What is Backswing and Why Does It Matter?

Knowing how your ropes really work can elevate your game.

Jamie Arviso Photo

What is Backswing?

Upchurch: When the loop is in front of you, say at the 1:30 or 1:00 mark of your rotation, the pinky side of the rope has to go over the index side. Backswing is when the pinky side of the loop wants to almost come under your index finger. It’s harder to get it broke over in the front of your swing. Heelers like it because, when they deliver their loop, the pinky side really wants to get into the ground, so they just worry about the top strand getting to the right hock and they don’t have to worry about stopping their rope. Backswing allows the rope to get it into the ground. 

Is Backswing Just for Heelers?

Upchurch: Some headers like having backswing in their rope when they’re reaching because they know they’ll catch the right horn when they have to drop a few coils. The pinky side will cover the right horn and not float over it.

Lay Up: Understanding Which Lay of Rope Works Best for You

Does Weather Affect Backswing?

Upchurch: In the heat, Fast Back ropes want to swing more. And in the cold, they want to backswing more. In the summer, we put less load in our rope and, in the winter, we put more load, because the cold wants to put more backswing in it. 

Professional Take:

De la Cruz prefers some backswing in his heel loops to help him deliver the bottom strand into the ground and catch the right hock with the top strand. TRJ File Photo/Jamie Arviso

de la Cruz: Some of the best guys—Junior Nogueira, Brady Minor and Travis Graves—they like a lot of backswing. But for me, I like it with just a little bit of backswing. I lose legs if the rope starts to kick (the opposite of backswing) too much because my loop isn’t closing for me. At the ropings and rodeos, if I have a rope that has just a little bit of backswing, that’s what I pick to use. After about three or four runs, if I feel the rope start to kick, I go to the trailer to get a newer rope. 

The average roper doesn’t know any of that stuff. Understanding backswing in team ropes is like understanding soft or stiff shafts in golf clubs. So many ropers don’t get into backswing, just like so many golfers don’t get into shafts. Beginners don’t need to be messing with a hard medium, they need a medium or medium soft to learn how to swing it. People rarely understand it, but the more they do, they’ll learn to feel the rope more rather than just swinging as hard as they can and whipping it to the feet. 

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