COACHING THE BREASTSTROKE

Breaststroke is all about timing.  When teaching the breaststroke to beginners all you need to do is make sure the stroke is legal.  Do not get too bogged down with the fact that you want a narrow kick.  As long as the legs are simultaneous and symmetrical.  In other word they mirror image one another.  It usually becomes very obvious when you come across a “Natural” breaststroker.

Body Position –   streamlined and horizontal.  During the streamline the head is balanced between the arms, eyes down looking at the floor, arms held in front of shoulders with elbows locked, hands together with thumbs ’ side  slightly down.  Do not put one hand on top of the other during the stroke cycle as the rule is the arms must be simultaneous and symmetrical.  Again, they mirror image each other.

Drills to work the glide in front.

1 pull plus 2 leg kicks holding the streamline position until the 2nd leg kick has finished.  Can do same drill with multiple repeats of the leg kick but they cannot start their pull until the last kick has finished.  Also, builds lung capacity.

LEG KICK

From the streamlined position the heels are brought up towards the buttocks with the knees close together.  From here the toes are turned out towards the lane ropes and the feet are pushed backwards and together using the instep and lower inside leg accelerating until both ankles come together.  Some swimmers have great ankle flexibility and can get both soles of their feet together at the end of the kick for extra streamlining.  If you view the kick as the swimmer swims away from you it looks like the letter “W” showing the feet are wider than the knees.

Drills to work the leg kick

  • Kicking on the back with the hands by the thighs. Swimmer tries to touch their finger tips every time the heels recover.  Keep the knees under the water.
  • As number 1 but with the arms extended in a streamline behind the shoulders.
  • Kicking on front with arms by thighs. Breathe; kick the head forwards and into the water.  Try to make the fingers touch the fingertips.
  • As 3 but with arms held in front of shoulders in streamline position. Breathe, kick, and glide.
  • Kick with a Finnis yellow band above the knees to help keep the knees closer together. Or an old stocking tide above the knees.  It must not restrict the swimmers ability to open their knees as this can cause knee problems sometimes.  Can use a pull buoy with other, stronger swimmers only.

ARM PULL

It is important with the breaststroke pull to keep the head down in line with the body during the sweep out.  The head weighs 4-5 kilos.  If it is lifted up during the out sweep apart from causing huge frontal drag, it will, also, make the hips drop.  Only as the hands sweep in can the swimmer initiate the breath.  “Breathe in as you sweep in”.  Eyeball the palm of your hand as you sweep in.  The hands stay close to the surface as the move forwards into the recovery.   I find it best to have the palms facing each other during the recovery ending in the streamlined position ready for the next stroke.  Gradual sweep out into the out sweep, accelerate round the elbows and lunge into the recovery.  “Slow, Fast, Faster”.

Drills for the arm pull

  • Pull with pully and paddles feet can balance the stroke with a small dolphins kick. Make sure the head is always moving forwards.
  • Breast pull with dolphins kick. You can use fins if necessary.
  • Sculling arms held wider than shoulders in front, head up, small free kick for balance.  Wrist higher than fingers.  Fingers point to floor. Sweep out and in ”windscreen wipers”
  • Closed fist swimming, or hold tennis balls in each hand to help with the feel.
  • To help encourage a fast pull use fins, breast pull with head up, free kick over short distances 15m -25m as fast as possible with lots of rest.

TIMING

Timing is everything in Breaststroke. From the streamlined, horizontal position the hands sweep out wider than the shoulders.  Pinkie finger slighter higher than thumb. At this point the swimmer is in the “Y” position.  The hands turn out, down and round as the head begins to lift.  The press down helps the shoulders lift which aids the breath in as the face clears the water.  As the hands sweep round the heels begin to recover towards the buttocks.  The hands lunge forwards as the legs drive backwards, round   and together. The whole body is back to a streamlined position.  “Glide Breathe, kick, and glide.

Drills to help with timing.

  • Slowly perform the stroke but finish the pull, the do a kick with the arms still into the glide position. Making the emphasis on pull, stop, kick, stop.  Then gradually fasten up the process.
  • The 1 pull with 2 kicks can help with the timing too. Just remember that they must finish the kick before they commence the pull.
  • Perform a single arm pull with the opposite arm straight, kick, and glide. Repeat using the other arm and then both arms together, normal breaststroke.

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