FINIS Training Tip of the Week: Breaststroke Pull

Welcome to the “Training Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore every month with drills and concepts for you to implement with your team on a regular basis. While certain weeks may be more appropriate for specific levels of swimming (club, high school, college, or masters), Training Tips of the Month are meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This month’s training tip of the week series is centered around Breaststroke. The slowest (and often most unfairly criticized!) of all four stroke, breaststroke more than any other stroke is about minimizing resistance and maintaining consistent rhythm and timing between the pull and kick.

The last training tip article focused on the breaststroke kick, so this week’s training tip will focus specifically on the breaststroke pull. While timing between the kick and pull is essential for either to work (more on that next week…), many swimmers fail to recognize the importance of a strong, efficient pull in developing a fast breaststroke.

Sculling…

One of the most important parts of setting up the breaststroke pull is making sure you are getting directly into your catch at the beginning of every pull. Regularly practicing front and midline sculling is a great way to get your athletes to “feel” their hold on the water during the pull.

Keep in mind that sculling for weeks on end is not the most exciting for most people, so play around with different ways to incorporate sculling into warm up and different ways to progress from sculling into different drills and even full swimming (for example, rotating between 3 cycles of sculling and 3 cycles of breaststroke).

Fast Insweep…

A common mistake in the breaststroke pull is pausing at the end of the insweep before shooting the hands forward in the recovery phase. Not only does this create a ton of drag, it slows you down right when you want to be accelerating forward the most in your stroke.

Breaststroke pull with flutter kick (especially using fins) is a great way to make swimmers feel when they are pausing in their pull. Make sure they are holding consistent flutter kick to drive forward so they can feel when there is a pause in their pull. Any sort of resisted swim (with a parachute, power tower, etc.) is another great way to feel any dead spot in the pull, as the resistance should slow them down considerably during their slow insweep.

Swimming Through A Pinhole…

After a fast insweep swimmers need to recovery quickly and extend their arms arms tight and forward, as if they were accelerating forward through a small hole in front of them. The width of everyone’s recovery will vary, but a common theme should be keeping the arms within the profile of their body and driving them forward, not down. 

Thinking about keeping a narrow profile at the end of each cycle will also maximize propulsion through the glide phase of the stroke. Any sort of timing drill (2 kicks/1 pull, separation drill, 3-2-1 count) will help your swimmers slow down their strokes and check where their hands go at the end of each pull. Happy swimming!

All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

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Author: James Sica

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James Sica is the Men and Women's Assistant Coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an assistant coach at CMU in Pittsburgh, PA (2015-2017), a volunteer assistant coach with the Harvard women’s program (2014-2015) and an assistant with the Ithaca College men's program (2012-2014).

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