There are three main elements to swimming breaststroke fast. The first is generating lots of power with the arms and the legs. It is the stroke that actually generates more power than any other. The second is reducing your resistance. Even though it generates the most power it is the slowest stroke because it creates the most resistance. The third element is being able to do both of these quickly.
When attempting to generate power your technique is so important. We often see swimmers race in local events that try and rush their stroke to generate as much power as possible but they are actually producing less. The power parts of the stroke are the in-sweep with the arms and the kick. During the in-sweep it is important to not pause under your chin. As you sweep the arms in, squeeze the elbows and then get your hands back to the start as quickly as possible. To generate power with the legs it is important to finish each kick off so that the feet and legs are together. Too often we see a kick that has begun before the previous one has finished. This is a massive power leak in the stroke.
Reducing resistance is the next element that needs to be discussed. There is lots of resistance created in breaststroke because the body moves away from a streamlined position for much of the stroke. Unlike freestyle or backstroke, the head needs to lift in order to breathe. Once this happens the hips are automatically pushed down which causes resistance against the water. It is therefore important to finish each stroke off completely so that the hips get back to a streamlined position. As the feet whip around it is important to kick both around and UP. This will allow the feet and hips to return to a high streamlined position. Too often people rush to get into the next stroke without finishing the previous one off and their hips gradually get lower and lower and they actually move up and down further than they do forward.
The last element is being able to do both these things quickly. If you can keep your power high and your resistance low then the quicker you perform each stroke the faster you will swim the stroke. The key is though, DON’T RUSH! A wise coach once told me “More Haste = Less Speed”. Not a truer word is spoken. Swimming is a unique sport where it is highly technical and requires the highest level of fitness and power. Your training needs to incorporate both of these elements. When you race be sure to stroke fast but keep the length in your stroke. This will result in fast swimming.
We have included a clip of Cameron Van Der Burgh breaking the 50m World Record. Now it doesn’t get much faster than this. Even though he and the rest of the field are moving fast they are still finishing off every stroke. Watch how their heads still make it all the way underwater and each kick finishes off completely. Fast without rushing.
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