Evolution of Backstroke

Courtesy: RITTER Sports Performance, a SwimSwam partner. 

All strokes in swimming evolve but backstroke is an interesting case study. There’s also probably not another stroke that the United States in particular has been so dominant for so long.

In the 70’s John Naber and Rick Carey set the standards. But then one of the bigger evolutions of the stroke happened in the 1980s and it was on display by the next American to break the world record.

David Berkoff broke the 100m World Record, not once but twice in one day on August 12, 1988. In doing so he was the first to break the 55.00 barrier. What helped him accomplish such a feat? Using what would become known as the “Berkoff Blastoff”.

Berkoff weaponized the underwater dolphin kick, many times going the majority of the race underwater. In fact, Berkoff’s use of the underwater dolphin kick was so effective it was one of the drivers in the rule change to implement the 15m limit for underwater kicking for backstroke.

This sparked the need to utilize underwater kicking in backstroke but maximizing it to the first 15m under the new rules.

The next evolution was how much faster of a tempo many backstrokers were utilizing, whether the 100 or even at the 200 level. This paved the wave for more American dominance including names like Lenny Krayzelburg, Natalie Coughlin and Aaron Peirsol (whose 200m World Record still stands as one of the oldest on the books currently).

Braden Holloway of NC State University talked with Chris Ritter about the how backstroke has continued to evolve since Braden swam to now when he’s coaching some of the best backstrokers in the country, including Coleman Stewart (who just broke BOTH ACC records) and now Berkoff’s daughter (Katharine) is a budding backstroke star as a freshman at NC State.

You can see the full interview in The Hive powered by RITTER, where Braden expands on what he thinks is the most critical change in backstroke in the last decade. And has helped propel the success of current World Record holders Regan Smith and Ryan Murphy.

It’s a good reminder that as a coach you need to be continually evolving because the sport is constantly. So, if you’re not as a coach that means you’re inevitably holding your swimmers’ progress back in the long run.

What Braden Holloway has consistently done in his tenure at NC State runs parallel to his prime stroke as a swimmer (backstroke) – continually evolving to achieve excellence. It’ll be exciting to see how well the NC State backstrokers do in particular at NCAAs in a few weeks.

If you want to learn more from coaches like Braden and others that are on the cutting edge of the sport and seeing success with their athletes you’ll want to check out all that’s offered in The Hive powered by RITTER.

Join The Hive for just $1 to learn more on the evolution of Backstroke and more!

About RITTER Sports Performance:
RITTER Sports Performance helps swimmers go faster and coaches get better, worldwide. Through our online resources on strength training, stroke technique, swim-training, race analysis or nutritional coaching–RITTER is ready to help take your swimming to the next level. Are you?










RITTER Sports Performance is a SwimSwam partner.

In This Story

Comments are closed.