Chapter Twelve~B--Back/Front Turns
The Home Pool


The Back Crawl

The Back Crawl (also called The Back-Stroke) is much faster than the Elementary Backstroke and is a major competitive swim stroke with speeds comparable to the Front Crawl. As you probably know, the four competitive swim strokes (in order of potential speed) are: The Front Crawl (commonly called Free Style)~~The Back Crawl~~The Butterfly~~and The Breast-Stroke.

The Back Crawl is helpful in both pleasure swimming and exercising routines. For example, if it's suddently necessary for you to swim fast when floating on your back and there isn't enough time to turn over and start swimming the Front Crawl, the Back Crawl is a good alternative. It's also easy to perform a back float or the Elementary Back Stroke from a Back Crawl.

The Back Crawl is a good exercise because it works muscles not generally used by the other strokes. For instance, it employs greater use of the two quadriceps muscles located on the BACK thigh. During most activities the two front "quads" get a better workout than the two back ones. Swimming Front Crawl, walking, running, bike riding and many other sports rely mostly on the thigh's frontal quadricep muscles. Though still employed in these exercises, the back quads seldom receive as intense a workout as the front ones. However, in swimming the Back Crawl, the legs lift upward which helps in strengthening and firming the thigh's backsides. Wearing flippers or any kind of leg weights while swimming the Back Crawl will intensify workouts for the back quads.




Refer to Illustrations Beneath the Following Progressions.


NOTE: Unlike other strokes, the head during the Backstroke is slightly lifted, as shown in bottom illustratrion.

1--In shallow water form a tuck on side of pool with back facing pool.

2--Stretch out body slowly, moving into a back float.

3--With elbow straight, lift right arm above head and into water at "1:00 o'clock" angle.

4--Immediately bend elbow, lifting wrist up and push hand down side of body as if shutting a door.

5--As first hand begins push, lift up left arm.

6--Enter left arm into water at "11:00 o'clock" angle while first arm lifts up and out of water.

7--Bend second arm and push down side of body.

8--At same time, first arm's hand should be entering water again.

9--Second arm lifts out of water as first arm bends elbow to push down side of body.

10-Continue from 3 through 10 across pool width.

11-Practice until stroke is mastered.


Instructors usually explain this stroke while on deck which makes it easier to understand. Obviously, you can't float an arm over your head atop the water from a standing position on deck, but the concept is similar, that is, while standing, bring straightened arm above your head and move it backward. Bend elbow; lift wrist at chest height and push hand alongside body in a downward motion with thumb against body until arm straightens again. Repeat with other arm. Cadence for on deck practice is UP, BACK, BEND, PUSH. Alternating strokes with both arms is confusing while standing upright, so practice each arm separately.

A second way to practice the stroke is the same as on deck, only standing in water. This offers the sensation of water resistance while pushing downward.

A third way is to begin with a back float and practice the arm stroke with only one arm (and slight kick). It makes the body move in circles but some people prefer this method in order to concentrate on each phase. Of course, the opposite arm must also have a turn by itself.

If you really want to be different and practice at home, lie on your back lengthwise atop a long, narrow table with arms hanging over the edges. Practice # 3 through # 10 above. (Without floating, of course)





1~The number one problem is that the armstrokes are out of synch. This can be remedied by practicing the stroke only---without the kick until you manage an even rhythm. Study the illustration.

2~Moving too slowly. The push is not hard enough or hands are not entering the water at correct angles. If hands are dipping into the water straight above the head instead of an angle, power is lost because the push will be weakened.

3~ Going crooked. One arm or one foot is usually moving more vigorously than the other one. Also, the head may be turned to one side. The latter is difficult for the swimmer to detect. Have someone watch you swim the Backstroke and let you know if your head is turned. Remember, the body goes where the head goes.


Ch.14~The Inverted Breastroke
The Home Pool
To The Top