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Backstroke – Shoulder Pop

Just about every swim coach advises swimmers to rotate their shoulders out of the water during backstroke. This, in combination with a deep catch, will give you a more effective backstroke. How can you isolate and practice this movement? The Shoulder Pop.


Why Do It:
By spending a little time focusing on how your body parts all work together, you’ll develop a deeper catch with your recovering hand, and a better finish to the pull. Also, by making sure the shoulder rotates above the surface of the water, you’ll ensure a clean, unrestricted recovery.

How To Do It:

1. Start by pushing off slightly on your side. Get yourself in a nice, balanced position, with eyes looking at the ceiling, lower arm extended toward the other end, top arm relaxed along your side, and top hand resting on your hip. Flutter kick in this position until you’re extremely comfortable.

2. Keep the lead arm extended as you initiate the recovery with your trailing hand. When the recovering arm is about half way up, LOWER IT back to your hip, then…

3. immediately raise it again, this time in a full recovery. When the recovering arm is about half way up, start a smooth pull, and focus your attention on the pulling hand.

4. As you finish your pull, focus on finishing your stroke so that your body rotates quickly, and so that your shoulder immediately POPS out of the water. As you do this, focus your attention on ROTATION rather than on an upward movement to clear the shoulder.

5. Once the stroke is completed, and you’ve ended up in a balanced position on the other side, relax for a couple breaths, and analyze how you can make the rotation and shoulder POP happen more quickly. Make sure you pop ONLY your shoulder out of the water, NOT your entire body.

6. Repeat again and again and again!

How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):

1. This drill brings out a little more aggressiveness in swimmers, and because of that you’ll see people’s entire body RISE up out of the water, rather than simply ROTATE more quickly. Focus your attention on rotation, and make sure your body is moving FORWARD.

2. Keep your head as still as possible. You’ll notice that our swimmer has a natural reaction to turn the head just a bit. Trust me, he’s working on this fine point.

3. Make sure you’re balanced before you start each new armstroke. Take your time between efforts to get your body in a perfect line, straight and horizontal on the water.