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Fast backstroke is built on a foundation of good bodyline and a steady head. To find out if you’ve got the necessary foundation, there’s no better reality check than swimming backstroke with a bottle on your head. The bodyline needs to be clean and straight. Hip and shoulder rotation need to be rhythmic and precise. And the head needs to be rock steady. Everything rotates around a stable head position.

Start with a water bottle that has a flat bottom. Fill it about one-third with water -- enough to make it bottom heavy, but not so much that it’ll tip over. Place the bottle just above your goggles and start swimming backstroke with a slow but steady arm rhythm and a steady, consistent kick.

There are many fine points to this drill – beyond the obvious one of maintaining a steady head. First: Are you swimming flat…or are you swimming with clean rotation of the hips and shoulders? Second: Are your hands catching the water randomly…or is your catch precise and palm down?

Third: Are you connecting the hip with the hand…to maximize the power of your rotation and the power of your pull?

And fourth: Are you bouncing…or maintaining a steady head in all planes?