What makes a peanut butter & jelly sandwich so simple, but yet so great? It is the combination of two different but two delicious ingredients! Both peanut butter and jelly are great on their own, but when put together with the right ratio of PB to J (the 80/20 rule - 80% PB and 20% J), they form a perfect match.
Breaststroke is the same way. The pull is 3 parts, while the kick is 2. They are completely different movements, but when perfected on their own and put together properly, they form a more efficient stroke!
Read on to take your breaststroke skills to the next level.
The Breaststroke Pull
We will begin by covering different aspects of the breaststroke pull and how to improve upon each one. For each aspect, we will outline a drill for you to practice. Most of these drills have been taken from our instructors, such as Rebecca Soni and Michael Phelps.
To improve your breaststroke pull, you have to increase the amount of water you can hold and pull with your forearms. Sculling is a small, but important movement. The better you are at sculling, the more water you will be able to hold and use to pull yourself forward.
In order to improve your sculling, try out this drill:
In this drill, you will focus on the first part of the breaststroke pull. As you sweep out, and then sweep in, really think about how you are turning your hands. Turn your hands out first, and then push them so that you grab the water. Then, turn your hands in and pull them back towards each other, once again grabbing the water. This drill will really burn your forearms out, but it will ultimately strengthen this first part of your pull.
As you practice your sculling, your legs should be doing a light dolphin kick. You shouldn’t be focused too much on your leg movement. Instead, use these dolphin kicks to keep your body up so that you can focus on your arms moving you forward. As you are doing this movement, you can keep your chin right above the surface, so you can still be breathing as you are going forward.
Recommended practicing of this drill: 2-3x per week
2. Body Position
While the pull is an upper body focused movement, your overall body position has an affect on your pull as well. It is important to put your body in different positions in order to find the path of least resistance for your arms.
In order to work on your body position, try out this drill:
In this drill, you will do a breaststroke pull, with either fly or freestyle kick. This drill will help you to find the flow of your pull while your legs are doing something a bit different. It is good to alternate between the fly and free kick so that you can put your body in different positions. The fly kick will help you to get in a rhythmic tempo and give you practice with that feeling of falling forward. The free kick will keep your body and hips in a steady position so that you can really focus on finding a resistanceless motion with your arms.
Recommended practicing of this drill: 2x per week
The more power you can get with your pull, the faster you will be. To improve the strength of your pull, you can practice increasing the speed at which you move through the water. Doing so will help you to identify the points of maximum resistance in your pull.
Try out this drill:
In this drill, you will combine breaststroke arms and free kick with fins on. Using fins will help to speed up your propulsion. You will move forward faster, and will therefore hit more resistance with your arms. This drill will help you to find that path of least resistance, while adding in a bit more speed. Your hips will also be a bit higher in the water, which will help to give you that feeling of falling forward. In this drill, you will feel more resistance on your arms. Try to notice if there are parts of your pull where you are feeling that added resistance. Taking note of these parts will help you to adjust and optimize your stroke.
Recommended practicing of this drill: 1x a week
4. Rhythm & Tempo
The rhythm and tempo of your pull can set the tone for your whole stroke. You will need to find the timing that works best for you and your stroke.
To improve the timing of your pull, try out this “One Breast, One Fly” drill. Rebecca used this drill herself in pre-competition warm-ups to help find her rhythm before racing.
In this drill, your arms will do one butterfly stroke, followed by one breaststroke, while your legs continue in a breaststroke kick. This drill is all about timing and putting it all together. The butterfly stroke will increase your propulsion. Try to find a rhythm where the butterfly arms lead you in the tempo, and your breaststroke arms try to keep up with that.
While you are practicing this drill, focus on optimizing the breaststroke pull. You might have to speed up your arms a bit to keep up with the tempo of the butterfly, but this adjustment will help you to find that rhythm and stick with the tempo.
Recommended practicing of this drill: Try this drill out during your warm-up for a race. It will help you to find a rhythm and nail down the timing of your stroke.