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Backstroke or back crawl is one of the fourswimming styles used in competitive events regulated by FINA, and the only one of these styles swum on the back. This swimming style has the advantage of easy breathing, but the disadvantage of swimmers not being able to see where they are going. It also has a different start from the other three competition swimming styles. The swimming style is similar to an upside down front crawl or freestyle. Both backstroke and front crawl are long-axis strokes. In individual medley backstroke is the second style swum; in the medley relay it is the first style swum.
Backstroke is an ancient style of swimming, popularized by Harry Hebner.It was the second stroke to be swum in competitions after the front crawl. The first Olympic backstroke competition was the 1900 Paris Olympics men's 200 meter.
In the initial position, the swimmer performing backstroke lies flat on the back; arms stretched with extended fingertips, and legs extended backwards.
In backstroke, the arms contribute most of the forward movement. The arm stroke consists of two main parts: the power phase (consisting of three separate parts) and the recovery.The arms alternate so that always one arm is underwater while the other arm is recovering. One complete arm turn is considered one cycle. From the initial position, one arm sinks slightly under water and turns the palm outward to start the catch phase (first part of the power phase). The hand enters downward (pinkie finger first) then pulling out at a 45 degree angle, catching the water.
During the power phase the hand follows a semi-circular path from the catch to the side of the hip. The palm is always facing away from the swimming direction, while remaining straight as an extension of the arm, and the elbow always points downward towards the bottom of the pool. This is done so that both the arms and the elbow can push the maximum amount of water back in order to push the body forward. At the height of the shoulders, the upper and lower arms should have their maximum angle of about 90 degrees. This is called the Mid-Pull of the power phase.
The Mid-Pull phase consists of pushing the palm of the hand as far down as possible with the fingers pointing upward. Again, the goal is to push the body forward against the water. At the very end of the Mid-Pull, the palm flaps down for a last push forward down to a depth of 45 cm, creating the finish of the power phase. Besides pushing the body forward, this also helps with the rolling back to the other side as part of the body movement. During the power phase, the fingers of the hand can be slightly apart, as this will increase the resistance of the hand in the water due to turbulence.
To prepare for the recovery phase, the hand is rotated so that the palms point towards the legs and the thumb side points upwards. At the beginning of the recovery phase of the one arm, the other arm begins its power phase. The recovering arm is moved in a semicircle straight over the shoulders to the front. During this recovery, the palm rotates so that the small finger enters the water first, allowing for the least amount of resistance, and the palms point outward. After a short gliding phase, the cycle repeats with the preparation for the next power phase.
A variant is to move both arms synchronized and not alternating, similar to an upside down breast stroke. This is easier to coordinate, and the peak speed during the combined power phase is faster, yet the speed is much slower during the combined recovery. The average speed will usually be less than the average speed of the alternating stroke. This stroke is commonly called the elementary backstroke. This elementary backstroke swim was used in the 1900 and 1908 Olympics. The backcrawl swim supplanted the elementary backstroke swim after 1908 as the competitive back swim and it is now the referred to as the backstroke.
Another variant is the old style of swimming backstroke, where the arm movement formed a complete circle in a windmill type pattern. However, this style is not commonly used for competitive swimming, as a lot of energy is spent on pushing the body up and down instead of forward. Furthermore, the added strain on the shoulder is considered less than ideal and can lead to injuries.
It is also possible to move only one arm at a time (paused stroke), where one arm moves through the power and recovery phases while the other arm rests. This is slow, but it is used frequently to teach students the movement, as they have to concentrate on only one arm. This drill technique can work well with the swimmer holding a float, however it is important not to overuse this drill as a "paused stroke" can easily become habitual and can be challenging to unlearn.
The leg movement in backstroke is similar to the flutter kick in front crawl. The kick makes a large contribution to the forward speed, while significantly stabilizing the body.
The leg stroke alternates, with one leg sinking down straight to about 30 degrees. From this position, the leg makes a fast kick upward, slightly bending the knee at the beginning and then stretching it again in the horizontal. However, there are also frequent variants with four or only two kicks per cycle. Usually, sprinters tend to use 6 kicks per cycle, whereas long distance swimmer may use fewer.
It is also possible to use a butterfly kick, although this is rare except after the initial start and after turns. The dolphin kick is essential for many top athletes because it is the fastest part of the race. It may also constitute the majority of the race (i.e., in the 100 yard backstroke the swimmer may kick underwater dolphin for 15 yards per length which equates to as much as 60 yards kicking in a 100 yd race). A great example of this is Olympic gold medallist Natalie Coughlin. Breaststroke kicks are most comfortable if the arms are used synchronized, as the breaststroke kick makes it more difficult to compensate for the rolling movement with alternating arm cycles. The butterfly kick can be done slightly to one side depending on the rolling motion of the body.
Breathing in backstroke is easier than in other strokes, as the mouth and nose are usually above water. Competitive swimmers breathe in through the mouth during the recovery of one arm, and breathe out through the mouth and nose during the pull and push phase of the same arm. This is done to clear the nose of water.
Due to the asynchronous movement of the arms, the body tends to roll around its long axis. By taking advantage of this rolling motion, swimmers can increase their effectiveness while swimming backstroke. The overall position of the body is straight in the horizontal to reduce drag. Beginners frequently let their posterior and thighs sink too low, which increases drag. To avoid this, the upper legs have to be moved to the extreme down position at each kick even with a little help by the back and the foot tips have to be fixed in the extreme lower position and the head is held out of the water to act as a counter-weight.
The backstroke start is the only start from the water.The swimmer faces the wall and grabs part of the start block or the wall with their hands. Ideally, there are grips on the block for this purpose. The legs are placed shoulder width apart on the wall with both heels slightly off the wall. Just before the starting signal, the swimmer pulls their head closer to the start block, while keeping the knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Some swimmers prefer to keep one foot slightly lower than the other during the start.
For the takeoff, the swimmer pushes their hands away from the block and swings their arms around sideways to the front. At the same time, the swimmer throws their head to the back. The swimmer then pushes away from the wall with their feet. Ideally, the swimmer's back is arched during the airborne phase so that only the feet and the hands touch the water while the rest of the body is above the water line. This reduces drag and permits a faster start. On September 21, 2005, FINA modified the backstroke start rule regarding toes below the water line. The feet can now be above the water, but not above or curled over the lip of the pool gutter.
After the start, the swimmer is completely underwater. Due to increased resistance at the surface, experienced swimmers usually swim faster underwater than at the surface. Therefore, most experienced swimmers in backstroke competitions stay under water up to the limit set by FINA (15 meters after the start and after every turn). Most swimmers use a butterfly kick underwater, as this provides more forward movement than the flutter kick. The underwater phase includes the risk of water entering the nose, so most swimmers breathe out through the nose to stop water from entering.
The swimmer's head must break the surface before 15 m under FINA rules. The swimmer starts swimming with one arm, followed by the other arm with half a cycle delay. The swimmer continues in regular swimming style, staying on the back for the entire time except the turns.
Approaching the wall presents swimmers with the problem of not seeing where they are going. Most competitive swimmers know how many strokes they need for a lane, or at least how many strokes after the signal flags or the change in color of the separating lines. Turning the head is also possible, but slows the swimmer down.
Prior to September 1992 swimmers had to touch the wall on their back before initiating the turn or rolling off their back in order to turn. After September 1992 when approaching the wall, the swimmer is allowed to turn to their breast and make one push/pull phase with one arm or simultaneous double arm pull. Next, the swimmer makes half a tumble turn forward, resting the feet against the wall. The arms are in the forward position at this time, and the swimmer pushes their body off the wall. Similar to the start, the swimmer can remain up to 15 m under water, with most swimmers using a butterfly kick for speed. This rule change allowed for faster turns.
For the finish, the swimmer must touch the wall while lying on their back, less than 90 degrees out of the horizontal, and must not be completely submerged. 2020 USA Swimming Rulebook, 101.4 BACKSTROKE, Finish — Upon the finish of the race, the swimmer must touch the wall while on the back.
There are three common distances swum in competitive backstroke swimming, both over either a long course (50 m pool) or a short course (25 m pool).The United States also employs short course yards (25 yard pool).
Other distances are also swum on occasions.
Backstroke is also part of the medley over the following distances:
Below are the official FINA rules which apply to swimmers during official competitions.
Synchronised swimming or artistic swimming is a hybrid form of swimming, dance, and gymnastics, consisting of swimmers performing a synchronised routine of elaborate moves in the water, accompanied by music. Artistic swimming is governed internationally by FINA, and has been part of the Summer Olympics programme since 1984.
The trudgen is a swimming stroke sometimes known as the racing stroke, or the East Indian stroke. It is named after the English swimmer John Trudgen (1852–1902) and evolved out of sidestroke.
The butterfly is a swimming stroke swum on the chest, with both arms moving symmetrically, accompanied by the butterfly kick. While other styles like the breaststroke, front crawl, or backstroke can be swum adequately by beginners, the butterfly is a more difficult stroke that requires good technique as well as strong muscles. It is the newest swimming style swum in competition, first swum in 1933 and originating out of the breaststroke.
Breaststroke is a swimming style in which the swimmer is on their chest and the torso does not rotate. It is the most popular recreational style due to the swimmer's head being out of the water a large portion of the time, and that it can be swum comfortably at slow speeds. In most swimming classes, beginners learn either the breaststroke or the freestyle first. However, at the competitive level, swimming breaststroke at speed requires comparable endurance and strength to other strokes. Some people refer to breaststroke as the "frog" stroke, as the arms and legs move somewhat like a frog swimming in the water. The stroke itself is the slowest of any competitive strokes and is thought to be the oldest of all swimming strokes.
Human swimming typically consists of repeating a specific body motion or swimming stroke to propel that body forward. There are many kinds of strokes, each defining a different swimming style or crawl.
Medley is a combination of four different swimming styles—backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle—into one race. This race is either swum by one swimmer as individual medley (IM) or by four swimmers as a medley relay.
Swimfins, swim fins or diving fins are finlike accessories worn on the feet, legs or hands and made from rubber, plastic, carbon fiber or combinations of these materials, to aid movement through the water in water sports activities such as swimming, bodyboarding, bodysurfing, float-tube fishing, kneeboarding, riverboarding, scuba diving, snorkeling, spearfishing, underwater hockey, underwater rugby and various other types of underwater diving.
Total Immersion (TI) is a method of swimming instruction, developed by Terry Laughlin, an American swimming coach. Its primary focus is to teach swimmers to move through the water efficiently. By conserving energy and focusing on balance and streamlining in the water, any energy used for propulsion becomes much more effective. Basic principles of teaching include sustainability of effort, drag reduction, vessel shaping and full body swimming.
The flutter kick is a kicking movement used in both swimming and calisthenics.
Finning techniques are the skills and methods used by swimmers and underwater divers to propel themselves through the water and to maneuver when wearing swimfins. There are several styles used for propulsion, some of which are more suited to particular swimfin configurations. There are also techniques for positional maneuvering, such as rotation on the spot, which may not involve significant locational change. Use of the most appropriate finning style for the circumstances can increase propulsive efficiency, reduce fatigue, improve precision of maneuvering and control of the diver's position in the water, and thereby increase the task effectiveness of the diver and reduce the impact on the environment. Propulsion through water requires much more work than through air due to higher density and viscosity. Diving equipment which is bulky usually increases drag, and reduction of drag can significantly reduce the effort of finning. This can be done to some extent by streamlining diving equipment, and by swimming along the axis of least drag, which requires correct diver trim. Efficient production of thrust also reduces the effort required, but there are also situations where efficiency must be traded off against practical necessity related to the environment or task in hand, such as the ability to maneuver effectively and resistance to damage of the equipment.
Streamline form is a swimming technique that is used underwater in every stroke. At the start of a race or on a turn, streamline form is used, usually along with a dolphin kick or flutter kick, to create the least amount of resistance to help the swimmer propel as far as they can. Many factors contribute to the perfect streamline form and mastering this method increases a swimmer’s speed. Streamline is one of the key fundamentals to mastering any stroke.
A hand paddle is a device worn by swimmers during training. It consists of a plastic plate worn over the swimmer's palm and attached over the back of the swimmer's hand with elastic cords. The plate is often perforated with a pattern of holes.
Combat side stroke or CSS is a variation of the side stroke that was developed by and taught to the United States Navy SEALs. The Combat Swimmer Stroke was developed for the United States Navy Seals by Former Navy SEAL Stew Smith (CSCS) and Terry Laughlin of Total Immersion Swimming.
Swimming is an individual or team racing sport that requires the use of one's entire body to move through water. The sport takes place in pools or open water. Competitive swimming is one of the most popular Olympic sports, with varied distance events in butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle, and individual medley. In addition to these individual events, four swimmers can take part in either a freestyle or medley relay. A medley relay consists of four swimmers who will each swim a different stroke, ordered as backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle.
The front crawl or forward crawl, also known as the Australian crawl or American crawl, is a swimming stroke usually regarded as the fastest of the four front primary strokes. As such, the front crawl stroke is almost universally used during a freestyle swimming competition, and hence freestyle is used metonymically for the front crawl. It is one of two long axis strokes, the other one being the backstroke. Unlike the backstroke, the butterfly stroke, and the breaststroke, the front crawl is not regulated by the FINA. This style is sometimes referred to as the Australian crawl although this can sometimes refer to a more specific variant of front crawl.
Freestyle is a category of swimming competition, defined by the rules of the International Swimming Federation (FINA), in which competitors are subject to few limited restrictions on their swimming stroke. Freestyle races are the most common of all swimming competitions, with distances beginning with 50 meters and reaching 1500 meters, also known as the mile. The term 'freestyle stroke' is sometimes used as a synonym for 'front crawl', as front crawl is the fastest swimming stroke. It is now the most common stroke used in freestyle competitions.
Free Colchian is the name of the swimming style from Georgia.
Competitive swimming in Britain started around 1830, mostly using breaststroke. Swimming was part of the first modern Olympic games in 1896 in Athens. In 1908, the world swimming association, Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), was formed.
In swimming, a turn is a reversal of direction of travel by a swimmer. A turn is typically performed when a swimmer reaches the end of a swimming pool but still has one or more remaining pool lengths to swim.
S5, SB4, SM5 are disability swimming classifications used for categorizing swimmers based on their level of disability. The class includes people a moderate level of disability, and includes people with full use of their arms and hands, but limited to no use of their trunk and legs. It also includes people with coordination problems. A variety of disabilities are represented by this class including people with cerebral palsy. The class competes at the Paralympic Games.
Montgomery, Jim; Montgomery, James P.; Chambers, Mo (2009). Mastering swimming. ISBN 978-0-7360-7453-7.
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