The breaststroke, while a favored stroke of your casual lap swimmer for its ease of breath, is not an easy stroke to master for your neighbourhood competitive swimmer. Whether it is trying to master the timing of the breaststroke kick—which can leave even the most accomplished swimmer feeling like a rank amateur—to mastering the pull and kick timing, the breaststroke is deceptively hard to come to grips with.
Here are a few tips for improving your breaststroke so that you can walk out onto the pool deck with confidence and ease, regardless of whether you are a tadpole or experienced competitive swimmer.
Keep your head in line with your body. Whether you are breathing, or in your streamline executing your kick, your spine-line should be straight. This means not looking down when at the top of your stroke, or picking your head up when you should be streamlined and pushing through your kick.
Keep your body vertical. Breaststroke, for the casual observer, looks like an up-and-down affair. That’s not the case when you watch elite breaststrokers in action from the side. They are nearly completely vertical, as close ot the surface of the water as possible. Water, being that delectably more condense than air thing that it is, produces about 800 times more resistance to our bodies compared to the air. Having our bodies in a streamlined, vertical position means we are cutting down on massive amounts of drag in the water, particularly when doing the breaststroke pulling motion.
Relax your shoulders. Swimmers, and breaststrokers are no different, live and breathe by their shoulders. At the top of the pull motion, when your shoulders are at their highest, swimmers tend to tense and crunch their shoulders into the side of their head. Don’t fall for this. Your neck and shoulders should be relaxed, even while you are throwing your arms forward across the surface of the water.
Kick your heels to your butt. One of the very first cues that I received as a young swimmer, and that I still remember to this day, is to bring my heels to my butt quickly when performing the breaststroke kick portion of the stroke. This helps to insure that you aren’t dragging out the glide phase of the stroke, and helps you initiate the next stroke cycle more quickly.
Your kick is a big source of propulsion. While the importance of the kick in the other three strokes will forever and ever be debated, the kick in the breaststroke is a serious source of drive. Your knees should be around shoulder width when initiating the kick, and your feet turned out slightly (if you have trouble with turning your ankles out start with internal hip rotations). While some swimmers will suffer from breaststroker’s knee, this is usually as a result of poor kick mechanics and limited hip abduction ability.
So there ya have it. A bunch of advice on how to crush it the next time you step out on deck and wanna destroy some laps of breaststroke. Sure, you might not be world record holder Adam Peaty, but with these tips you will be a few steps closer.