How One-Arm Backstroke Drill Increases Power and Reduces Frontal Drag

by SwimSwam 1

December 26th, 2017 International, Masters, Training, Video

Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder. 

World Champion Junya Koga demonstrates the one arm backstroke drill. This swim drill enables the swimmer to isolate the movement and position of the arm during the entry and underwater pull. Race Club coach, Gary Hall Sr. explains the importance of taking the time to feel the bent arm position of the underwater pull. Along with proper head position and body alignment, bending the arm the right amount reduces frontal drag and allows for greater propulsion. A straight arm pull in backstroke is equivalent to a deep straight arm pull in freestyle, where the swimmer maximizes drag forces. It also weakens the pulling force. In order to swim more efficiently and therefore faster, the right bend in the elbow in backstroke seems to range from about a 120 to 140 degree angle during the propulsive phase. Bending the elbow to that degree, a swimmer must rotate to the side in order to keep the hand from breaking the surface, causing a loss of power. Swimming one arm at a time can ensure the swimmer is bending the arm at the appropriate angle and pulling cleanly through the water.

Gary Hall, Sr., Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

Gary Hall, Sr., Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

Junya’s consistent 6 beat kick and strong core allows for full body rotation. With a clean hand entry at shoulder width, he sets himself up for an early catch and reduced drag pull with a bent arm. Another value of the one arm backstroke is that the swimmer can feel the power of the propulsive phase as the hand and arm pulls by the body underwater. While maintaining a proper head position, the one arm backstroke drill can help the swimmer achieve the most efficient pull. The swimmer can concentrate on every aspect of the underwater pull in backstroke with one arm drill.

Yours in swimming,

Gary Sr.

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Michael Connellan

Gary, as a former backstroke record holder yourself, have you ever given thought to specifically how the many changes over the years have affected records? These might include: underwater backstroke starts and turns, goggles, not having to touch the wall on turns, training changes, swim suits, better lane lines, and less turbulent pools. How much faster do you think these changes have made the current 200 back record?

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