Welcome to the “FINIS Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore 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), each tip is meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.
This tip 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 three FINIS tip articles focused on the breaststroke kick, the breaststroke pull, and breaststroke timing, all essential parts of an efficient breaststroke. The final article on breaststroke will be on an often forgotten element of the stroke: the head position.
Driving The Head Forward…
A common tendency in breaststroke, particularly with young or beginning swimmers, is to keep an upright head position during the stroke so swimmers can “see” where they are going. Regardless of the head position during the breathe on each stroke, you always want to make sure that a swimmers head is driving forward at the end of every cycle (not simply bobbing up and down) and that the head is falling in line with the spine at the end of the stroke.
For beginning swimmers, the tennis ball drill is a great way to teach them to break a bad habit of lifting the head. For more advanced swimmers it is more likely a small adjustment in timing they may need to make, often either dropping the head too early or keeping the head up too long at the end of every stroke cycle.
Try any number of drills to help them find the smooth feeling of “falling forward” at the end of their stroke, playing around to find a feel that maintains their momentum while also keeping their body line correct at the end of every stroke. Above all, you want a head position that creates as little resistance as possible so you can carry as much momentum from one stroke cycle to the next.
Because of the amount of force that is applied during the pullout, there can often be a tendency to press or push the head down during this phase of a race. This acts like an instant brake on your momentum, increasing your profile in the water and increasing resistance.
Emphasize that your swimmers while the pullout should be a powerful motion, it should be propelling you forward in the water, not down or up. A great way to work on this is do do assisted cord pullouts underwater. With the added speed from the cord, swimmers will be able to feel whether or not they are dipping or lifting their head at any point in their breakout. Happy swimming!