Welcome to our newest series on Backstroke Swimming, specifically looking at swimmer’s rotation. It’s only fitting that we move on to the Backstroke rotation, as we’ve already discussed in the Backstroke kick & pull.

My goal by the end of this series is to help you understand why rotation IS crucial in Backstroke swimming and give you a few ways to improve your rotation while Backstroke Swimming.

Let’s get started…

Just like we said in Freestyle, Backstroke is a long-axis stroke. With that, you want swimmer’s to rotate around their longitudinal axis. We did discuss that rotation in Freestyle may or may not be for you, but in Backstroke there is NO OTHER OPTION— swimmers must rotate.


This is due to the anatomy of the shoulder joint itself. With the strokes in Backstroke going in the opposite direction of Freestyle, swimmers are actually elongating and shorting the opposing muscle groups.

For example, during the Freestyle pull swimmers are SHORTENING (contracting) their pecs, chest, and shoulder muscles while ELONGATING their back muscles. In Backstroke, it’s opposite. The chest, pecs, and shoulder muscles are ELONGATING, while the back muscles are CONTRACTING.

On top of this, you have the scapula bone on the back side of your body, which only allows the hand to reach backwards to a certain degree. It’s not like in the “Rotation Test” I explained to you guys in Freestyle, where swimmers can point their arm directly in front of their body. We are PHYSICALLY unable to do that on our back. The only way we can REACH further behind us is by rotating on our side.

Frontal view of bone structure

Obviously in Backstroke, we are NOT looking to pull deep or way below the water. So even though more rotation allows us to bring the hand further behind the body—that’s not really the key here. Ideally, what we are looking to do is get the body onto the side enough, so we can “clear” the water line and avoid having a shallow and wide pull.

If your body is too flat while Backstroke swimming, swimmers won’t move water well and their speed won’t be very high. See video below:

Be sure to stay tuned next week, where we discuss more specifics on Backstroke rotation (i.e. like how much rotation is really necessary and how does rotation affect your body alignment)!

Until Next Time,

Abbie Fish

3 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.