Sculling is a great skill for all swimmers to acquire. There are many different sculling drills — each one begins to build an awareness of how to use the hands at various places in each stroke.
This video is from another drill that was redone, but illustrates back scull better.
Back sculling isn’t necessarily for backstroke. It refers to the positioning of the hands in relation to the pull pattern. The front would be where the hands enter, and the back would be closer to where they exit. So, in other words, this isn’t about backstroke… at least not specifically.
Why Do It:
Learning how your hands work in the water is ALWAYS a good idea. Learning how this particular skill ties into the strokes is an even better idea. This specific move has many benefits, but we’ll be focusing on the outsweep, or finish of the stroke for butterfly and maybe even freestyle.
How To Do It:
1. Although it’s not required for sculling, a pull buoy allows you to focus on propelling yourself SOLELY from the movement of the hands. If the hips begin to drop, there MAY be a tendency to kick just a bit for balance… this could take away from the sensation of momentum that you want to feel.
2. While lying on your stomach in the water, position the arms down along your sides, with your hands close to your hips.
3. Keep the elbows close to the surface, and as stationary as possible. You want to try to use the arms from the elbows DOWN… forearms and hands.
4. In a windshield-wiper motion, sweep the hands back and forth sideways, from under your stomach, to up toward the surface. Don’t push back and recover, and don’t SCOOP the water. You want to grab the water while sweeping out AND while sweeping IN.
5. While some coaches recommend that the hands remain in line with the forearms, I LIKE how this swimmer’s hands have more freedom to move and search for water. This will be up to your personal preference.
6. Feel the hands accelerate UPWARD toward the surface, imitating and final movement for butterfly. The action is to chop upward as if you’re going to shoot your hands out of the water and into a butterfly recovery. With the body so stationary, you won’t be able to get the hands out, but focus on that quick movement.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
Don’t focus solely on the OUTsweep. The outsweep and insweep should almost be almost equal in terms of effort. You want to feel the pressure on the hands and arms during both the outsweep AND the insweep. While this isn’t a stroke-specific move, it continues to teach awareness of how the hands work.
Keep your head down until you have to take a breath, and just lift your chin a bit when you really need some air. Watch the bottom to judge your momentum, and play with narrower and quicker, and wider and slower sculling movements.
If you do quite a bit of this, you may feel it in your forearms. Try to swim some full-stroke fly or free prior to this happening, so you can identify this motion in your stroke. If you get too tired, it’s gonna be tough to feel it while you’re more worried about BREATHING!