Backstroke by Dick Hannula (2005)


Introduction: Does everyone know what an icon is? He (Dick Hannula) really is an icon. Not only that, he is one of the many true gentlemen. He is close to the top of the list if not at the top of the list as far as being a gentleman in the swimming community. His coaching credentials and his administrative credentials are just unbelievable. He is a former high school coach at Wilson High School and Tacoma High School and I think he is the founder of the Tacoma Swim Club and has given clinics all over the world. He has been a former President of ASCA two or three times, is a great contributor, a prolific writer (you have probably read his writing in all the many swimming publications). I remember when I was a young man, how many of you heard Eddie Reese’s talk Wednesday night? Well he said that one of the greatest legacies that you can have is what you have left, what you have given in the course of your life and Dick has a tremendous legacy already and he continues. His curiosity and his intellect is greatly appreciated by all of us in the swimming community. When I was a young man I can remember my old pappy saying, “son, there are basically two kinds of people in the world. There are givers and there are takers. Decide which one you want to be.” Well, Dick decided early on that he was going to be a giver. He has been giving, he continues to give and will give in the future. You are in for a real treat; Mr. Dick Hannula.

Coach Hannula: Well, thank you Lanny and thank you NISCA for bringing me back. I am not sure what an icon is either. I don’t want to scare anybody away. I told Lanny, “I said, don’t say, don’t build me up too much because I don’t want to let everybody down. My wife had that feeling that you walk into a hurricane. I guess if you begin to expect too much. I also am not so sure anybody cares too much about what you have done as what you are doing and I am surprised to be back here. To be quite honest Bob called me I guess sometime during the spring and I said well, OK, I will do it. I thought I was done two years ago at my last San Diego clinic.

This topic is backstroke. I am not going to try and tell you what qualifies me to talk on backstroke, but I love the stroke. I love the stroke because when I started swimming in high school, I started as a junior in high school and I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t put my face in the water to swim the crawl stroke and that may sound ridiculous to you now. I learned to swim in a river and I couldn’t put my face in the water. I didn’t even know they had a swim team until my sophomore year, and they found out I could swim on my back and swim backstroke and that is what I did. So I have always kind of been in love with the stroke. It got me into swimming and it kept me into swimming and allowed me to continue. I hate to tell you, I wanted to tell you it was winning the State Championship in those days, maybe I should, but I won’t. Somebody can ask me later and I will tell you.

The way I am going to kind of run this thing on backstroke is that I would like to kind of run through what was, what is and then go through the drills. I can’t go through all the drills. I will just go through some of the drills, specifically some of the ones that I think are quite important and then I would like to take some time to discuss a little bit on how I think you should use the drills. There are ways to use the drills to manufacture speed, to help you with your speed in the stroke.

Eventually I will come back and run some videotape that I have, some from this summer on current Tacoma Swim club swimmers. Some of whom I have worked on backstroke with and some of whom I have never worked on backstroke. They were kind of new to some of the drills, but I had them demonstrate it. I will also reach back a little bit and show some video-tape I made a number of years ago. In one case about 18 years ago, that shows the use of the mirror at the side of the pool. I always loved to have the mirrors there. I had one big mirror in front of the backstroke lane; you will get an idea of how that works. I think it is real, real important in teaching a backstroke. This is the first time that I have gone high tech so bear with me. OK.

What was and probably ain’t no longer! What we used to have at one time or another was the bent arm recovery. I never saw that except in movies. Old movies, some of you may have seen that. The backstrokers are coming out like this – in a bent arm recovery. I am sure that is very obvious, but I went over to the Hall of Fame the other day and watched the old Bob Kiphuth film. They have got it over at the Hall of Fame. His training methods and there is a little bit of a throwback there in the bent wrist recovery. You watch – they swim some backstroke with a bent wrist. I do remember that.

Swimming with the lateral arm recovery with a flat body and a 10 to 10:30 entry. My brother was state champion for a couple of years with that stroke. Up in the Northwest there was a guy named George Heeney at the University of Washington who was the best swimmer around. George was the best backstroker around in the entire Northwest, at least, and that is the type of stroke he used. It was like rowing a boat and the recovery was like putting an oar out here and it chopped in short and you drove it through. There was a lot of swimming like that.

In turns there have been so many changes. Now of course we have the turn without having to touch the wall, you do a forward flip. That made the greatest sense in the world, but some of the turns we used to use, the first one I learned in backstroke, they showed us how to do it was you usually just crashed the wall. You had to grab the wall with your hand and turn under the arm and push off and that was the backstroke turn. With this you can begin to get an idea why our times were so slow. The next one was just a back spin where you did a hand-touch and a back twist trying to get under that arm and make a forward roll. We just had all kinds of people disqualified.

Next was the little finger exit. Some people are still doing this. You need to get a ballistic stroke and a ballistic recovery. You have get into the stroke and the little finger exit just inhibits that and that is another one of the things that I think is definitely out.

We also used straight arm pull, that means under water straight arm pull. That is pretty much what they were doing with that lateral arm recovery with a flat body.

We used to use head rotation. John Nabor actually had pretty good head rotation. One of the last ones I saw and very effectively. Oh, that is definitely out.

Now I will probably get into a little controversy here. There’s a little bit of controversy when you get into here. Some people are not willing to buy into this, the sweeps. I know I used to do clinics with Robin Leamy and I don’t know how many years ago that was (early or middle 80’s if I remember right) Robin Leamy was an American record holder in the sprints for UCLA. He swam for Ron Ballatore and he was at the same clinics I was at and teaching sweeps and he is talking about making the catch and driving that arm straight through directly back and I am thinking, well yeah, that might be OK for a sprinter, but it couldn’t possibly work all the way around. Then a few years ago, about 8, 9 or 10, I was in Australia and I watched a workout with both Thorpe and the really great one too now, help me. Well anyway both guys were just putting their hand in the water like this and the water was coming straight back. There were no sweeps and I started looking around the pool and walked to both sides of the pool and there was an age group team on the other side of the pool and I walked over and watched the age group team. They are doing the same thing, they were teaching a stroke that does not have the sweeping action. I came back and it definitely changed my mind on what needed to be done in freestyle. Well actually, the same thing is true with backstroke. I started looking at the videos of the top swimmers in backstroke and and I want to show some of these to kind of help establish what I am really trying to say which is that this business of trying to get down and bringing the hand way up and pushing back down is pretty much passé. It is not what they are doing.

Now I will really get in trouble. We got carried away with the deep entry. That is deeper than deep and if you get way down in that water like that, that deep, there is no place to go, but bring the thing up into the sweep action. So I think that entry has got to be just deep enough to be able to get in, to anchor the arm to get into that position for the line of pull, the line that you want to drive that water back. If you are down here and you are trying to drive that water back in pretty much of a straight line the body rotation is doing everything that the sweep was really doing. The body rotation is driving that hand past the body, actually to drive your body past the hand. You drive your body past the arm. I think it is only the last couple things that probably steps on people’s toes, but remember, I was doing this and I think we all sometime should be able to take a look at it and make adjustments and changes.

What is, at least for the moment. What seems to be, at least for now, in the stroke are the following: Steady head position and I think most people would not argue that. You try to maintain a steady head position with the head back and the eyes pretty much vertical. That is the Krazelburg type of stroke, his head is well back in the water, he is looking almost vertical or a slight tilt. Depending on the swimmer, but that is pretty much the position you are going to be in.

And then the rotation: rotate, rotate, rotate. The body rotation is so important to get the power on the stroke. I will go more into that because we will do some of the drills. I am going to talk about ones that emphasize rotation.

Rifle barrel recovery. I think everybody understands that this is just a vertical recovery with the arms straight and extended up in here. This is another one that they are all swimming with at the present time.

Bent arm pull – the arm has to bend in order to accelerate and to hold that water and get some power on it. The amount of the bend is going to vary with the swimmers and that bend has got to be delivered at the right spot. I had a young lady that eventually made the Olympic Team in backstroke and when she first came to me her problem was she did the arm bend too early so it was way back in here where she wasn’t going to develop the power on the rotation. You have to be patient enough to get that arm bend in, in the mid part of the stroke to take advantage of the power that is being generated by it.

Trying to get a little finger entry is a good place to be, little pinky or whatever you want to call it. In the past we talked about trying to come out of that thing little finger first. Instead, you should try to come out of the underwater pull with your thumb first. Having your thumb first allows you a real ballistic or clean movement. You come out fairly rapidly and you don’t have to really lift it so much as it just follows through from that last scoring action and it is almost flying back. You want to rebound off that stroke and get that arm started into the recovery.

OK, this is the way you want to do the stroke. Use a medium depth catch. If you want to deep catch just make sure it doesn’t get deeper and deeper. Some of the videos I have seen recently, it seems to show a catch that is too deep. I will show a video later that I think will just show you just about where that should be. I don’t like to think you are pulling at any time. You are anchoring an arm and everything you get out of the stroke you are getting out of it from the body rotation. Some of the best things I have ever heard was, I think it was ’84 at the Olympic Training Camp. Skip Kenney came running over to me and said, geez you know, and it was new to him, thinking of it that way. Rick Carey was the World Record holder in the backstroke and was explaining to one of the IM’ers a little tip on backstroke and he just told them to get your hip out of the way of the hand and finish your stroke. So, the highest elevation of that hip at the finish of that backstroke is at the hand, as the hand finishes the stroke and starts to exit, that should be the highest spot. Well this is.

I think rotation is important to teach everybody and I always try to teach the age groupers when I work with them is that you have got to feel like a broom handle, I used to say broom handle is screwed down through the top of the head and it is screwed down through the top of the head to the base of the spine so that your body is skewered and everything you do is in a forward line. You are going to motion this way, you are going to rotate to the other side, but you are sitting on that skewer and I don’t want you to chip any wood off that broom handle. I don’t want anybody to get slivers any place in their body or their head because you are not staying on a straight line so some of those things they kind of, I used to add some stuff about bleeding and all that sort of thing, but they have a tendency to begin to remember it when you draw a couple of pictures for them, but it is so important that they stay on that direct straight line. That is why this business of moving the head is a little bit detrimental to continue to move on a straight line, to get the most distance out of every stroke. OK?

This is what they did to backstroke, they literally changed it on me. I almost towards the end of my swimming career did the dolphin under water kick, both starts and turns. In ’88 when Berkoff and Suzuki, the Japanese kid that won it, and most everybody else did scissors, that’s swimming under water. Remember that was ’88. They are swimming under water almost 50 meters, popping up and then they all disappear again. If you watch them from the deck you didn’t know where anybody was. If you were up on top you had a chance to see what was going on, but my gosh what happened. You know, I could have beaten them. I could have beaten them by 15 years and I didn’t know it. You know, it is so strange because you cannot listen to everybody around you. I had one young man who used to butterfly kick off the starts and beat everybody around, but he would surface pretty quick and get going and we thought about it, you know, geez, that staying under water is way faster. And then I had a young lady where we started timing 25’s and she was diving and butterflying, a butterfly kick. Her backstroke was faster than she was swimming it.

We are changing. We kept talking about that and said, well the coaches would discuss it with each other. Well you can’t stay under water that long you know. You can’t hold your breath when you are swimming. If you had a kid swimming a 100-meter freestyle and you told them to hold their breath for five or six strokes even while they are swimming, they would pay a tremendous price at the end. So I didn’t get to cash in. Some other people got to cash in on that, but it changed the stroke completely because here you had to have a great butterfly kick, especially short course swimming. Here is the situation. If you swim a 100 meter backstroke, under the present rules, if you go 15 meters under water on the start, 15 meters on the turn, which literally everybody does that is at the top you are swimming 30% butterfly kick – 70% backstroke. Now take it to short course for your 100 yards. You go 15 yards off the start, 15 off the turn, 15 off the turn and 15 off the turn. That means that 60 meters of that race or 60% of that race, yards or meters, whatever it is, isn’t in backstroke kick. You use butterfly kick so the records just tumbled. You have to be able to develop that kick. The backstroke is 40%, less than half of it is in backstroke compared to long course backstroke. OK?

I also feel that you just have to work on streamlining and the torpedo position and kicking. Now, most everybody has a lot of kicking drills. I don’t know if you have a lot of streamlining, torpedo drills. I think you have to do some stuff on dry land to teach that and I read something just before I got here and I now realize why it works so well because I didn’t know when I did it why it was going to work so well. I did it to relieve myself of some of the coaching that I was doing, but you have to teach the kids what it feels like to streamline, the torpedo position. They have to understand that and then you have to be a fantastic teacher. You can’t turn your back on it. You have to be so persistent that you are going to force, literally force them to do it right because they don’t want to face you and have to get out of the water and have to be embarrassed about going back through these fundamental drills and the drill I use. I wish I had it up here to show you on tape, but I don’t. I had it but when I asked the guy who transferred it for me, who did all this work I didn’t catch that he forgot to put that in. I didn’t catch that. Maybe at the end of this talk, because you can’t do it here. To do the drill you have to lay on the ground or on the floor. At the end of this talk for anybody that hasn’t seen that drill, I want you to come up here and just stand up and I will do it with a couple of you, but not right now because nobody will see it in the back. What I do basically is have the swimmer lay on their back, hand over hand, in streamline position. They squeeze their arms in tight behind the ears. They try to get the streamline torpedo position and then I stand there facing them and put my heels on the outside of their upper arm. And then I work my heels in tighter and tighter until I have removed all the cavities – all the openings between their arms and head and body so there is just one hole there that they are going to drive through. They are not going to carry any baggage with them and then I tell them to hold that position. I then step aside and go under the small of their back and try to put my foot in there and if I can get my foot in there they have to change the whole thing. They are going to have to suck their gut in a little bit, pull their buttocks in a little bit and they have got to close that gap so that the back of the arms, the back of the head and the back of the spine are one line. It is a platform. One line and so once I have taught them how to do it, so they all feel it they know how hard I squeeze it in. They all know that. Then, I have them teach it to each other. And that was the trick I found out because if you see something I guess you only retain something like 20% and if you see or if you hear it is 30%. Seeing and hearing is 50%, but if you teach you remember 95%. That has been true in a lot of the other stuff that we have done over the years.

We practice fast kicking. There are a lot of drills. You have fast kicking off the bottom, driving to the top. I love getting those shooters, those little fins. Doing shooters and timed long course kicks. We would time kids in 50 meter kicks and because I saw Berkoff do 25 second repeats in a 50 meter pool using underwater butterfly kick with that home-made, homemade great big huge monofin he had. Using a shooter monofin, I had at least two kids that would go 25’s for a 50-meter kick and I think in order to learn that thing you have to work the kick. Also, we did a lot of kicking cross-pool. I had a 35 foot diving well and we would do a lot of timed cross pool kicks and every day my backstrokers would cross the pool for at least 15 to 20 minutes of timed kicking, speed kicking on extremely short rest. We did this every day with the backstrokers. They would all get a time and I would have managers over there timing them. You have to find a way to make that work. You have got to find a way to have that kick do the job for you.

The 3 R’s: Well the rhythm – moving past the anchored arm evenly and with constant motion. You have got to get to the point where you can see that. You don’t always want to look at things the same way. I will show you how I tried to illustrate that in the videos, but I couldn’t do it in videos. It just doesn’t look the same. But Howard Firby, the great Canadian coach and a great technician would go down and look at the swimmers under his arm pit. He would be looking at the swimmer upside down and the first time I did that you know? I thought well boy he is crazy. The first time I did that all of a sudden I saw stuff that I never, never saw before. I could see the water how it was being carried off, how smoothly the recovery was and whether it was carrying water and that kind of thing.

So this business of constant propulsion, you can really look at it that way sometimes and you get an idea of what I am talking about. I think I already mentioned rotating the trunk to the hips to the highest point on the hand exit and I think the six beat kick really contributes to the rhythm. You know I used to teach age groupers especially and then my high school kids, they were like age groupers, they never swam before high school. I used to teach them a six beat kick by having them count it: left foot one, right two, left three, right four, left five, right six. I would then do a number of drills where you would squeeze the right hand on three, squeeze the left hand on six, lift the right hand on three, the left hand on six, stroke the right hand on three, left hand on six. You do this to get the balance of that stroke. Most people will have this once you get into all these other drills. You want the longest line possible and the longest line possible is the left foot up on three and the right hand in on six. That was my count, but the left foot would be up and the right hand entering and the same thing when you get to the six count the left hand would be entering and the right foot would be up and you can do those kind of drills with the age groupers and things. Try to establish that rhythm. I always make a bunch of notes back and forth here. I have little things that I wanted to include and I never know where I put them. I covered it.

The relaxation: the arm recovery and breathing pattern are major components while in the backstroke. That is what made it so good for me starting swimming. Actually, I never got so I put my face in the water until my sophomore year of college until I could swim a freestyle event and an individual medley. It took me a long time, so having the head out of the water allows you to breathe into one arm and exhale on the other. Whatever pattern you want to hit, but usually breathe in on one and exhaling on the other seems to be a good pattern. At times I used to do it a little differently on that, but the other point in this is the ballistics of the recovery.

The relaxation. The relaxation thumb first hip up high, thumb first is relaxing it comes up without an effort and then at the top of the stroke when it moves to the entry and the drop in. You don’t place it. you don’t suddenly just place that arm in. Great backstrokers just let it go in. It falls in. It is a ballistic type of thing and so there is a tremendous amount of relaxation in the stroke by doing it that way.

OK, the hips lead in trunk rotation. I saw something that Lea Maurer wrote one time. I think it was on the web page for USA Swimming. A tip type of thing that I was looking at one time and she said she focuses during the arm stroke on her hips getting up for the finish of the stroke and the exit. I think you have to focus on the hips to get out of the way of the hand exit to start the arm recovery. Another thing about this if you do this is the torque action. The actual torque action of this pop right here allows the hand not only to pop out, but it unloads the body you are carrying on the hips. The torque action kind of frees that stroke up.

I am very careful not to say “the deep catch” so that you have on the last item there it is stroking level of depth. I am sure I will go back to saying make a deep catch to some of these kids again, but I just want to emphasize that we are looking a little beyond it.

Key Points: Align the body as if there was a steel rod at the center of the head down to the spine. This must be a straight line. Repetition is the mother of invention. I am sorry, but you have got to repeat some things so I am just trying to lay out the key points here.

Hip and trunks rotate around the skewer. Rotate from one side to the other side around the steel rod, but always in that straight line. The head is stable in a neutral position in the water. You know, I think it is important that the head be back far enough to get on the bow wave. I always liked the backstroke because it feels like you are riding a wave backwards and most people breathe. I think an awful lot of swimmers cannot look straight up because they will arch the back and get off that bow wave. Some people are not built to look straight up. I think the stroke has to be swum a little bit concave, Like a canoe laying in the bottom of a canoe. You have to have a little bit of this type of feeling like in the bottom of a canoe you are being forced to kind of come up a little bit in that direction. So, if you sit too much you are down beneath the bow wave and you push away more water and you are outside of it. When you look at the swimmers, look and see and if you can’t see it looking this way. Remember bend over and look under your arm pit.
OK, stroking arm bends when approaching mid-point or shoulder line. I talked about that.; One of our girls, I told you, it made a major change in her technique, just that one little thing. The maximum arm bend as the body is pushed past the anchor and the stroking arm. So, it is right in the middle here someplace and just past the middle where you have really got a chance to drive it back. Chest out of the water hips high in the water. The arm stroke is near a straight line and minimize the sweeps. You will get a chance to look at some of that under water on these people.

Drills: OK, here are some drills. The first thing that you have to do is teach the drills using persistence and consistency. But they have got to understand what they are supposed to be doing and they can teach it to each other. Again you help yourself again once they learn them enough to teach other people.

The first one is just a simple one. Kick with the arms at your side, body and head in position. That is just a little bit basic all the way.

The next thing is, just to give you a sample of what is done with a rotation. Get the shoulder up and still keep the head and eye position stabilized on one line in this position here with the hands at their side.

The next one is the same thing, but with a half vertical recovery. We will show some of these, but I seldom use this; these are bad. I could no more give all the drills for backstroke, some things you can work in besides these, but I would try to give you a number of them.

This one here is a full recovery of one arm stroke with the other arm remaining at the side and still until the stroking arm finishes, then alternate the other arm. I call this touchdown, touch down to one side stroke then touch down to the other side. I think it is a critical drill. I think it is a “must do” drill. It teaches the body rotation and the feeling of the arm driving by the the body and driving by the arm in a rotated position. You are only focusing on that stroking arm and you are patient and wait and then you get the feeling of taking the stroke on the other side.

I love this drill. I think it is an important drill. Arms extended and kicking under and on top flutter and dolphin. Most of it now I think probably would be done dolphin, but I think you get great body position kicking short distances under water like that cross pool thing we had 35 feet it works great. If you are going to use fins of some kind or monofins then of course, work a 25-yard course. You know if you do these things you have to get on top of the arms. They must be extended for this and make sure that it is truly a torpedo position. When I got that I would stand on the starting blocks at the end of the pool. Sure, you get wet they make flip turns, but I would stand there and look like this. Every kid knew what I was looking for and if they didn’t have a perfect torpedo position I yanked them and either I would force them into that drill right here on the deck or I would have somebody else on the team an assistant coach somebody force them into that and then get them back in the water.

I tell you that when I pulled kids out for a video and shoot them, I can’t even get them up there anymore so, but you know what I am talking about. When you get them out there and you have them stand up and you videotape them, have them turn to their side, their backs and spine and back of the head and arm are in a straight line. I almost can’t believe it, and I know that it is because of the drills that we were doing. Just looking at them. You have to take my word for it because I am just telling you that’s the truth. Another thing, I would have a check-up. During the workout I would have a checkup on the streamline. If they were standing there waiting for a thing I would say “torpedo”. Everybody would fold up and get in line and then turn to the side and we would look at their body line. This is critical here, one arm extended, one arm at the side. The extended hand with little finger turned down a little bit in this position here. I believe you have to do it like this rather than the back of the hand because you are setting up not having the elbow in. You really should be in a position. I push very hard to get so they are working with the palm of their hand.

Double arm stroking, I hardly ever use it. This is where both arms stroke at the same time. I have used it. It is a great one for getting a vertical arm recovery, but there are better ones.

Touch and go is a better one. That is where you come up touch, stroke up, touch, stroke. I love doing that with Hans paddles and also the gripper which is the green paddle. The gripper is a great one for that, but I love doing that particular one with that and that is a critical drill.

Corkscrew swims, yeah. I think that that is important too because that is where you swim maybe 5 strokes crawl stroke five strokes backstroke and so that they know what they are looking for. Every time they make that fifth stroke and switch they should feel their body shooting by the arm. They get the feel of what it really feels like to keep a hold of the water through the stroke.

Spin-out is one that I use occasionally. Especially if a kid is entering behind the head, on the side here. Lift the head out of the water and pretend you are in a miniature bathtub and fire up and go. You are just sitting up like so.

Hands, paddles and fins, all are critical. Use them all the time for backstroke.

Near swims, yeah I love having a full length mirror in front of the backstroke lane because they can really correct a lot of things right there.

Maximizing stroke and optimizing strokes. I am a little bit afraid that I am going to run out of time so I am going to be careful how much time I spend on this. Maximizing strokes is just trying to find out how efficient you get with the number of strokes per length. If you were just talking to Marty, one thing he used to use is a rope that was stretched just under the surface of the water. They would count the strokes using the rope because they would be able to drive themselves past the rope and then I would have them flip turn and swim back and count the strokes. They would try to do just as well and then not increase the number of strokes. The next time go down the other side of the rope. That sort of thing, but maximizing the number of strokes, but optimizing is the most important thing. In other words what is the most efficient number and here you have to do a little bit more work. At first you get a minimum number and the minimum number drill is, most of you have probably done this sort of thing. You do 50’s where you time them and count strokes. Then you do three tests and the best of the three is your objective or the middle one. In other words, if it takes you 30 seconds and it takes you 30 strokes your score is 60 and you keep repeating those like if you are 60. If you do 60 every time or excuse me. If you do a test and you get 60 and the next time you get 62 and the next one 58, shoot for 58. It doesn’t mean you have to have the same time every time. You have to have the same number. Is that clear? Kind of clear? Well OK?

All right, you do that first of all to find out what seems to be the most efficient swimming number and then you start to optimize it. In other words you have got to bring it down to the time that you want to swim or you are swimming. You start doing every time repeat 50’s or 25’s or whatever the distance might be, say 50’s would be the normal thing with me. I time and I count the strokes and I want that time to get down, to be down at race pace. Eventually and not the first few weeks though, but eventually down to race pace so you are going to be working to accomplish that.

Probably in backstroke, maybe even more than in other stroke, you have to have a stroke rate watch. Stroke rate watch, with my first, the Olympic Champion, the gal that was an Olympic Champion, we didn’t have stroke rate watches. I used to time her for six strokes. I would time her so that it only meant something to us and we tried to get her optimum number of strokes of optimum time for six strokes. But all of the really great backstrokers were swimming at a tremendous turnover rate and you have to build up and try to accomplish that and some of the ways to do that I will get to.

I am going to kind of move along because I want to discuss how to develop stroke rate, fast race pace and beyond stroking interspersed within drills and that is one of the things that I think is so important. For example, when you are kicking in backstroke I want my swimmers to swim the walls. I want them to speed swim into the walls and speed swim when they breakout off the walls. I will mention one other thing right now too, because I don’t know if I will ever get a chance to say it again and I think it still holds true. I don’t like my swimmers to break out on the first arm stroke. I see that most people will end up doing that. The breakout is the only place in backstroke that when they start the first strokes that I don’t want them to finish the first stroke before they start their second. I want the second stroke coming in a little sooner than that so they actually pop out and break out on the second arm stroke. I think that is where they really get a lot of speed and I know when we worked it out I watched and watched and watched and it seems like we won every breakout. It seemed like we won every breakout.

That is one thing and if you were going in a 50-meter pool I think you should do about five fast strokes. If you are kicking about, break it up and go five really fast strokes right in the middle of the pool and then go back to straight kicking again. I think that is real important in trying to build this fast stroke rate. It is also important that once you do that you build up your speed again in the kick and it is a better, more efficient kick anyway.

Here is another example of things that you could do for speed work: Two fast pulls, six fast kicks then drill the touchdown. Remember? At six strokes a touchdown so that gives you a little bit of a break and gives you something to think about in technique. Three fast kicks, eight fast, excuse me, three fast pulls, eight fast kicks, six touch and go’s. Touch and go. Then do four fast pulls, ten fast kicks, six spin off. So, in other words you can combine these things anyway you want. You can do those on interval. You can do that if you just keep repeating the same thing. I think that you have to take the time to work on specificity.

When you are preparing for a championship meet I think that you have to get the kids to definitely get, if you are doing 100 yard backstroke you had better get them so they are used to going out exactly at the speed that you want them to go out in and most often. If you are training hard yet, you are not going to be able to go on a straight 50 very often unless you really rest them. If you go 25/25 and you start out with a 10 second rest and you see you can’t do it on a 10 second rest, give them 15 and if you can’t do it on 15, give them 20. If they can’t do it on 20 give them 30, but get to the point where they go out fast enough and then shrink the interval time. In the back half I think you can do that the same way, 25/25, but most of the time you can do those in 50’s and maintaining that speed. The same thing on 200’s – break it all kinds of different ways, but you should be able to tell exactly what that kid can do before you go to the state meet. You can pretty well predict exactly what is going to happen.

OK? Here are some of these drills. We will just let them run because there are some things that I want to cover in addition to that. This is just streamline kick under water. This cross pool stuff. This just the arms at the side and the shoulder roll. This kid has his head back too far, I believe. Oh, this is that touchdown drill. He probably is sitting a little too much for his head position. I think this is just showing stroke to wall, fast strong strokes. That is a tremendous streamline on her. Oh, this is the one arm extended.

While this is going on I can cover a little more ground. I think you have to look at the swimmers from a lot of different angles. Actually, I will cover a lot of this in my talk this afternoon. But for backstroke I look at them at deck level, but I used to have a 12 foot ladder in the pool. This is from all the years of my high school coaching. Of course I was young enough then to get up there and climb on and sit on it, but I used to sit on that and then I would move it to different sections. Kids always thought look at that but you can really see backstroke. You can see so much more looking down and of course their eyes are open they are looking right at you so they know that they are being watched.

There is something coming up here that I would like you to see though. Actually he has the gripper on for the touch and go. That is a touch and go drill. She has a black hand paddle on. That is what she has. I don’t think that you should just keep doing drills without combining them with some kind of speed work. I mean I think it is real important that once you have really learned the drills you should combine it with other stuff. So it is just not buoyant so if they settle into, oh well, here comes a drill and I can just do it. I don’t have to work very hard and it is pretty easy and light. Look at her shoulders. Nice they clear the water nice. Good stuff. Oh yeah, this is combining fast swimming with a drill. That is all it is. So many touch and go strokes and then fast swimming.

Well, this was, if this had been my pool in the old days when I was coaching you would see the mirror. That is why I reached back and took one of the videos that is coming up to show the use of the mirror. Well, this is it. You can see what that is now, corkscrew. Well those entries aren’t real pretty right there. This girl swam in the Olympic Trials in the butterfly. She was becoming a very good backstroker though. Alright. Here it is. Three strokes then switch, three strokes then switch. I like doing this with hand paddles. I like to do this with the paddles because I think they really get a good feel of moving by the body and moving by the arm with the body.

This is supposed to be spinout. Hopefully we are just about out of this. This was a lot longer than I thought. It is pretty hard to crossover behind you with a spinout type of drill. I wish I could pop this along. This guy here, not here, here we go. I wanted to move ahead on a couple of things because we are running out of time. Take a look at the line of pull on Krazelburg and the depth of pull. It is a lot more of a direct line than it is a sweep and it is not a deep, deep catch. This is Peirsol. These are from the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. You see where that arm bend is being delivered. There is a major arm bend in mid-pull. Again, the line of pull is pretty direct.

This is what I wanted you to see before we wrapped it up. This is Egerszegi. I saw her first in Seoul in 1988. She was 14 years old and of course 1, she was 50 pounds less, lighter than anybody else in the finals. This is in one of the preliminary heats in ’96 at Atlanta, but she sits on that bow wave really, really well. She has her chin sloped a little bit toward the neck and she really gets free on the arm recovery, but her rhythm and her stroke I think is fabulous. I think we will see some underwater footage here in a second – watch – even back then. You really see the hip at the high point of the stroke, as the hand exits.

Well, I hope you got some points out of this thing that you can take home with you. I apologize a little bit I wasn’t quite able to sneak in everything I wanted to sneak in, but if I knew how to work the equipment I would have jumped ahead on a couple of things, but thanks.

Selected PowerPoint Slides from Coach Hannula’s Presentation:

What was and probably ain’t no longer!

Bent arm recovery
Lateral arm recovery; flat body; 10 to 10:30 entry
Turns – all with wall hand touch: back twist of head under holding arm; back spin; back “flip” to back push; back touch and forward roll;
Little finger hand exit
Straight arm pull
Head rotation
Sit and full head tilt to neck
Deep entry

What is, at least for the moment!!

Steady head position
Head back, eyes vertical (90 degrees) or slight chin tilt
Rifle barrel recovery
Bent arm pull
Little finger entry
Thumb 1st hand exit
Medium depth catch and “anchor”
Body/trunk rotates past the anchored arm
Alignment and skewered
The dolphin underwater kick – starts/turns.

The 3 R’s
Rhythm – The body moving past the anchored arm evenly and with constant propulsion. Rotating the trunk to the highest point with the hips to clear the hand exit and recovery is vital to all 3 R’s. The six beat kick contributes to rhythm.
Relaxation – The arm recovery and breathing pattern are major components.
Rotation – The hips lead in trunk rotation. The focus is on the hips as the hips rotate to get out of the way of the hand exit to start the arm recovery.
Correct timing allows the torque action in rotation to unload the hips and reduces drag. This results in good shoulder rotation and a stroking level depth for the catch on hand entry.

Key Points
1.  Aligned body. Steel rod through the center of the head down through the spine. Must be a straight line.
2.  Hips/trunk rotate around that skewer (steel rod) from one side to the other.
3.  Head stable and neutral position in the water.
4.  Stroking arm bends as it approaches mid point or shoulder line.
5.  Maximum arm bend as the body is pushed past the anchored and stroking arm.
6.  Chest out of water and hips high in water.
7.  Arm stroke is near a straight line (hand minimizes sweeps).

1. Kick arms at side. Body/head position.
2. Same as #1 but rotation every 12 kicks (or less of a number).
3. Same as #2 but a vertical ½ recovery on each side.
4. Same as #3 but a full recovery and a one arm stroke with the other arm remaining at the side until stroking arm finishes. Then alternate the other arm. (A touch down to the side of the leg drill)
5. Arms extended kicking, under and on top. Flutter and dolphin.
6. One arm extended, one at side. Extended hand with little finger turned under so the palm is mainly facing downward. 12/12, etc. Aligned!
7. Double arm stroking.
8. Touch and go.
9. Corkscrew swims.
10. Spin Out
11. Han’s Paddles and fins
12. Mirror swims
13. Maximizing strokes. Optimizing strokes.
14. Developing stroke rate. Fast race pace and beyond stroking interspersed within drills.

Focus first on reducing resistance forces, this requires less energy expenditure than increasing propulsion. When stroke efficiency is in place then increasing propulsive force will be effective. Stroke rate is a major factor in determining maximum speed in backstroke.

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