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Backstroke Initial Catch

Backstroke Initial Catch

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A common flaw between good and elite backstrokers is the initial catch. This stage occurs directly after the entry, but before maximal elbow flexion. A few common terms used to describe this flaw is slipping or slicing at the top of their stroke.

Many of these swimmers have sub optimal shoulder rotation potentially which can cause:

1.Over Reaching: Inadequate shoulder rotation, may trick the swimmer into over reaching.  If a swimmer does not have the motor skills or strength to rotate their shoulders and hips in unison, they may over reach to compensate. Over reaching can lead to a poor initial catch since the swimmer will have to catch water at the surface, where the water is not calm causing them to catch air. Therefore, the swimmer slices the water grabbing air or disturbed water.

2.Inadequate Catch Depth: Inadequate catch depth causing the athlete to miss grabbing the top of the water.  Once again, the swimmer would slice water or disturbed water this proximal to the surface. This can be also be noted if the swimmer has proper shoulder rotation but does not obtain adequate elbow flexion.

3.Improper body position: Sinking, if the athlete is not rotating they may be too low in the water, which may cause them to, once again, miss water due to the proximity of the surface. Backstrokers who are low in the water may not rotate since their body will have to plow through water, potentially impeding their velocity.  Therefore, cuing the athlete to sit higher in the water (getting their chest and hips up) can eliminate this David Blaine mind trick. This flaw could be a cause of chicken or egg,  is the athlete sinking because they are not rotating or are they not rotating because their sinking.  Whatever the case, teaching the athlete to sit higher in the water can do wonders.

Solutions: A few methods to improve this flaw could be utilizing dryland exercises to teach the athlete how to rotate their shoulders and hips together.  This can be initiated with exercises while lying, progressed to squats, and jumps. Another method could be using wiffle balls or hesitation drills with the swimmer pausing at the top of their stroke.  Swimmers could also perform catch-repeat drills at the top of their stroke, helping them grab water at the top.

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