backstroke leg action

by ben
(Lindfield)

When swimming backstroke, your students are breaking the surface of the water with their

knees. What are some correctional strategies you can try to encourage your students to keep
their kicking under the water?
there can be more than one answer.

choices are:

A. kicking on back with a kickboard held over the knees, with the knees not touching the board

B. kicking the legs harder

C. practising land drills with hips lifted slightly on kickboard

D. practising kicking, flicking the feet instead of a pedalling action

E. kicking the legs more slowly

Hi Ben, thanks for your question, yes you are correct my student in the photograph is breaking the surface of the water, it is hard not to especially teaching children to swim, it’s even harder to take a photo of it doing it perfect as well.
Let’s go through each practice and see which one is the best, kicking on back with a kickboard held over the knees, with the knees not touching the board

A. Kicking on back with a kickboard held over the knees, with the knees not touching the board.

Good idea to help you kick the legs correctly, and when the knees touch the board your swimmer knows the knees are too high, with a kick board over knees it could obstruct the instructor from seeing what is going on under the float. But in theory it worked and I have taught this myself using this method, but I would not do it all the time I would concentrate on giving teaching points saying, keep legs nice and straight, kick from your hips, use the power of your thighs rather than your knees.



B. Kicking the legs harder.

This is all very well if the leg action is correct, there is no point kicking the legs harder if they are wrong, for example if you are swim back stroke legs with bending knees, if you kick harder it will make no difference you will still be bending your knees but just faster, I’m not saying not to kick legs faster, which I will explain in my last point, but first concentrate on good technique then speed.


C.Practising land drills with hips lifted slightly on kickboard

be honest I don’t do dry land drills, unless in teaching arm action and I sit a child or adult on the side and go through arm action, or I may demonstrate sat on poolside leg action but I do not think it would cure bendy knee action doing back stroke.


D. Practising kicking, flicking the feet instead of a pedalling action.

This is not a know practice it is simply an instruction or a teaching point that you would use to demonstrate or explain to a swimmer what you want them to do. Also you are telling a swimmer to flick you feet but the feet are not the problem it’s the knee leg action, asking them to flick their feet will not solve that issue. It is easier said than done, I sometime say ‘I’ve tied a big stick to your legs now you can’t bend your knees, or keep your legs nice and straight like a solder’ and so on. All you need to do is use you imagination to think of ways of putting the leg action, you also have to think about is this a child or adult and make it appropriate, i.e. little girls doing breast stroke leg action I tell them to turn out their feet like ballet dancers to make it more fun and so on.
You do have to flick the feet anyway, the feet and ankles have to be floppy like a flipper to create propulsion.


E.Kicking the legs more slowly

This could be something you could try, but the problem would be is that firstly legs will begin to sink if you kick more slowly, I think this exercise would be only good for short term it isn’t a known ASA swimming practice, but it may help someone to think about what they are doing, in back stroke you are pulling with your arms outside the centre line so that means you are pulling yourself side to side (lateral deviation), the whole purpose of leg action in back stroke is to keep yourself horizontal in the water, balanced as well as in a straight line. Legs only give about 5 percent propulsion in the water. So do not encourage swimmers to kick slow, it is a rhythmical leg action to keep you moving when at one point both arms are coming out of the water for just a second.
I would simply say practice, practice and more practice for the perfect leg action, tell others or yourself how the legs should be and keep at it till it is correct. If you are interested in more detail and more advanced practices for back stroke try purchasing my pdf/eBook for £4-79 and if it is not useful to you will refund you the money,

I do hope this has been useful and I have written something you can practice, if you have any more questions Ben then get back to me and I’ll be more than happy to answer your question,
Good look Ben,
Dale :)

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