5 Tips to a Better Breaststroke

5 Tips to a Better Breaststroke
Hello! This is the third in my series of blogs on stroke correction and I'm focusing today on breaststroke, a stroke many of us begin with.
Every swimmer is built differently, some have stronger upper bodies and some have stronger legs. Strength distribution through the body dictates how a swimmer swims breaststroke, and thus every breaststroker will swim in a slightly different way from his competitor. However here are a few key tips to swim a better breaststroke ! Hope they help !
High Elbows:
Making sure you pull through with a high elbow is most important. A lot of swimmers end up dropping their elbows through their pull, thus losing out on pulling as much water back as they possibly can. Dropping your elbows in breaststroke has a lot to do with weak rotator cuff muscles and I always encourage breaststrokers to do external rotation rotator cuff exercises as a matter of habit so they can maintain the high elbow pull with ease. Remember the higher your elbow, the more water you push back and the further you move forward on each stroke!
Head Position:
Each swimmer likes to exit the water at an angle he is comfortable with. I always have watched that most good breastrokers exit the water both upward and forward as well. By this I mean,they do not chest the water whilst coming up to breathe, an error that novice swimmers do often make. Your ability to hit the right angle can be improved by using your head and eyes as a checkpoint. One exercise that's helpful is to try exiting the water with your eyes still looking downwards at the pool floor.Through all the time you spend above the water, keep your eyes looking at the pool and time you spend breathing will be spent more efficiently, and helping you find just the right angle.

Knees and Squeeze:
I always thought that kicking well in breaststroke meant opening up my knees as wide as possible through my kick. The more I watched better breaststrokers race, the more I saw that most of them kept their knees very close together through their kick! This focus helped me get far more efficient in my stroke. To establish this in my muscle memory, a drill I used was to hold a pull buoy in between my thighs and kick through a lap of the stroke. If my knees opened up too much, I would end up losing the buoy. The second focal point in the drill is the 'squeeze', by which is making sure that at the end of your kick, you get your feet together. I always tell swimmers to imagine that there is a small ball right between their feet and their job is to squeeze that ball with their feet at the end of their kick! The more a swimmer works on this, the more he will get out of each kick, thus kicking more efficiently!
Long Arm Pull:
The long arm pull can save a swimmer so much time off each turn and wall. Timing that dolphin kick with the pull is most important. There is no one way to do this; Some swimmers like to complete their dolphin kick before they start their pull and some time it with the last part of their pull. No matter how you time it, do make sure that once the pull is done, your elbows do not stick out, outside the line of your body, on arm recovery after pulling through. All the momentum you gain from that pull can be lost if you create resistance with elbows outside the line of your body ! So learn to tuck those elbows in on recovery, after the pull!
In my experience, breastrokers have to be the most powerful swimmers. A few dry land exercises that I know will help swim a stronger stroke are:
  1. Squats: Make sure when you squat you feel like your weight is going down into your heels!  A lot of us end up bending forward in a squat with a bent spine, thus working the front of our thighs and not our flutes, which is wrong. So,make sure you load onto your glutes in a squat, to build the right muscle for your kick !
  2. Stretch cord work: Cords always helped strengthen my arms to promote a higher elbow pull. Make sure you get yourself a pair of cords and work those pulls at least three times a week to get the most out of that pull in the pool!