The breaststroke is often considered the most relaxing of the competitive medley strokes, but that’s only really true if you can master the timing.
Here are some tips to help you learn to breaststroke and improve your swimming.
Introduction to breaststroke
The most fundamental aspect of breaststroke is understanding and learning the timing of its basic elements.
If you remember one key mantra – pull, breathe, punch, slide – then you’ll start off on the right foot.
The breaststroke is unique in that it is the only one of the four competitive strokes where the recovery (i.e. the non-propulsive configuration portion of the stroke) takes place underwater.
As a result, it creates more drag than any of the other shots and is the slowest of them – and possibly the most unforgiving in terms of technique.
That’s why it’s so important to learn how to swim the breaststroke and understand how to perform the stroke with proper form.
How to breaststroke
Learning to perfect the breaststroke is much easier once you understand the fundamentals of swimming.
Here is a breakdown of the different parts that make up the breaststroke.
Gliding technique for the breaststroke
The glide is the start and end position of the stroke cycle and is the basis of the breaststroke stroke: your body is in a straight line with your legs and arms straight, your face is in the water and your body is lying down .
Breaststroke pulling technique
The breaststroke arm pull has four parts: glide, outside sweep, inside sweep, recovery.
- Slip: Start with your arms fully extended in front of your body, palms pointing down and fingertips pointing forward (the sides of your thumbs should touch). hands clasped in front of your chest in a prayer position with fingertips pointing forward away from your body. Next, push your arms forward and fully extend your arms straight out in front of your body.
- Scan: Turn your palms slightly outward (so your thumbs are pointing slightly downward) and, keeping your arms straight, sweep your arms out to your sides until they form a “Y” shape with your body.
- Scan: Bend your elbows and move your forearms down and back as you bring your hands together in front of your chest in a prayer position. This is the most important phase of the breaststroke pull, as it serves as the power that pulls your body forward. This is also the phase where you take your head out of the water to breathe.
- Recovery: Extend your arms forward just below the surface to enter the glide phase and start the cycle again.
Breaststroke Kicking Technique
Unlike freestyle and backstroke, breaststroke does not use a floating kick. Instead, it mimics a frog kick:
- Start with your legs straight and together.
- Bend your knees to point to the sides while keeping your feet together. Your feet should come towards your chest.
- Keeping your knees where they are, spread your feet apart to extend your legs in a diagonal, “V” shape, then quickly squeeze your legs together to return to the starting position. This step should be fast and smooth.
“The timing of your kick should be quite natural,” says USA Masters swimming coach Chris Georges. “Your kick should begin as your head and shoulders rise to breathe, and it should end with your knees powerfully extending and your feet slamming as your arms pull forward to finish extended into position. gliding with your face in the water.”
Another way the breaststroke kick is different from other kicks is that there are moments of stillness, instead of constant movement.
“When you slide, your hands touch, your feet touch and you don’t do anything else,” says coach Georges. “Always slipping with every shot.”
Breaststroke turns are much easier than freestyle and backstroke turns, mainly because they don’t involve making a turn underwater.
- As you approach the wall, try to time it so that your arms are fully extended. In competition, both hands must touch the wall at the same time and be at the same height.
- Swing your body and legs under you, bringing your feet back against the wall, and turn your body to the side, so that you face the way you just swam.
- Let go of the wall and use your feet to push into an aerodynamic position: arms fully extended, clasping your ears with your biceps, core tight, legs straight, and ankles together.
- Perform a full arm stroke and a leg stroke underwater before surfacing and making your first kick.
Common mistakes in breaststroke
A common mistake made by breaststroke beginners is pulling the arms back too much.
“This translates to greater resistance, as the further the arms are pulled back, the further distance they have to travel underwater to return to the gliding position, creating more drag,” says Georges.
When you sweep your arms to the side, you should stop when your arms form a “Y” shape as they reach out to the sides.
Next, bend your arms to bring your hands back to the center of your chest. “No part of the arms or hands should ever go past your shoulders,” Georges says.
A good exercise to correct this common mistake involves a simple foam noodle.
“Lie on the noodle so that it goes over your upper chest and under both armpits, then swim your breaststroke,” says Georges. “The noodle will stop you from pulling your arms back too much and keep them in front of you, where they belong.”
And although swimming has a relatively low risk of injury compared to most sports, you get too many elements of swimming technique wrong and, over time, you may run the risk of swimmer’s shoulder.
Incorporating breaststroke into your swim workouts is a great way to add variety to your swim routine and improve your feel for the water, which can, in turn, help improve your freestyle.
Swimming is one of the best ways to improve your aerobic endurance while being very low impact, unlike running or cycling.