Rebecca Adlington's 6 swim tips for backstroke brilliance

© Getty; RBV
Ever wanted to know how to do the backstroke properly? One swimming icon reveals the tips to bring out your A-game in the pool.
Written by Patrick McAleenanPublished on
As the only swimming stroke entirely on the back, any swimmer performing backstroke has to rely on body awareness, timing, spatial awareness - and a little intuition goes into it as well. It can be tricky.
And there are few who’ve mastered this stroke quite so perfectly as British sporting icon and double gold medallist Rebecca Adlington OBE. We asked Becky for her six key insights into mastering this ceiling facing stroke...

1. Keep your body flat like a plank

"Try to keep your hips as close to the surface as possible"
"Try to keep your hips as close to the surface as possible"
Stay flat out. When you're doing the backstroke, you want your body to lie as flat on the surface as possible. “Most people have a hard time getting their hips to float on the surface, so they sink down a little," says Becky. "Try to keep your hips as close to the surface as possible."

2. Use a 'flutter' kick

As soon as you're in position, start kicking. Your legs should be straightened, close together, and lined up below your hips. “Keep your legs straight and kick from your hips rather than from your knees," advises Becky. "This will give you more power and prevent you from getting sore knees."

3. Use a long fluid arm motion

As you start to kick forward, keep your arms at your sides, then reach one arm up in front of you pointing toward the sky or ceiling. Here, Becky gets technical: “When your arm hits the water, bring it down and scull outward to propel yourself forward. As you do this, raise the other arm and perform the same motion repeatedly.”

4. Breathe once per arm cycle

Ideally, you want to breathe in as one arm leaves the water, then breathe out as the other leaves the water. “Deep, steady breathing is important even though the backstroke allows you to breathe whenever you want," says Becky.

5. Use the ceiling or clouds to keep yourself straight

When you're swimming in an indoor pool, use the ceiling to make sure you don't veer off course. When swimming outdoors, however, look to the clouds (thanks, British weather!) to travel in a straight line, and, as Becky advises, "try keeping the sun on the same side of your body."

6. Accelerate your arm speed

"With backstroke, the arms are one of the main sources of power," says Becky. "To maximise the pull, you’ll need to accelerate your arms through the water. Place your hand in the water to begin your catch, pull your arm to your hip as quickly as you can. As you do so, try to feel the pull force you onto your side. If you grip the water well enough, it will force you to rotate quickly and powerfully so you speed up the rate."
The former swimming champion was speaking to to promote Becky Adlington Training Centre, providing the best training for future swimming teachers.