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What it looks like... Proper Backstroke Arm Recovery

Proper form during the above-water portion of backstroke (known as the “recovery”) is crucial to developing efficient and powerful technique. The backstroke arm recovery occurs in three phases.

Phase 1: The Exit
Upon finishing the arm pull past the hip, the swimmer should lift the shoulder as the hip snaps up. The arm should follow the shoulder out of the water with the thumb side of the hand leading the way. Olympic Gold Medalist Kirsty Coventry demonstrates the thumb side lead below.














Phase 2: The Rotation
Once the arm is at least 45° out of the water (like the picture above) the swimmer should begin rotating the arm from the shoulder, keeping the elbow straight and the wrist relaxed. The swimmer’s palm thus moves from facing the midline of the body to facing outward. This happens while the arm continues its path of motion toward the water. Olympic Trials finalist and NCAC alum Tim Liebhold demonstrates what the arm should look like at the conclusion of Phase 2.




















Phase 3: The Entry
The final phase of the backstroke arm recovery is perhaps the most crucial — the entry. The hand should enter the water directly above or slightly to the outside of the shoulder with the pinkie first. A common mistake is to over-reach, letting the hand enter the water behind the head. Once the hand is in position, it should slice deep into the water without slowing, setting up for a strong arm pull. The picture below shows proper hand position an instant before a perfect hand entry.













For an efficient and powerful backstroke that is shoulder-safe, be sure to follow these tips for the arm recovery!