Swimming on the Back is a pleasant and useful branch of the art; the chief requisite for its acquirement is confidence.
The tyro should begin practice in water reaching up to about the upper part of the chest, turn his back shoreward, take a long breath, and lie gently backward in the water, keeping the hands on the waist with the elbows extended outward, the chest being expanded, and the breath held. As one lies well back the feet will be lifted off the ground; they should then be spread outward as far apart as possible in the same positions as when they are opened up in breast swimming. The body and legs are thus lying extended at full length like the letter Y, the legs forming the branches or fork.
Now comes the propelling part o the movement. As in the front stroke, the muscles are set, the legs are by one strong motion brought firmly and closely together. While this is being done the toes, by a slight movement of the ankle, are turned upward, and so, as the movement is finished, the great toes, inner ankles, and inside of the whole leg meet. This motion, strongly but not jerkily executed, sends the body forward, and when the impetus obtained is nearly -- not quite -- expended, the legs are bent, so that the feet are drawn close up to trunk, with the knees outward and heels together.
The stroke is renewed by spreading apart, closing again, and so on.
The breath is exhaled when spreading and closing the legs, and inhaled as the feet are drawn up to the body.
If greater speed is wanted, the hands can be used as sculls by carrying them outward from the body, but at the same time level with it, palms facing downward. When the arms are sufficiently extended to be in a line across from hand to hand, the wrists are turned to allow o the palms of the hands facing toward the feet, thumbs upwards. Elbows, wrists, and hands are now firmly braced, and a strong pull towards the legs is made. This is the progressive motion, and should be performed just as the legs are being closed.
Another style is to bend the elbows downward, so as to allow of the hands being carried upward along the sides of the body, thumbs inward, and palms facing the bottom of the water. When the hands have been carried up to the armpits they are spread apart to the full extent of the arms, and the propelling part is performed as in the other method by pulling strongly toward the legs.