I know’I know. Your first thought when you see this drill will be, ‘But what about rotation?’ While it’s true that rotation is very important in backstroke, it’s not the ONLY thing that’s important, and sometimes you have to be creative in your drills in order to work on those other things. So relax and give this one a chance. It’s simple and effective. Drills are about isolating certain moves and muscles, and Double-Arm Backstroke is designed to isolate your arms and back. There are plenty of rotation drills. Pull them out when it’s time to work on rotation. Pull this one out when it’s time to focus on your arms and back.
Why Do It:
To maximize the power and effectiveness of your backstroke pull, you need to focus on engaging the entire arm and the entire back as you pull. This drill will make you more aware of the back muscles that are involved in pulling. It will also help you get a deeper pull.
How To Do It:
1. Start on your back. See, I told you this was simple.
2. Push off and start to flutter kick. Your hands can be either at your sides or above your head. The important thing is that the hands will be doing the exact same thing at all times ‘ kind of like doing butterfly or breaststroke, but on your back.
3. For our description, let’s start with hands at hips. Recover both hands at the same time. Keep your elbows locked, and send your hands and arms straight toward the sky. Remember that the base of the thumb should exit the water first, and that your arms should travel directly over your shoulders.
4. Enter your hands ‘ pinky first — into the water directly above your shoulders. (This drill is also good for fixing an over-reach on backstroke, because it’s almost impossible to over-reach if both hands enter the water at the same time.)
5. Anchor the hands and begin your backstroke pull. You’ll immediately be aware that it’s difficult to get your hands deep unless you hyper-extend your shoulders and engage the muscles on either side of your spine. Go for the stretch. Try to bring your shoulder blades together. This drill will teach you how to use all the muscles in your back to get a deeper catch, and to give you more power as you pull.
6. Move the arms in a normal backstroke-pull fashion, finishing at the hips… then repeat over and over again.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
Make sure, when you begin each pull phase, that you focus on sending your hands as deep as you can. Initially, this might be uncomfortable because you must depend on shoulder flexibility rather than body rotation to get your hands under water.
You must also focus on keeping your shoulders down and your back muscles engaged during the pull. If your shoulders are hunched and you don’t use your back muscles, your hands will be too close to the surface and might even scrape out of the water just before the final downsweep of the pull. ‘Pulling air’ like this is not very effective.
Practice a lap of double-arm backstroke, concentrating on how to get your hands deep, then switch to single-arm backstroke (allowing tremendous body rotation), then switch to regular backstroke. This is a pretty cool sequence, and ties together many aspects of backstroke.