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vol 11-21-2008 02:22 AM

Arch your back?
I read from several sources that in backstroke you should "arch" your back. I wonder what is meant: is it an up arch (middle point highest) or down arch (middle point lowest)? Both seem to make sense: the former is consistent with keeping your hip high, while the latter is consistent with creating an angle between your head and horizon to maximize speed. So which one is meant?

daveblt 11-21-2008 03:03 AM

I think it is better known or more proper to think of trying to tuck your tummy up a little toward the ceiling to improve balance by helping to keep the legs up rather than trying to think of arching your back.Of course it also helps to lean back in to the water for support.


Adam 11-21-2008 03:07 AM

I find it hard to believe either one is good. Anything beyond the natural arch of the back will be painful. It also seems to me it would create more drag. I can't really remember ever seeing an elite backstroke swimmer arching the back.

vol 11-21-2008 03:41 AM

several posts mentioned similar points on this (notice the one about Richard Quick).

Adam 11-21-2008 11:36 AM

As I understand it what Quick says to do (assuming whoever quoted him understood him correctly, which is not certain) is not to arch your back, but slightly tilt your head forward and then fix the resulting balance problem, by pushing your upper back into the water. This shouldn't increase the arch of the back.

Still, this is different then what I try to do in the pool. I try to keep my hips and belly at the surface, but I never try to tilt my head. I always aim to look straight up with only my face above water.

Adam 11-21-2008 12:37 PM

A couple of videos I found useful a while ago:

Backstroke - Hagiwara Tocomo

Ryan Lochte - Backstroke Technique

I don't think the swimmers above arch their back.

vol 11-21-2008 03:22 PM

Doesn't Lochte look like his back curved down shortly after start (like slightly bending over, head higher)?

terry 11-22-2008 04:20 AM

Adam's take on Quick is quite accurate. I've spent time with him and with Kim
Brackin who coached both the Olympic and World champions in Women's 200 Back at Auburn and subsequently at Texas. She does not teach anyone to arch the back, but to maintain a balanced and streamlined position in which the pelvis is relatively neutral, the spine is straight and hips touch the surface alternately.
The first three drills of Backstroke for Every Body teach those positions.

vol 11-22-2008 05:47 AM

Thanks, and good to know Terry has known Quick. I re read that post, and noticed the bold faced part suggesting the back should arch down (the middle lower than the ends), however I'm not sure how this is consistent with the underlined parts:

"Contrary to what the article, they said that the head should be slightly negative (tilted forward) and the body should not be completely straight. The idea that they stressed was pressing the chest into the water, and by doing this the upper body is supported while the hips are brough up making your legs lighter in the water. Milt Nelms is famous for his swimming illustrations, and his drawing up backstroke is more that of a slight curve that a straight line. So the chin should be tilted slightly forward, and the back slightly rounded."

"The back slightly rounded" seems to be just what Lochte looks like in the video.

Any comments welcome.

wavelengths 11-22-2008 10:55 AM

"Arching the back" means what it says, and is what you described as "middle part highest". It always leads to hyperextension, which in body use terms puts pressure on the lumbar discs, and in swimming terms unbalances you and creates drag.

Its opposite is usually referred to as "flattening the back", which (unless taken too literally, which will cause other problems) will correct the common tendency to exaggerate the natural lumbar curve. What it really means is maintaining the lumbar spine in its neutral position, and it's achieved by correct use of the core stabilising muscles, principally the transversus abdominis and pelvic floor.

This is what you see Ryan Lochte doing. His technique is perfect, thanks among other things to his balanced, streamlined body.

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