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plee12 07-19-2011 12:47 AM

Backstroke Count Stuck at 20

I've been following TI's method religiously for all my strokes. As a result, my stroke count for freestyle with a 2-beat kick is now down to 16 (in a 25-yard pool). Ideally, I would like to get it down to 14, but for now, it's good enough for me.

However, my stroke count for backstroke with a 2-beat kick is stuck at 20, no matter what I do. In freestyle, I can really feel the glide phase, which helps to reduce the stroke count. But in backstroke, I don't seem to feel much of a glide phase. Looking at other forum posts, the consensus seems to be that it's perfectly normal not to have much of a glide for backstroke. If that's the case, how do good swimmers manage to achieve the same stroke count for both freestyle and backstroke?

Can anyone please explain this paradox?

Thank you,


daveblt 07-19-2011 01:07 AM

When comparing freestyle to backstroke stroke counts ,usually the freestyle count is 1 or 2 strokes less. For instance I usually do 25 yd freestyle in 12 strokes and backstroke in 13 . Have you tried swimming backstroke with the technique of letting your hand that's about to pull be patient and not pull until the recovery hand is about 30 degrees over the water to see what it does to your stroke count ?


plee12 07-19-2011 02:00 AM

Hello Dave,

Thanks for the prompt reply.

When you say 30 degrees, do you mean 30 degrees measured from the point of exit of the recovery hand, or do you mean 30 degrees measured from the point of entry of the recovery hand?

If it's the former, I'm pretty sure I'm doing that already.

Thank you,


daveblt 07-19-2011 02:37 AM

30 degrees from the point of exit from the water of the recovery hand .


plee12 07-19-2011 05:45 AM


If it's 30 degrees from the point of exit from the water of the recovery hand, then I've been doing that all along. So, my problem must lie somewhere else.

You say that in your case, you take just one extra stroke for backstroke than freestyle. Since there's so much more glide in the freestyle and so little glide in backstroke, it's hard to believe that the glide in freestyle ends up reducing your stroke count by only one relative to backstroke. It seems to me the differential should be a lot more than one stroke.

In my case, my stroke differential is 4 strokes (16 freestyle and 20 backstroke). Could it be it's because I'm using a 2-beat kick for backstroke?
Does the standard 6-beat backstroke kick contribute significantly to reducing the stroke count?

I tried doing the exercise of alternately pulling on the right side and then on the left side and deliberately inserting two kicks between switching from one side to the other side in order to simulate the "glide" phase. Doing this uses up 14 strokes already. If I eliminate the two kicks between switching sides (the "glide") and alternately pull on the right and left sides continuously, my stroke count increases by 6 for a total of 20.

So, I can't figure out whether my high stroke count is due to insufficient glide or something else.

Thank you,


dzhou01 07-19-2011 04:23 PM


Can you explain a little bit how you do 2 beat kick in backstroke? How do hands and legs coordinate? I can do 2 beat kick in freestyle, but want to learn for backstroke too.


Richardsk 07-19-2011 04:42 PM

I think the best way to learn a two-beat in backstroke would be to start with a very small six-beat and gradually eliminate beats 2 and 3 and 5 and 6. The timing of the arms should take care of itself, I think.

Another way would be to use a dolphin kick, with the up beat on each hand entry.

Trying to swim with no kick at all might also be helpful.

Any other suggestions?

plee12 07-19-2011 06:25 PM

Hello Dzhou01,

The way I learned the 2-beat kick is by watching this terrific slow motion video:

I needed to watch the video many many times until I finally got it. It's hard to describe it verbally. Give it a try first.


daveblt 07-20-2011 01:09 AM

Believe it or not for the stroke count I mentioned, I swim backstroke by letting my legs just follow along with my body roll so I'm not sure how you would describe it but it's probably something like a two beat .I never even really tried to do a six beat and I think if I were to try to coordinate a six beat it would take my focus off other aspects of the stroke .


plee12 07-20-2011 06:04 AM


It looks like you're already doing a 2-beat kick.

By the way, I went to the pool today and tried something different. Instead of making two big kicks (to simulate the glide phase) between switching from one side to the other, I decided to glide by eliminating the kicks or kick very little. To my surprise, I was able to reduce the stroke count to 16 without any problem! I guess the two big kicks I was doing before were creating so much drag that it increased the stroke count. Now my backstroke stroke count exactly matches my freestyle stroke count, which makes me a happy camper. :-) I don't know if gliding this way is considered cheating, but I'm satisfied for now.

Mission accomplished!

Thanks everyone for your help

Richardsk 07-20-2011 07:15 AM

Hello all

Real backstrokers have very good kicks that provide propulsion - up to 30% according to some sources - but speaking for myself, the fact that I can swim backstroke faster with a pull buoy and no kick at all indicates, I think, that my kick provides drag rather than propulsion, but it is still better than no kick. I try to keep my kick as small as possible for this reason and to make my ankles as flexible as possible.

Perhaps with a really strong core it would be possible to swim with no kick, but I think inevitably the feet would tend to sink too low.

Progress is being made.

vol 06-28-2013 08:48 PM

I'm glad to find people here who also swim backstroke with little kicking. Most of what I've heard is that kicking is crucial for backstroke. I am curious, though, if there has been any world-class backstroke swimmer that dd little kicking? I suspect no. I guess all professional swimmers have a great deal of kick drills so they are all good in kicking. Would like to know the record time for backstroke with little kicking. ;) (I don't count Irie as one because kicking is still an important part of his strokes, though it's not 6 beat. What I'm talking about is what the above posters mentioned, letting the legs follow the body, little or no kick)

terry 08-02-2013 09:52 AM

Use a 6-Beat Kick. Keep it streamlined and relaxed.

Originally Posted by vol (Post 40917)
I'm glad to find people here who also swim backstroke with little kicking. Most of what I've heard is that kicking is crucial for backstroke. I am curious, though, if there has been any world-class backstroke swimmer that dd little kicking? I suspect no.

I hope I can bring some clarity to this question. World Class Backstrokers tend to be that way because of a constellation of factors that help them swim faster than others.
1) Body Type - Elites tend to have long, lean, very supple bodies--many with hyper-extendable elbow joints (i.e. as they make the catch, elbows seem to bend backward unusually). Missy Franklin, the world and Olympic champion would be a good example.
2) Naturally strong kicks - It's true that elites seems to have remarkably fast and strong kicks. This is just as much natural selection as the height factor and usually also involves joint flexibility and unusually long and supple feet.

It is indeed true that most of them do long and demanding kicking sets -- most often slightly rotated with one arm extended. And many people will tell you those sets are the reason they kick so well while swimming.

I disagree.

The fact is that ALL competitive swimmers--backstrokers included--do such sets. So why do most competitive swimmers have much more ordinary kicks? Because they lack the natural advantages I cite above.

Most people on this Forum--and the vast majority of swimmers I've met in 40+ years of coaching--do not have those natural advantages, so we should make the most of the capabilities we do have.

All reputable studies on flutter kicking have demonstrated that it adds almost nothing to propulsion and what it does add to speed comes mainly from keeping the legs well-streamlined and integrating it seamlessly with body rotation and whole-body action.

Backstroke is not a magical exception.

The main differentiator of the backstroke flutter kick from the freestyle flutter is that as you move beyond sprint distances--and for the health goals we all value most--the 2BK is optimal in freestyle. In backstroke, a 6BK is the default option at all speeds and distances.

Focus on making it streamlined and relaxed, so most of your energy goes into the more propulsive part of the stroke--rhythmic weight shifts and holding water.

See this post for a suggested set that can both tune your kick and increase your Stroke Length/Efficiency. If you try it pls post your results and any insights gained here.

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