Contrary to what you might imagine from watching the straight arm recovery over the water, the pull in
backstroke is nothing like a windmill under the water. In fact, the elbow should remain deeper than the hand and have a
considerable bend in it. Overall the arm action can be separated into three distinct phases:
1. The catch. A common backstroke error is starting to pull before youíve got anything to pull against. So when youíve put
your hand in pause for a second. Could you reach further down the pool by rolling onto your side? (as long as you donít turn your
head, but keep it still and looking upwards, the further you can roll the better).
Also, is your hand a good 10 cm under the water and turned at the wrist ready to pull?
2. The pull. Donít lead with your elbow, lead with your hand, but do gradually bend your elbow. Keep
your hand the same height or higher in the water as you pull until you reach the point where your shoulder, elbow and hand all lie
in a plane at right angles to your body.
If youíve rolled onto your side initially you should feel the stronger muscles of your chest being used as well as the arms,
then start toÖ.
3. Push down towards your feet as hard as you can and donít take your arm out until your arm has almost straightened
again. The push part in backstroke is very effective and easily missed out altogether in the rush to take the next stroke.
If none of this makes sense, try swimming double arm (or old English) backstroke. The arm position you have
to use for that is similar to the path the single arm should take in modern backstroke, except that you obviously canít roll round
at the start of the stroke.