Oliver Hynd ()Oliver Hynd () © Copyright

How to boss backstroke

European and Paralympic gold medallist Ollie Hynd has tips on perfecting your technique

All in the Hips

“My coach and I focus on hip positioning in the water. If my hips are too low, my head will be raised, which is going to create more resistance and drag. It’s a really important part of perfecting backstroke technique because it determines how fast you can actually go. Having a strong core is vitally important for this aspect of the stroke, and your rotation, so we work on this a lot in the gym.”

Feel the [leg] rhythm

“Positioning in backstroke encourages more of a leg kick than freestyle swimming, so it’s a good idea to use fins for your drills. Having a rhythmical kick is so important for the timing of your stroke.”

Use training aids

“A good drill incorporating training aids is using a PullBuoy, which sits in between your legs to keep them afloat. That way, you can focus on the rotation of your body and your arm technique”

Oliver Hynd ()


Focus on the core

“To swim backstroke efficiently, it’s essential to have a strong core. One particular exercise we do in the gym is a ‘barbell rotation’. This allows you to work on the stroke’s roll motion with added resistance, strengthening your oblique muscles. You also need a good range of motion around your thoracic spine and lumbar area, so we spend a lot of time using the foam rollers to release any tension in that area.”

Rotate right

“Backstroke is quite a difficult stroke technically, and a lot of people struggle with timing. You often see swimmers who don’t rotate enough, meaning they are not able to maximise their catch and make the most of each pull.  You also get the flip side where they are rotating too much, making their stroke less efficient and causing resistance. This can lead to their arms crossing the centre line of their body when in the initial catch position.”

Mix it up in training

“Double-arm backstroke is a good drill for the catch. It’s also good for opening up the chest muscles and releasing tension in your shoulders. Single-arm backstroke is good for developing rotation and increasing core control.”


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