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Published on: 23 Mar 2017 by jshaw
When it comes to
swimming, the breaststroke
looks easy. After all, the arm recovery is underwater, unlike the butterfly stroke, you
get to breathe every stroke, and there are recovery periods for both the upper
and lower body limbs during the course of the stroke cycle.
And yet, it’s profoundly
difficult to truly master. The timing is where most beginner and intermediate
swimmers struggle—how to sequence the breaststroke kicking
and pulling motion to limit loss of propulsion is something that comes with
practice and patience in the water.
But once you do start to
get a hang of it, there are fewer feelings that you will enjoy more than the
undulating, free-flowing movement that comes with good breaststroke technique.
Here are some tips for
helping you master the breaststroke.
1. Choose your pulling motion.
There are two different
kinds of breaststroke
pulling motions: a palms-straight down pull, and a Y-pull, where your hands
and arms form a Y at the outset of the pull motion (also called the turn-press
pull). The palms down pull is useful for very short sprints and short course
swimming as it is more taxing. The Y-pull works best for long course swimming and
the longer breaststroke sets and races.
2. Breathe at the right time.
One of the perks of
breaststroke is that you can breathe much more regularly than in freestyle or
even butterfly. When swimming breaststroke wait until just before you are about
to break the surface of the water with your head to exhale. Holding the air in
your lungs for this extra moment will help you maintain buoyancy in the water
and keep a straighter body line, which will reduce drag and keep your hips up.
3. Squeeze your head with your shoulders.
A helpful cue for
breaststrokers is to have them squeeze their head with their shoulders when at
the apex of the breathing/pulling motion. Boost this by imagining yourself
throwing your shoulders and arms forwards into a hole in the water about two
feet in front of you. This will help keep you focused on swimming forwards, and
not simply up and down. (This cue is helpful for butterflyers as well!)
4. Kicking properly.
The breaststroke kick is
an interesting movement, and one that is unnatural, which is why so many
swimmers, regardless of ability, have such a hard time with it. It’s
requirements, lateral ankle
flexibility, internal hip flexibility, and the ability to time it perfectly
all make it challenging to master.
Here are some key points
to remember when learning and improving your kick:
Make sure that your feet
finish together at the end of the kick. Your natural stance is shoulder width,
and your feet and ankle will default to this position. Kick all the way through
and have your feet touch at the end of the kick.
Accelerate your heels to
your backside. Once the kick has been completed, recover the heels to your
backside quickly. The faster your heel recovery, the faster you can pull your
way through the stroke motion. Remember: your stroke is interconnected, what
your arms do affect your leg timing, and vice versa. Snap your heels back
Knees should be around
shoulder-width apart. For maximum power and range of motion your knees should
be around shoulder width apart through the kicking motion. The hips don’t
internally rotate very well, so the added space between your knees will allow
you to kick more water backwards.
The breaststroke is a
tough nut to crack. Follow these tips the next time you hit the pool deck for
one of your swimming
workouts and grind your way to a smoother, faster, and more enjoyable