Backstroke is one of the first strokes a swimmer learns. They get the hang of it in the earliest levels of Red Cross lessons, and then move on to the other strokes. Unfortunately, many swimmers never take their backstroke beyond the kind of flat-on-your-back, windmilling style they learned as a kid. Here’s a drill that helps teach some of the finer points of timing and rotation.

When I was a kid I used to watch reruns of TV westerns. My favorites were Gene Autry the singing cowboy and Roy Rogers, king of the cowboys. At the climax of almost every show there was the inevitable shootout between the good guys (white hats) and bad guys (black hats). The good guys were always quick on the draw, and could shoot the bad guy down from their hip. I realized at a young age that being quick on the draw is more than just having quick hands. It starts with the shoulder. All backstrokers can learn a thing or two from these gunslingers.

This is a great drill for all of you out there who don’t like to think when you swim. All practices need to be a mixture of thought and pain. It’s important to think about what you’re doing when you swim, but sometimes you just have to let thought go and go for the burn. You won’t get in peak physical condition without pushing your limits and expectations of what you can do.

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.

Finishing your stroke on backstroke requires some thought. What sometimes feels like the most natural motion, isn’t really the best way to perform an action.

catch and the rotation are two KEY components of backstroke. Neither is instinctive, however, and that can make them difficult too attain for most swimmers.

Here’s a drill that might make your coach really, really, REALLY upset. It could even get you thrown out of practice, so you might want to do this drill on your own or let Coach know what you’re doing.

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.