The 3 Best Backstroke Start Drills

All- welcome back to Part II of our series on Backstroke Starts. In this week’s post, we will discuss some of my favorite Backstroke Start Drills so you can put into practice what we discussed in Part I. Speaking of Part I, if you missed reading that, then start there and catch back up with us here once you’re up to speed!

Let’s Get Started!

The Backstroke Start is a very finicky movement. It’s semi-close to the undulating motion seen in short-axis strokes, but also at the same time, not really. That’s because the Backstroke Start is truly an EXPLOSIVE hip extension coupled with an EXTREME backbend to nail that beautiful rainbow position. So how do you do it? 

Best Backstroke Start Drills:

1. Butt Flops

I love Butt Flops. This was the first REAL Backstroke Start Drill I found success with as a coach. What this drill focuses on is swimmers practicing that EXTREME hip hinge and pushing UP on the wall (versus just OUT). 

If you have a Backstroke wedge, it is extremely helpful in this drill because it allows swimmers to better push against and away from the wall – to create that diagonal angle.  

Check out the video below of SLAF own’s Strength Coach, Mitch Prather, performing both a good and not so good Butt Flop: 

2. Toe Touches

Toe Touches are a newer drill in my library. I consider this step II of Butt Flops. It adds a swimmer’s arms to the progression while still performing the hip extension. Which again, is the important part!

In this drill, the swimmer pushes back and against the wall just like they do for Butt Flops. But in mid-air, they try to touch their toes with FULLY EXTENDED ARMS (and this is key) – before they land into the water. Check out the video above of some good and not so good Toe Touches:

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3. Standing Starts.

My swimmers absolutely CANNOT stand this drill – especially if they struggle to arch their back. I was coached to do standing starts (back when they were actually legal) in the 90’s and have loved this drill ever since. That’s because it works as a really easy way for swimmers to learn how to arch their back. Without the ability to arch their back, the swimmer WILL smack their back on the surface of the water.

Backstroke Starts need to be learned in many different ways!

The coolest part about Standing Starts is you can adjust the difficulty level depending on how much you stand up straight. If you’re starting with a standing start, have swimmers bend their knees and go more into a deep squat stance to AVOID requiring an extreme amount of back extension. 

Check out the video of Standing Backstroke Starts below:


Just like with any movement, drills are a way for athletes to separate the individual parts in a movement and really get the technique down. Use these Backstroke Start Drills next time you hit the pool to improve your position in the air. Also, be sure to stay tuned for next week’s post as we discuss and dive into the Backstroke Wedge (and also, what you can do if you don’t have one)! 

Until Next Time, 

Abbie Fish 

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