The breaststroke start and turn has changed over recent times due to the rules changing. Much of this occurred because of underwater footage of Japan’s Kitajima performing a dolphin kick off the start and turn of his races. This dolphin kick, although illegal, could not be seen from the judges. FINA took control and decided to change the law and allow 1 dolphin kick off each start and turn during a race.
When this dolphin kick is performed is a personal preference but has changed more recently. When the rule first came in most swimmers were doing it during the arm stroke. We have noticed that now many swimmers are diving/pushing off and while still in the streamline they are performing their dolphin kick and then initiating the arm pull.
While underwater each swimmer is allowed 1 arm pull that can go past the waist line and one kick before the head breaks the surface. The arm pull must come before the leg kick and it is so important to keep your elbows high so that you pull the water with your hands AND forearms. We often see swimmers lifting their heads while underwater to see where the surface is. This is like hitting a brick wall and will cause you to slow dramatically. As part of your training practice keeping your head nice and still throughout the motion.
Next comes the kick and you need to complete a strong firm kick. As you perform the kick the hands and arms make their way under the body and back to the front so they are ready for the first stoke on the surface of the water.
How you dive is entirely your choice and much of this will come from trial and error. Whether you begin with your feet together or one in front of the other will depend on what is fastest for you. If you are a beginner and are not comfortable with diving the all you need to remember is keep you head down. If you lift your head then your hips drop and your tummy will be sore from slapping the water. Head down and you will be fine. And please ensure the water is deep enough to practice diving.
Underwater the turn is exactly the same as the start. You need to touch the wall with both hands on every turn. When coaching the turn there are two things we really focus on. The first is to time the hands on the wall to the feet leaving. We try to get our athletes to get this under 1 second. The second thing we try to coach is getting onto the wall on a full stroke. We put our athletes out from the wall and get them to swim into the wall and they try and finish on a full stroke. We then take them a different distance out and they try to do it again. This is important as not finishing on a full stroke can cost you lots of time.
I have included an underwater clip of a typical breaststroke turn for you.
FINA – www.fina.org
Go Swim – http://goswim.tv