|Vertical breaststroke by Mr. Wright|
You know, however, that to properly swim and enjoy breaststroke, the "paní Radová" style is not the way to go. This type of breaststroke puts quite a lot of pressure on ones lower back since the swimmer needs to bend to keep the head above the water. Ok, this is a bit of an extreme and most people who are at least a bit serious about learning to swim breaststroke do not swim like that, but there are a few commonalities and pitfalls that appear in breaststroke swimmers' strokes. Below are just a few of the most common breaststroke mistakes out there:
1) Excessive arm pull past shoulders - one of the biggest pitfalls during the breaststroke arm movements is the exaggerated pull which causes swimmer's arms and elbows to go too far back, passed the shoulders. The current form of breaststroke technique actually puts a lot less emphasis on the arms than the kick, but many swimmers use their arms to move forward instead of their breaststroke kick and this is causing them to pull too far back with their arms. Imagine a wall 1 meter (~3 feet) tall and 5cm (~2 inches) thick. The top of the wall is nice and flat. Pretend like you'd sit on your knees with your chest to the wall and bring your arms over the wall, so you are basically resting on your armpits on top of the wall. Your arms are free and you can move them around on the other side of the wall. Now try to do a breaststroke arm pull. It has to be small, because you cannot move your arms through the wall toward your body. This is almost like swimming breaststroke. Another way to try this in the pool is to hang on the lane rope (as if it was the top of the wall). Hang on the lane line at your armpits, extend your legs horizontally behind you and try to do a breaststroke pull. Again, you cannot move your elbows passed the lane line backwards. You can practice these mimicing exercises a few times and then try it when you swim and remember, smaller is better.
|Arm hesitation and head movement by C-Serpents|
3) Hesitation in the middle of the stroke - if you have read my post about how to use your arms during breaststroke, you already know what I am talking about here, but if not, here is the scoop. The goal position of swimmer's body in breaststroke is right below the surface of the water. The important key element is the hips which should ride at all times very close to the surface of the water. The "high hip" position, is very vulnerable during the time when swimmer just finished the pull and is ready to return the arms back to the front position (this is called the arm recovery). It is at this time (hands are right in front of your chest) when swimmer's hips are forced down by the hands' above the water position. So, the longer the swimmer takes to get the arms back forward the more likely are the hips to sink away from the surface. Many swimmers (even competitive athletes) make a big mistake by pausing the hands in the chest position before returning the arms forward. In reality, it should be totally opposite, there should not be a pause, the arms should actually speed up as the swimmer throws them (along with the upper body) forward. A good way to practice this is by using a drill where you use freestyle kick with very fast breaststroke arms. This drill will not let your hips sink since the freestyle kick is supporting them, but it will get you tired very fast if you keep pausing in the breaststroke arm pull.
|Eyes should look more down, not forward.|
5) Improper breaststroke kick - I discussed the proper breaststroke kicking sequence in one of my older breastroke leg post, however, let's talk about it again. Proper breaststroke kick is a must if you want to succeed in swimming this wonderful stroke. The most common mistakes in kicking are a scissor kick, too wide of a kick or the worst, modified butterfly kick. The main ingredient to a good breaststroke kick is the revelation of what part of your leg actually pushes the water and where. So, let me shed some light on that.
a) Breaststroke swimmers always need to push water backwards behind them since they want the kick to propel them forward. In the scissor kick (wrong type of breaststroke kick) the water is pushed to the sides and in too wide of a kick.
b) The proper way to push water behind swimmer's body is by utilizing the inner shin (from knee down) and the inner foot (from ankle to your big toe) as the main parts. In the scissor kick and modified butterfly kick (wrong type of breaststroke kick) it is the front shin and front foot that is wrongly being used. In the too wide of a kick (wrong type of breaststroke kick), it is only the sole of swimmer's foot that stomps the water backwards which actually generate almost zero propulsion forward. As you see, all the three variations are using totally different less efficient propulsive mechanisms to get a swimmer forward.
The best way to learn the proper inner shin and inner ankle position is to place your feet in the right alignment against a swimming pool wall while holding onto a lane line and then very gently push off (with your inner ankles touching the wall - foot rotated outward). Keep repeating this leg wall alignment many times until you feel comfortable and are able to mimic the same ankle rotation in the water.
There are of course many more aspects to a proper breaststroke swim, however, if I'd list them all, it would be for a short book and who reads books these days, right;). I hope you learned something about breaststroke today and remember, to improve in swimming or as a matter of fact in anything in life, trying new things and understanding why something is done is the key to success. So go out there and modify your breaststroke for the better. One way or another, you will discover something new, even if it is just more realization that this is not the way to do it. Have fun and keep swimming.
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