(Originally Published On USASWIMMING.ORG)Trying to increase your tempo at the end of a backstroke race isn’t as simple as it sounds. Your legs are burning, your arms feel like lead, and the last thing in the world you can imagine doing is moving your arms faster. Fortunately, your arms don’t have to do all of the work when it’s time to temp up, and in fact they shouldn’t.
The key to properly speeding up your tempo is to use your core muscles and allow them to increase the pace of your rotation from one side to the other. Simply spinning your arms will only cause you to slip, compromise your catch, and most importantly disrupt the timing of your stroke. Think of it as increasing your tempo from the inside out. Your core (inside) dictates the pace and subsequent connection of your arms (outside), not the other way around.
In the first video below (slowed down to highlight the timing) you can see that the swimmer maintains connection between the components of their stroke and is able to keep their entry in line with their core. Increasing the pace of that core-driven rotation is how you should think about increasing your tempo.
In the next video you can see an athlete whose arms are working independently from their body, forcing the tempo without a matching rotational pace from their core. Notice how the right hand is entering while the body is still rotated to the left. This is a common mistake and can lead to a number of ancillary stroke flaws.
Driving your stroke from your core, not your arms, also helps to alleviate a mis-timed rotation which is the most common of the ancillary backstroke flaws that I mentioned above. If your core is leading your rotation, it is much more difficult for your arms to fall out of rhythm with that pace and for your timing to be disrupted.
5 Point to Remember:-
- Improves your posture: Backstroke is a great exercise to reverse the effects of time spent on the computer. Unlike most of our daily activities — or even other swimming strokes — backstroke helps open up chest muscles. Backstroke also strengthens the upper back and lats, pulling your shoulders back, which helps create better posture.
- Tightens your core: The key to backstroke is balance. Although all swim strokes strengthen the abs, the rhythm of backstroke engages your entire core through a slight hip rotation. In addition, the undulating movement from the kicks off of each wall, activates both your lower back and core.
- Can be used as cross-training for runners: If you’re a runner, swimming is a low-impact way to cross train between runs. Backstroke kicks engage the muscles in your legs and glutes for a complete lower-body workout; further challenged by the resistance of the water.
- Complements freestyle: As with every exercise routine, balance is key. Freestyle is often favored by many swimmers and is the first stroke taught to beginners. Mix up your workouts and improve your freestyle by incorporating a few laps of backstroke into your regime. Freestyle and backstroke are perfect complements to each other, working opposite muscle groups. Consider alternating strokes between laps or using backstroke to cool down with.
- Will improve your weight-room workout: When you’re not rocking it out in the weight room, use backstroke as a way to straighten your arms and shoulders. Once your fingers enter the water to begin your catch, your biceps must bend against the resistance of the water to finish each stroke. Although your biceps and lats are in the greatest demand during the catch, your triceps and lats will benefit as well.