Backstroke start

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    Hi all,

    I’d like to discuss the backstroke start. I have a swimmer (girl, 15y) who is a good backstroker, she’s a 1:03 and 2:14 in the 100 and 200 scm. However, her start is lacking and costs her (in my estimation) at least a second.

    She’s fairly tall and has a strong build which hinders her explosiveness and makes it difficult to kick up her legs and to enter the water in 1 spot.

    1) I find it difficult to find good info / progressions on how to improve her start. There are many video’s of good starts, but not vary many with steps on how to get there.

    2) There are many variations of the backstroke start. I’d like to discuss the pro’s and con’s of the different variations and hear your opinion on what may help my swimmer forward.

    I see may variations in the spectrum with one one side “head down close to the block and hips away from the wall” and on the other side “head backwards away from block and hips close to heels”. Foot placement under or above the water line? Hips out or in the water?

    Thoughts welcome!

    also see:


    I would recommend to analyze first the path of your swimmer’s center of mass during the complete backstroke start. You can manipulate the COM at the start by tilting the head or moving the hips to heels. Improving the backstroke start should be possible by changing COM trajectory.



    Not sure if this is any help specifically, a lot is based on the individual, but here are a couple things we try to incorporate:

    1. Hips should be away from the heels, maybe this is oversimplifying, but I wouldn’t ask for someone to give me a max vertical jump by putting their hips on their heels. The hips should be at a distance that is comfortable for the athlete, I try to think athletic stance then turn them sideways onto the wall. I also think staggering the feet a bit helps with slipping on the wall.

    2. Head position again should be comfortable for the athlete. I like it as far back as possible while still maintaining good contact with the wall, any movement of the head towards the block is movement that must be reversed at the start, slowing them down, I compare this to doing a stand-up start and leaning back, weight should be forward and vice-versa on a backstroke start.

    3. Hips compared to water level all depend on the strength of your athlete, how well she can maintain good contact on the wall and her ability to enter cleanly. I think if you can get your hips all the way out while still maintaining a good enough grip to explode is ideal, but I find most of my athletes are putting the hips right at the water line. Again, we want as much of their force to be going outward as possible and limiting the upward force needed to clear the water with the hips.

    4. After all that it’s about entering cleanly with a good angle, which is the hardest part 🙂

    Probably not super helpful, but those are some key points I personally like. All that being said, I will freely admit I am not a backstroke start ‘guru’ I probably rank as ‘satisfactory’ when coaching backstroke starts 🙂


    Hey @KngLenny, good points, but indeed point 4 is the problematic one.
    I know what she’s doing wrong. She’s not arching well enough which compromises a perfect entry. It’s a combination of lack of strength and acrobatic movement. However, telling her what’s wrong and how it should be is not solving anything. I’m looking for specific exercises/progression to make here “feel” the difference.


    Just throwing out a thought, I believe both have brought up a few great points, in all I think it’s about getting into the streamline quickly and working the underwater to maintain velocity. So let me tell you about two athletes of mine.

    1st is a 5’3″ guy who goes :58.6 in the 100 Back and he holds on to the block, he gets about 2.5 to 3 feet off the water on his start and has a pretty decent underwater around 12m, using his start he can consistently go :13 lows.

    2nd is a 6’3″ guy who goes :58.7 in the 100 Back and he starts from the wall, he doesn’t get out of the water anymore than 6″ and he doesn’t streamline much further than about 10 yards because his underwater is kind of weak, but can go :12.9 consistently.

    Do what works for your athlete. Many younger swimmers see top athletes grabbing the blocks pulling themselves up and not understanding as soon as they let go of the block that gravity is pulling them to the water. Not everyone is ready, nor designed to have an awesome high flying backstroke start. We make all of our age-groupers start from the wall until they’re strong enough to pull off a block start.

    ? Practice Technical Skill's and Make Fast a Habit!

    lefthanded swimmer

    I had a similar issue. I found working on these explosive “skills” that David Marsh breaks it down into at the end of practice for several weeks really helps.

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