The backstroke is the only swimming event in which you don't have your sights set on where you’re going. To reach your destination before anyone else, however, you would do well to set your sights on your technique, especially if you’re swimming the shorter sprints of 100 meters or less. If you can shave even a fraction of a second off your time here and there throughout the race, you can turn an ordinary swim into a winning effort.
Begin at the beginning by working on your start. The backstroke is the only standard competitive stroke in which you start in the pool, but you should move a bit above the water line when you push off the wall. If you fly too high, however, you’ll enter the pool on a downward angle and lose some forward momentum. Experiment with different foot positioning on the wall to help achieve the optimum angle. Additionally, arch your back as you push off the wall and make sure your fingers enter the water first as you come down.
Take full advantage of the rule permitting 15 meters -- about 16.4 yards -- of underwater swimming after the start. By kicking underwater you rest your arms, leaving you more energy when you reach the surface.
Keep your eyes on the ceiling as you swim to maintain a more streamlined position with water flowing around the top of your head, rather than the back of your head.
Turn your pinkies down before they enter the water, immediately placing your hands in position to pull through the water.
Keep your legs straight as you kick by moving your legs with your hips. Don’t bend your knees.
Increase your intensity and take a deeper breath just before making your turn. Also, take note of your positioning when you’re turning. If you’re consistently too close or too far from the wall, adjust your turn’s timing. Keep an eye on the lane dividers, which change colors 5 meters -- 5.4 yards -- from the wall, to time your approach. Tuck your body as tightly as possible while turning to maximize your rotational speed.
Touch the wall at the end of the race before raising your head to view your time. Raising your head may only cost you a fraction of a second, but in a sprint race, that can be the difference between winning and losing. Your time will still be there after you touch the wall, and you’ll like what you see much better if you complete the race before looking at the clock.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.