Tips to Perfect Breaststroke Timing

Tips to Perfect Breaststroke Timing

The breaststroke is completely unlike any of the other major competitive strokes. Where the back crawl, front crawl and butterfly are all elongated in body position, breaststroke requires tucking the arms and legs. Breaststroke’s pacing is peculiar with its stop-start rhythm. Finally, breaststroke’s arm and leg movements almost cancel each other out if the timing isn’t right.

This last fact means that learning to perfect breaststroke timing is the key to success. We’re going to show you how to break the breaststroke down to get the timing right. You can work on each part of the stroke separately, then knit it back together into stroke order:

  1. Pull
  2. Breathe
  3. Kick
  4. Streamline

The streamline

Head Streamline Swim

It’s not first in the order of the stroke, but it’s useful to master the streamline before worrying about the rest of the breaststroke. The streamline is a critical part of an efficient stroke, yet it is often short-changed.

Streamlining essentially means moving your body through the water with the least resistance. To do that, you want to make your body pointy at the front with an arrow-like shape following behind. The position is easily practiced while standing on poolside.

  1. Stand up straight with your feet together.
  2. Looking straight ahead, lift your arms up over your head, pointing your fingertips up towards the ceiling.
  3. Try to squeeze your elbows against your head, keeping them straight and your shoulders down.
  4. Bring one hand over the other to make a triangle shape.
  5. Finally, hook your top thumb over your lower hand or interlock your thumbs under the triangle.
  6. If you have good balance, try getting onto your tiptoes.

When you transfer this position to the water for breaststroke, you’ll be looking straight down at the pool floor. This is how your body should be in the interval in between strokes. Elongated to its fullest extent, with limbs squeezed close, head tucked in, hands and toes pointed.

To practice in the pool, try to:

  • Push off the wall using two feet.
  • Get your head down into your streamlined arms as quickly as possible.
  • Squeeze your legs together immediately.
  • Take note of how far your push takes you. Make adjustments to your streamline to try to make it go further.

If this position makes you feel anxious, try this: Put a pool noodle a short distance away from the wall and then push off the wall towards the noodle. Aim your hands for the noodle and grasp it when you reach it. Keep trying with the noodle slightly further each time until you don’t need it.

The kick

breaststroke kick

The kick is the main thrust of the breaststroke, squeezing a pocket of water behind the body to push you forward.

For this kick, the feet and legs start stretched out long behind the body with the toes pointed. The first movement is to tuck the heels towards the backs of the thighs or bum. At the same time, you should try to flex your feet. When you flex in this position, your heels will be drawn together and your toes will point away from each other. At this moment, push your feet away from each other sideways through the water. Finally, close the legs and feet back into the starting position, stretched out long.

Flexing the feet is an active movement. If you keep your feet relaxed, the toes will flop inward. Instead of gathering a pocket of water and jetting it behind, you’ll create an eddy. This eddy effect creates a kind of vacuum that sucks you backwards instead of pushing you forwards.

To get the kick timing right:

  • Practice the kick whilst holding a kickboard, arms stretched out in front and face in the water.
  • Perform the kick and then hold the stretched out position for a full two seconds.
  • Take a breath and then start the next kick.

Once mastered, try this exercise without the kickboard, but with your arms in the same stretched position.

The pull and the breath

breaststroke technique

There’s no separating these two in the breaststroke. That’s because you breathe every single time you do an arm stroke (pull). In fact, if you treat the breaststroke pull as a chance to support the breath rather than way to get through the water, your technique will improve and you won’t tire yourself out.

The pull starts with the arms stretched out in the streamline position, and the face in the water. Next, push the hands down and away from each other while you squeeze the elbows towards the sides of your torso. At the same time, the upper body lifts up and looks forward. When the hands are level with the chest, they should come together under the chin and then shoot forward back to the streamline position. By the time they’re all stretched out, your face is back in the water.

To get the pull timing right:

  • Practice the movement while standing in the shallow end where the water comes up to about the bottom of your sternum.
  • Lean over into the streamlined position, but keep your feet on the floor. This way you can perform all the movements without worrying about kicking through the water.
  • Slowly go through each movement:
    1. Draw the arms back.
    2. Then lift up and look at a target straight in front of you.
    3. Bring the hands together and return to the starting position

The breath is taken at the moment the upper body lifts up, when the elbows are back and the hands are near the chest. When your face is in the water, you should try to breathe out as much air as possible. That way you’ll be ready to take a big breath in when you lift up again.

Pull it together

master breaststroke technique

Now you’re ready for the whole stroke! Here’s a drill to get you going:

  1. Push off the wall into the streamline position.
  2. Next, pull the elbows back and lift up for a breath.
  3. As you bring your hands together and put your face back into the water, draw your heels towards your bum.
  4. Perform the kick when your upper body is fully extended.
  5. After the kick, try holding the streamline for 2 full seconds before you start again.

Taken slowly, one step at a time, breaststroke timing can definitely be mastered. But if you’re still feeling like you need help, consider some lessons. An instructor can provide personalised advice and build your confidence.

Our coaches will be able to provide you with custom exercises to help you perfect your breaststroke timing. Get in touch to talk through your goals!

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by Alistair Mills

In 2016 I saw an opportunity for a new swimming company that did things a little bit differently and here we are almost 4 years later, having built a family of teachers and clients that we are all really proud of.

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