9/1/05 BREASTSTROKE: Going Strapless
Text, photos, and video by Glenn Mills

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Great breaststroke requires constant attention to the smallest details. Swimming breaststroke with strapless paddles is just one way to isolate the hands, and to check how well they're connecting to the water. The goal is to connect at all times, even when you think it's time to relax.

How advanced are you as a breaststroker? One way to measure your prowess is to count the number of straps you need on your paddles. Usually, the more accomplished the swimmer, the fewer straps. It all depends on how well you connect with the water.

A good breaststroker knows how to create constant propulsive force at every point in the stroke cycle. If you want to see just where you stand in your progression of breaststroke mastery, then don't use any straps at all!

Before you go ripping all the tubing out of your favorite paddles, please understand that strapless paddles work only for breaststroke. If you try going strapless on fly, back or free, the paddles will fall off when you recover the hands over the water.

It's much easier to keep the straps on the paddles and just flip them around. If you use paddles that are formed to your hands, simply switch left to right, and right to left.

This particular drill addresses two common stroke errors in inexperienced, aggressive breaststrokers: pulling too far back and pausing during the breath.

If you pull too far back, the hands will get caught, and the paddles will fall off. If you pause during the breath, the hands will stop under the chin, and the paddles will fall off.

To isolate the pull, and to make sure your hand motions are consistent, it's best to practice this with a pull buoy positioned between your legs (see Photos 5 and 6)—all pull, no kick.

Glenn Mills is Swimming World Magazine’s technical advisor. Check out his website at

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