Aaron Peirsol is the world-record holder in the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke (long-course meters). He has competed for the United States at three Olympics—2000, 2004, and 2008—winning five gold medals and two silver medals. He is one of the elite swimmers whose technique is examined in Swim Speed Strokes.
One of Aaron’s favorite drills is the “scull and pull,” which is designed to help a swimmer feel for the catch from the extended straight-arm entry. Since backstrokers cannot see their hand/arm during entry and catch, it is useful to repeatedly practice the motion in isolation and develop the proprioceptive ability to know that the hand/arm faces back on the water.
When Aaron feels his hand/arm is positioned facing back on the water, he returns to the extended position so he can repeat the scull motion and practice feeling for the catch again. Once he has felt the catch a second time he pulls through (the “pull” portion of the drill) to the diagonal and finish phases of the stroke and switches arms.