8/13/04 BREASTSTROKE - Big Paddles
by Glenn Mills
Demonstrated by Dave Denniston
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Want to feel real power in your breaststroke? Put on the biggest paddles you can get your hands on, and start swimming. Actually, it’s not all that easy. Here’s a drill that will help you get started.

Why Do It:

The pull in breaststroke is extremely important, and developing the proper motion, and the feeling of power that comes with it are key ingredients to putting together a great pull.

Using oversized paddles will automatically make you do a few things correctly. The paddles help you feel the connection to the water during the outsweep of the pull, and they prevent you from pulling back too far. They also make sure that you develop a quick recovery. With big paddles, if you have an incorrect recovery, you’ll feel MASSIVE resistance.

In order to do this properly, you need to pay attention to a few key points. You'll notice in the first picture that Dave has removed the wrist straps from his paddles. If he doesn’t have perfect form on every part of his pull, the paddles will simply fall off. If you pull back too far, the paddles will fall off when you try to recover the hands. If you start the outsweep before your hands get turned around, the paddles will fall off.

How To Do It:

1. Begin by taking off the wrist strap from your paddles, and start swimming breaststroke slowly. Make sure you're completely extended at the front of the stroke, and start to feel your hands separating as you begin the outsweep.
2. Allow your hands to GO WIDE. I know this sounds crazy, but I like to feel my arms pulling my chest apart to create a complete connection as they sweep out. The paddles really help leverage against the water to make this happen.
3. With a wide outsweep, the tendency will be to allow your hands to drop back too far. If this happens, you'll get stuck when you try to recover. Even though you've sent your hands wider than normal, you'll need to start the insweep farther out front, and you'll need to make it happen quickly, with the hands pitched inward. This creates propulsion, and helps the hands spin in more quickly.
4. To make it easier to recover the hands, you'll probably want to "split" the water during the recovery. If you try to get the hands completely out of the water, you'll find it VERY difficult to accomplish. If you try to push the paddles under the water, and your pitch is off even a BIT, there's no telling where your hands will end up. By cutting your hands through the water, you'll find the recovery is quick, and easier.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):

This whole drill is about fine points! It’s not for the faint at heart. Dave makes it look SO easy, which will give you some indication of just how good he is.

Why post such a tough drill? Well... as we finish one season, and start another, it's always nice to have some goals with which to look forward, and to which to aspire. Dave shows us what true mastery is all about, and how “tools,” which sometimes get a bad rap, can teach us volumes about our stroke. Elite swimmers use paddles, kickboards, and pull-buoys all the time. The difference between them and the rest of us, however, is that they KNOW how to use them effectively. By practicing this drill, and doing it absolutely correctly, you’ll be able to make major improvements n your breaststroke.