Common Breaststroke Mistakes: Part One

Analysis by Joszef Nagy

Editor's Note: Joszef Nagy knows a thing or two about breaststroke, and in this special five-part series exclusively on, the renowned coach offers his thoughts on the worst mistakes breaststrokers make on a regular basis.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, June 4. IT is very easy to make mistakes, but very hard to avoid them when swimming breaststroke. A top breaststroker is mainly determined from the weaker breaststroker by the number of mistakes.

It is not because I am overly fastidious that I was able to list so many mistakes. None of these mistakes are unique. They are met with every day if you look at breaststroke carefully. The fact that even the top breaststrokers make some mistakes in their techniques s proven by the remaining numbers of opportunities in breaststrokes.

Since this article is intended for coaches and swimmers involved in breaststroke, the right techniques are not listed along with the mistakes. Most mistakes make the right way of swimming quite obvious. For example, if the mistake is that the pull is not started with straight arms, or that at the end of the kick the feet are not closed, then the right way of starting the pull or finishing the kick is, I think, unnecessary to list.

Thus, if I were to write down the cause of each mistake, the reason why it is a mistake, the right way of doing it and explain why that is the right way of doing it, then this article would soon turn out to be a book.

To make it easier to comprehend, most mistakes will be followed by an illustration. The pictures are of my own swimmers and most mistakes are done on purpose for the sake of this article — although unfortunately, some mistakes are not simply acting.

Mistakes in base position:

1. The swimmer is never in a base position.

2. Arms are always bent.

3. Head is always facing forward. (see photo 1)

4. The butt is higher than every other body part. (see photo 2)

5. Arm pull is starting before the kick has fully finished. (see photo 3)

6. Stomach is too deep. (see photo 4)

The most dramatic mistake in the base position is if the swimmer is never — not once in a stroke — even near a base position. In breaststroke, the base position is a perfect streamline. In this position, the moving body has the least amount of resistance. When the kick is finished and the feet are closed, it is the end of a stroke.

If before the start of the next pull the swimmer is in a base position for only two tenths of a second, then a swimmer who swims 1:06.6 in 100 breaststroke will glide 30 centimeters (around 1 foot) forward at the end of each stroke. So, in two tenths of a second, with a wrong base position, the swimmer will lose momentum instead of maintaining speed. Or, if the swimmer does not glide at all, each stroke will be 30 centimeters shorter. Naturally, this counts a lot, mainly in the 200 breaststroke.

Tomorrow: Common kicking mistakes

Photos courtesy Eva and Joszef Nagy.

Joszef Nagy coached Olympic medalists Sergio Lopez (1988, 200 breast bronze) and Mike Barrowman (1992, 200 breast gold), among others. He was the pioneer of the wave breaststroke in the 1980s, which gained immense popularity in his native Hungary before spreading around the world. Nagy is the head coach at the National Swimming Centre in Vancouver, where Olympians Tera van Beilen and Martha McCabe train, as well as 200 breast world record holder Annamay Pierse.

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