Oregon Masters Swimming held a breaststroke clinic on May 6 at the Parkrose Swim Center in Portland, with Masters world and national record holder Jeff Commings as host. Jeff was an eight-time NCAA All-American swimmer at the University of Texas and a three-time U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials competitor in the 100-meter breaststroke (1992, 1996, 2012).
Masters swimmers from across the state took part in this clinic which focused on three breaststroke essentials:
2) Body Position
3) Grabbing Water
Jeff stressed that timing is the most important skill in breaststroke. Swimmers should make sure that the arm pull and leg kick are separate actions. Once the arm stroke is near completion, the leg kick will propel the swimmer into a streamline position with the arms reaching forward. The streamline position is the most efficient part of the swim. To practice timing, swimmers worked on the arm stroke while using the flutter kick. Swimmers were able to work on sweeping out and sweeping in while extending their arms into a streamline position.
The body position in breaststroke should be more horizontal than vertical. The less resistance in body position makes for a smoother stroke. Be careful not to bring the arms too far under chest. Before swimming a length of breaststroke, drape your arms over a lane line with your body in a horizontal position while initiating the breaststroke pull. The lane line will keep you from pulling too far under your horizontal body and allow you to keep the arms out in front of your body. A few simple drills are using flutter kick with breaststroke arms to work on fast hands moving forward into a streamline, and using a dolphin kick with breaststroke arms to work on horizontal body position and timing of the stroke. Be careful not to bring your knees up under your body.
The hands should feel like you are grabbing the water. Imagine a large bowl of ice cream, big enough for you to reach into, and scoop ice cream with your hands starting at the edge of the bowl. Continue to scoop to the bottom of the bowl and use your hands to present a large scoop of ice cream in front of your body. This grabbing and holding onto the water should continue through the entire arm stroke.
During warm up, practice grabbing the water with your hands while using a small flutter kick to keep the body balanced and horizontal in the water. Once you have mastered grabbing the water, change to a dolphin kick to work on the timing of the stroke. The leg kick also plays an important role in breaststroke. You should feel like you are grabbing the water with the bottoms of your feet. Practice using your legs to kick ‘around’ while using your feet to scoop and grab the water. Complete the kick by closing your legs together.
Use these three breaststroke essentials to improve your swims. Practicing breaststroke drills on a regular basis will help improve your feel for the water. Use warm up and cool down swims to refine the arm movement and leg kick. When possible, take video of your swims so you can make immediate corrections.