Great Hands in Backstroke - A Quick Analysis of Aaron Piersol’s Backstroke
In the above video, Aaron Piersol shows off his superb backstroke for one of GoSwim’s backstroke videos. As always, we will observe Aaron’s backstroke through the eyes of the Reach Long, Kick Strong model of swimming. We’re going to focus primarily on the tenets of streamlining, great hands, and fast feet. (A post on the backstroke flip-turn will be posted later to explain how to “win the walls” in backstroke.)
Aaron has the best backstroke pull in the business. His great hands begin with the entry. At 0:30 you can see that he has a pinky-first entry directly behind his shoulders. This gives him a long stroke, is more streamlined, and puts his hand in a position to grab clean, crisp water. Do not enter with your hands behind your head. Always enter straight behind your shoulder. This will result in a nice, long, strong, and even pull that will move you straight down the lane.
Fast forward again to 0:54 where we get the best view of Piersol’s hands in action. After entering the water, he begins a shallow, “down sweep, up and over” pull with a bent elbow. A bent elbow underwater is critical for a great pull. It shortens the distance your hand travels under water and really engages the back muscles for a strong pull.
Focus on grabbing the water and bending the elbows immediately after the entry. From there, make sure you accelerate throughout your pull.
Notice that Piersol begins a downward sweep before bending his elbow and turning his palm to face toward his feet. The palm must face the feet, pushing you in the direction you want to go. Pay attention to the pattern his hand traces - again, “down, up, and over” - finishing at the thigh. Make sure both hands finish at the thigh, again giving you a maximum pull and strength.
Starting at about 0:40, we get some great shots of his fast, efficient recovery. You can see he uses straight elbows throughout the recovery. They recover directly in line with the shoulder which will help them land where they need to for a proper entry - directly behind the shoulder. He exits thumb first and enters pinky first. Finishing the recovery pinky first is necessary to set up the pull.
- Straight elbows on the recovery.
- Pinky-first entry in line with the shoulder.
- Palm faces the feet.
- Down, up, and over pull.
- Finish thumb at the thigh.