We've all done it - used our breaststroke arms to haul ourselves through the water, only to find we don't seem to go far for the effort we've put in.
Well, did you know that it's the leg kick and not the arm pull that provides the boost to move along during breaststroke? Arm pull technique is needed to assist the movement, but mainly to keep the stroke streamlined and efficient.
Which part of the arm technique are you missing? Read on...
The arm pull technique can be broken down into three parts. Those parts being:
Catch - as the hands begin to pull
Propulsion - as the arms pull to generate some movement
Recovery - as the hands and arms return to the catch position
Arm action begins with the arms fully extended out in front, fingers and hands together. Hands pitch outwards and downwards to an angle of about 45 degrees at the start of the catch phase. Arms pull outwards and downwards until they are approximately shoulder width apart. Elbows begin to bend and shoulders roll inwards at the end of the catch phase.
The arms sweep downwards and inwards and the hands pull to their deepest point. Elbows bend to 90 degrees and remain high.
At the end of the down sweep, the hands sweep inwards and slightly upwards. Elbows tuck into the sides as the hands are pulled inwards towards the chest and the chin.
Hands recover by stretching forwards in a streamlined position and they recover under, on or over the water surface, depending on the style of stroke to be taught.
The arms have to be coordinated with the leg kick and breathing techniques. My book 'How To Swim Breaststroke' gives you all the tips and practical drills you will need to make your breaststroke a complete swimming stroke.
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Mistakes often made with basic arm technique are:
The arm technique for this stroke usually becomes the dominant force when it should not. It is very common for swimmers to put more effort into pulling themselves through the water, when it should be the leg kick providing the power and momentum.
In an attempt to haul themselves through the water the arm pull is too big and too wide. It is not uncommon to pull arms completely to the side, making for a inefficient recovery under the water surface, which will almost certainly result in the swimmer slowing down.
An easy exercise to practice to help perfect the arm pull technique is to walk slowly through shallow water of about shoulder depth, ensuring the arms pull in small circles and the hands remain in front of the swimmer at all times. They should also extend forwards and remain there momentarily for the glide phase.
For some more breaststroke drills, click here.