FINIS Tip Of The Week: Breaststroke Timing

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 month’s 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 two tip articles focused on the breaststroke kick and the breaststroke pull, and this week’s tip will focus specifically on the timing between these two elements of the stroke. While having proper technique with your pull or kick is important, timing between the pull and the kick is essential to having a fast and efficient breaststroke.

The Basics…

“Timing” in breaststroke refers to when a swimmer initiates the pull and the kick phase of their stroke within each cycle. Ideal timing has the swimmer completing their pull through their insweep and initiating their kick on the recovery phase of their pull. The next pull should not start until after the kick has been completed.

In other words, swimmers want to pull before they kick, but they don’t want to wait so long after their pull to initiate their kick that they slow down (or, conversely, to wait too long after their kick to start their next pull). Essentially, swimmers want to make each segment of the stroke as efficient as possible while also minimizing any lag time between the pull and kick that may slow them down.

Improving Timing…

So how do you improve your timing? Often the best way is to slow down the stroke and work on a swimmer’s awareness of when they are pulling and when they are kicking. Separation drill is a great timing drill as it literally divides up the stroke between the pull and the kick. It gives swimmers a better sense of how to maximize the propulsion from each phase of the stroke while also showing them how much they will slow down between each phase without efficient timing.

Other great timing drills include 2 kicks/1 pull, 3-2-1 count, or 3 pulls/3 kicks. It’s also helpful to work on developing timing drill progressions with your athletes to help them connect the dots. Using equipment or adding resistance is a great way for breaststrokers to feel any “dead” spots in their stroke. Swimming against any sort of resistance (power tower, power rack, resistance cords, etc.) will heighten their awareness of when they slow down because they will physically feel themselves moving backwards.  

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Author: James Sica

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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