per stroke to kinda figure out which side you need to work on or how much rotation you need to work on, your rolling, your breathing, all of those factors."

Lecture 12
Sprinting Tips
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Sprinting Tips

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, gives some sprinting tips for backstroke.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. Just as with any sprints, your backstroke sprint events are going to be 50 and 100 meter events. In these particular events, you're not going to be taking--I mean, while technique is important and I stress technique no matter what stroke you're doing. Technique is important. You're going to be having--you're going to be performing a higher turnover for this particular event because you want to get there first. There's no two ways about it. There's no pacing, it's all about racing and knees. So, your turnover is going to be high but not by compromising your thumb out, pinky in, bending and push and following all the way through. You're still going to maintain technique but you really going to focus on getting there first."

Lecture 13
Distance Swimming Tips
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Distance Swimming Tips

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to focus on pacing when swimming backstroke distance and mid-distance races.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. Backstroke distance events. And again, there's the mid-distance and really, there's only the mid-distance. The distance aspect of backstroke would include your 200 backstroke event. During this particular event, you're going to be focusing on pacing but you're still going to be racing. As with most mid-distance events, there's a portion or a point at which you're going to turn it into a sprint whether it's the last 75, whether it's the last 50, 25, however you can pace your race or however you need to do that. It'll vary from person to person based on their strength and endurance thresholds. But it's really important just to kinda gauge that. And you can learn more about that during your practices when your doing pace work, checking your split times and becoming more comfortable with how long you can maintain a certain speed. Really on these events and most race events in swimming, it is about coming in first but more importantly, it's about focusing on your personal best, so, your PB times to really become a better swimmer."

Lecture 14
How to Start a Backstroke Race
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How to Start a Backstroke Race

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to start a backstroke race.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. A backstroke start is the most unique of the four strokes. It's completely different in the sense that you're not starting on top of the starting blocks, you're starting from within the water. Basically, you're going to be coming up to the starting block, utilizing the handles at the base of the starting block, pulling yourself up on like towards the block so you're elevating yourself just out of the water. Your toes will be approximately 6 to 12 inches below the water surface. But again, you're wanting to pull yourself up, tuck yourself up in here with your head down and just as the buzzer goes off, you're catapulting yourself off that wall almost like a rainbow. From the start to the finish, you're going to be performing a rainbow arch-like motion. We all be diving into the water backwards. It's a very technical start that requires a lot of practice but with time, you'll become more efficient with it. Just give it a chance. Again, you're pulling yourself up underneath the starting block with your feet below the water surface and from start to finish, performing an arch-like motion going about 12 to 24 inches underneath the water, dolphin kicking up to 15 meters, surfacing and starting your stroke. Again, if you go beyond 15 meters off your start, you will be disqualified."

Lecture 15
How to Finish a Backstroke Race
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How to Finish a Backstroke Race

In this video lesson, Swimming Instructor, Phillip Toriello, teaches how to finish a backstroke race, by conserving your energy throughout the race so that you can sprint at the finish.

Video Transcript: "PHILLIP TORIELLO: Hello and welcome to Expert Village, I'm Phillip Toriello from the Avila Bay Athletic Club. Much like with any race, you're going to be gauging and noticing the people on the side of you. So really, that's going to impact and have a huge effect on the timing of your finish and how fast you're going through your race. The most important thing to focus on, however, is that energy conservation. If you're on the middle of your race, you don't want to spend your energy just trying to catch up to the person in front of you but instead conserve that so you have more energy at the end while they may not. As far as your finish is concerned, you're going to be timing it just at the end of that race. So, for example, if you see someone next to you and they're just there, you just may have to push that envelope a little harder and push all the way through that finish line. Your backstroke flags are going to be a true indication as to how far that finish line is. So, I highly recommend during that portion those last five yards that you are turning it on and racing through that finish line. But please bear in mind that that wall will be coming up fast and you don't want to be knocking your head or throwing your fist into that wall."