Of the four competitive strokes, breaststroke is the most unique. Unlike the other three, it is swum entirely underwater and requires swimmers to break their streamline over and over again to propel themselves forward. By focusing on preserving the streamline through all the phases of the stroke, breaststroke can easily go from being your worst stroke to your best.
Why swim more than you have to? The easiest way to preserve your streamline is during your push-off. Hold your streamline until you begin to lose momentum, then initiate your fly kick and pullout, making sure to keep your body position the same throughout. Hold this final glide until your momentum slows again, then move into your breakout.
How to train it: Double your pullouts off of each wall, and focus on keeping your eyes locked on the bottom of the pool. Prove to yourself that it works by trying a few pullouts wherein you lift or lower your head halfway through the glide and compare results!
A lot of efficiency is lost during the breakout when swimmers recover their arms underwater without thinking about preserving their streamline. Rather than dragging your bent arms through the water beside your torso, sneak your arms underneath your chest by crossing your forearms and pushing your hands forwards into your streamline. Adam Peaty (GBR) was seen doing this during the 2016 Rio Olympics, and we all know how it worked out for him!
How to train it: Do it on deck! Stand in your tallest streamline, pull your arms down to your sides and mime a fly kick, then initiate a breaststroke kick as you “hug” yourself while stretching your arms back up to streamline. Then, go do it in the pool.
Believe it or not, breaststroke kick can be made more efficient. Preserve your streamline by keeping your knees aligned behind your hips; the angle between your torso and thighs should be no less than 120 degrees. Think about bringing your heels up to your buttocks with your ankles flexed and toes outwards, then push back and down to propel your body forwards. This kick is much more narrow, reducing drag and allowing swimmers to maintain a more streamlined position in the water.
How to train it: You’re going to get up close and personal with the wall, that’s how! Get in the water, place your chest and legs against the pool wall and rest your hands on the deck. Practice bring your heels up to your hips without poking your knees into the wall, and kick! To challenge yourself, try to kick hard enough to get your chest out of the water, then finish with a push-up.
Finally, your pull can be a major player in a more efficient breaststroke. A common mistake swimmers make is taking their outsweep wider than their shoulders and pulling their hands underneath their chin before recovering into streamline. Preserving streamline means keeping all motions within the line of the body, so it would serve you better to outsweep to shoulder width, keep the elbows high, and pull the hands down only until they are perpendicular to the pool bottom before recovering into streamline.
How to train it: Sculling. Lots of sculling. Put on your snorkel, stretch your arms out in front of you, and take a look at how wide you sweep your hands outwards. Make sure that you have your arms rotated so that your elbows are at the surface and your fingers are angled downward, then switch to full breaststroke pulls. Palms should face outward during outsweep, towards you during during the pull, and at the bottom during recovery.
There you have it: four simple ways to make breaststroke your best stroke, all by preserving your streamline in every move you make. If any aspect of your stroke feels too wide, it probably is. Breaststroke is all about being as narrow and flat as possible to ensure that all movements produce forward momentum, so think “streamline” all the time.
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