Originally Posted by vol
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.
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.