First Leg of Walkover Back and Ariana

I think the first leg of walkover back and ariana gives coaches and athletes much grief.  It is one the most requested skills for me to go over when I consultant.  Today’s blog is going to cover the basics of teaching and correcting the beginning of this skill.  I will cover the transition scull in another blog.

Like I have previously written about, you must correct the body first then correct the scull. This skill is no different. A good first leg transition begins with a proper surface arch.

Fina’s description of the surface arch is: Lower back arched, with hips, shoulders and head on a vertical line.

The surface arch is a difficult position for swimmers to get into.  Usually the hips are dry and the shoulders are not on the vertical line with the hips. This is the root cause of all problems the swimmer will encounter.

Watch this video (turn volume down) and then I will discuss how to fix it.


So in the video, as the swimmer lifts her leg she brings her body back instead of pulling her hips forward. Regardless of the accuracy of her surface arch, her shoulders need to be the anchor position. This swimmer does an excellent job with the keeping an arch in her hips as she lifts.  Piking the hips is another common error swimmers have to get the leg over.  Often beginner swimmers look like they are in an underwater ballet leg on the over.

Ultimately in both situations you would keep working on getting a better surface arch position, but I honestly tell you that over the years I have been coaching I have not seen many surface arches that match the FINA description.

If the swimmer pulls the shoulders back to the line, they need to work on a stronger scull with the front hand. Make sure the front hand is slicing out and grabbing water on the in-scull.

  • My favourite drill to build strength is putting 1-2 laps of “split scull” in the warm-up. Have the swimmer go in a surface arch, don’t worry about the hand under the head as it is used just for balance in this drill. The front hand needs to pull them face first across the pool doing the proper scull. To make it harder have them lift and lower the leg just a little bit.
  • Another drill is the swimmer starts in a table top then extends out to surface arch. They need to stay on the spot using their split scull as they extend.

If the swimmer pikes their hips to get over, they need to do more body work. The hips need to stayed “arched” and “extended” to get over.

  • Have swimmers put their back leg or foot on the wall, as they lift the goal is to pull their body back from the hips as far as possible.  This will help them get the feeling of arched hips to get over. Make sure to correct the body and hips because they can still do it wrong on the wall.
  • Another drill is to have the swimmer face away from the wall in surface arch, as they lift the leg you push their bottom foot towards the their hips. It is okay if you push them and they end up moving face first a bit. They need to feel how much their hips need to arch. Besides moving a little forward is intimately better than moving a lot back.
  • Also work on the scull drills from above so they can pull their extended hips to the vertical line.

Another way to work on this transition is on land with a partner, preferably the coach.  Have the swimmers in a headstand, handstand or elbow stand. The need to kick over to get into an arch position. The feet can be on matts that are around hip height or feet flexed on the wall. Then they lift their leg. Be safe and assist the swimmers with this exercise.

I hope you found this helpful.  If you have any comments please share them below or on my Facebook page. Share you drill ideas too.

Yours in Synchro,

Vanessa Keenan



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