How to Learn Backcrawl Without Drowning Yourself in 5 Easy Steps

How to swim backcrawl without drowning yourself. Not the best title of a blog post I must say, but whatever!

Hey team!

I got a great article for you this week and it’s on how you can learn backcrawl in no time so that you can get yourself to the other side of the pool when you are beginning to burn out.

So, how do you learn to swim backcrawl??

First off I just wanna say a few things that I think hold swimmers back from learning backcrawl in my experience.

  1. They keep swallowing water!!!!: OMG I hate this one so much too. It drives me insane when I go to take a deep breath in and I suck in a huge lungful of dirty pool water. My number one pet peeve right there.
  2. They can’t see where the F&%^ they’re going!!!!: This one is really tough too. I have a lot of people who hate backcrawl just because they can’t see where they are going and they are worried that they are going to bash their heads on to the side of the pool.
  3. I feel like the whole stroke isn’t working for me: Vague much?? Yes. But it’s a common thing I hear. “I feel like something is wrong”. “I feel like I’m doing this or that and that’s why I’m sinking”.

And many more excuses or reasons why backcrawl is hated by so many people…

But for a minute, I want to look at the other side of the coin. This stroke is incredibly advantageous to know and I want to give you a few reasons why!

Here are a few reasons why you should learn to pick up backcrawl and get some proficiency in it!

  1. It is a great lifesaving stroke: When you are tired and unable to go much further, backcrawl will allow you to travel on and catch your breath because backcrawl doesn’t place as much of a demand on your respiratory (breathing) system. You aren’t holding your breath the whole time while you do back crawl and therefore it can be a good “breath-catching” stroke.
  2. It can still be a good workout: When you go to the pool, if you are going there to pop in a quick workout, backcrawl can be what you work on while you’re there. With other strokes like side stroke or breast stroke, I find it is to easy to slack off and leisurely move along. And dammit, if I am at the pool at 6 am then I sure as hell don’t want to waste my time there!!
  3. It will prevent muscle imbalance in your shoulders: If you are only working out one stroke ALL THE TIME, then the muscles on that side of the body will begin to become chronically tight.

A quick bit of background information will tell you where I’m coming from on this one. When I was in high school, I was on a swimming team and training 5 times a week for about an hour practice a day. Because the stroke I raced in was front crawl or freestyle, that was the only stroke I would do at practice. So, one hour a day, five times a week, I was doing a heavy amount of distance using front crawl. After about 3 years of swimming competitively, my shoulders began to bug me and people would tell me that I had a “gorilla posture” (see below).

I knew something was wrong so I went to see a physiotherapist. She was awesome and immediately recognized the problem. My pectorals and front shoulder muscles were insanely strong and developed while my back muscles were incredibly weak. That combined with the repetitive body movements I was doing meant that I was now very susceptible to having a biomechanical deficiency in my shoulder and shoulder pains.

And after 6 months of intense physio, my shoulders were back in a healthy and functioning condition. My physio said that I could keep swimming, but I should alternate a day on my front with a day on my back so that I keep the back muscles strong as well as my chest. This meant that I needed to learn backcrawl a bit better. So I went through a few weeks of practicing the stroke until I was happy with my performance.

So I think I’ve got you convinced it would be worth it to learn backcrawl! If you want to pick up backcrawl, here is a simple set of steps that you can take to work yourself up into it:

  1. Get comfortable in the water: This is still the ultimate belief and key to fixing almost everything people are doing wrong when it comes to learning swimming. People are so often tense and stressed out about being in the water that they forget to stay calm and relaxed. This is reflected in everything they are doing with their arms and body and it makes it very difficult to swim competently. So we need to build up some confidence in the water for you if it’s not there yet.
  2. A great way to get this relaxed body language if you don’t have it already is to go to a pool with a ramped bottom of the pool. You should be able to wade in and sit down with the water barely lapping over your legs. Then what you can try is leaning back and lying down on the pool deck while putting your ears in the water behind you. Can you do it? Or are you tempted to yank your head back out of the water cause you’re afraid you’ll sink?
  3. Get nice and relaxed while lying back in the pool. Let all of the tension leave your body, especially in the shoulders and neck!

Got the confidence? Great, time to get the skills:

  1. Learn how to do a back float and a back glide: Lets get you the proper body position! Can you lie on your back comfortably? This doesn’t mean that you will necessarily float perfectly (you might be really dense and un-floaty like me). But you should be able to push off the wall and glide a distance with your arms by your side without freaking out. Make sure you focus on keeping everything relaxed except for a bit of stabilizing going on inside your core (it should feel a bit like you are pushing your belly to the roof!)
  2. Develop a good kick!!! Developing a good kick is again comprised of a few simple things. Kick from your hip, not your knee! Don’t have tense legs, make sure you keep them relaxed. And let your feet point out and remember to keep the ankles loose! Check out the upcoming How to Swim page for more information on a good kick!
  3. Practice windmilling your arms and learn how to catch the water with your hands with sculling! The arm motion for back crawl can be a bit tricky, so here is a breakdown of how you can figure it out!
    • Figure out the general motion for your arms by windmilling them backwards for a bit of practice before you try incorporating the arms into your stroke.
    • And then spend some time doing an exercise that I refer to as sculling so that you can learn how to catch the water with your hands while you swim. Sculling is when you lie on your back with a PDF on and you have your hands by your side. And then you will proceed to “wave” your hands back and forth in the water while cupping your hands and fingers together. The back and forward motion of your hands should be what is moving you because you should not be kicking when practicing sculling! Practicing this forward and back movement will teach you how to move your hands when you are doing your arm pull with back crawl
  4. Put it all together. Give your backcrawl a try by combining all the elements and remember that it might not feel perfect right away. Just remember to keep trying to stay relaxed and keep all of the elements working the way I’ve described above and soon you will realize: It’s easy to learn backcrawl!!!

Cheers you guys! And let me know how you like the guide and what you want more information on!


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