Breaststroke is one of the least intimidating strokes to learn. Often, many beginning swimmers reflexively say Breaststroke is there favorite stroke for the simple reason it is possible to get from one end of the pool to the other without exerting very much energy.Unfortunately, swimming breaststroke with speed is a quite a bit more challenging – and complicated. Like the other three strokes, swimming breaststroke well requires excellent coordination between your arms and legs. The general goal is to pull back with your arms at the same time you are drawing your feet towards your rear-end. Ideally, a strong breaststroker would then shoot his or her arms forward at the same time they execute the kick.
Here are a few simple breaststroke drills that will help you improve your timing and maximize your speed.
1. Breaststroke Arm Pull
Many novice breaststrokers make the mistake of pulling their elbows too far back on each pull. Your arms and elbows should always stay in front of your body. A good way to practice pulling correctly is to swim breaststroke with a foam noodle under your arm-pits. The foam noodle will prevent you from pulling your elbows back to the sides of your body and allow you to keep your stroke in front of you. This is important because when swimmers pull their elbows too far back, their stroke tends to get “stuck” in a high resistance position, and as a result, they lose their timing and momentum.
2. Breaststroke Kick
Not all swimmers share the flexible knees and ankles possessed by the world’s top breaststrokers. But that shouldn’t discourage you from improving your kick. The key to having an effective breaststroke kick is less about flexibility and more about positioning. Practice lying flat on the ground on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front of your head in a streamline position. Now try to do a breaststroke kick. Notice your knees are forced to stay parallel with the rest of your body because the ground is in the way. This is very important. Many breaststrokers “drop their knees down” on each kick which is natural, but if your knees are forming a 90 degree angle with the rest of your body, they are essentially acting as a wall of resistance on every kick. Try working on keeping your knees parallel with the rest of your body on each kick. A good way to practice this in the water is to float on your back with your hands under your rear end and practice doing breaststroke kicks. On each kick, try to bring your feet back so they touch your hands, and try to keep your knees from breaking the surface of the water. The top picture shown demonstrates the proper angle between your legs and body while performing a breaststroke kick: Source: Go Swim.
3. Breaststroke Timing
The hardest part about swimming breaststroke well is coordinating the timing of your arm pull and your kick. As I mentioned above, the key is draw your feet up towards your rear end (while keeping your legs parallel to your body) at the same time you are pulling back with your arms. Ideally, the breaststroke kick then occurs at the same time you push your arms forward and glide. A good way to practice this timing is to swim regular breaststroke, but alternate doing a fly kick for one pull, and then a breaststroke kick for the next pull, and so forth. Most people naturally get the timing between kicking and pulling down correctly when fly kick is substituted for breaststroke kick because it takes less time to do a butterfly kick. The goal with this drill is to try to swim breaststroke with a regular kick in a fashion that mimics the timing and feel of doing breaststroke with a butterfly kick. Because you are alternating the two styles of kicking, it should be relatively easy to modify your breaststroke kick so the timing feels the same as when you are doing butterfly kick.