How to Swim: Breast stroke 101
Breast stroke 101
To learn the breaststroke, understanding how the body moves is key. This post covers the body positioning and whip kick action of the breaststroke. Check out for the second part on arm motion, breathing and coordination.
Being the oldest of the modern swimming strokes, breaststroke can be easily learnt by people of all abilities. It is the slowest of strokes for a number of reasons. First, the high position of the head during inhaling increases resistance as the body is not in full horizontal streamline. Recovery of arms and legs beneath water creates resistance, as there is a lot of movement of the limbs in the stroke. Finally, the movements, although many, are less continuous, compared to the freestyle. In spite of all this, the breaststroke provides the greatest propulsion from a single kick than all other strokes.
As discussed in this article on floating, a near horizontal body position presents a suitable streamline that reduces resistance in water. However, to allow the legs to kick inside water in breast stroke, the position is adjusted by lifting the head a bit higher, inclining the body from the head to feet.
To improve streamline, as the arms are pulled, the legs remain in a trailing position, extended horizontally. Likewise, just after the kick, when the body is being propelled forward, the arms should be stretched out and the head maintained as low as possible to improve streamline.
From the horizontal streamline position, legs are drawn up towards the bottom, about hip-width apart.
Knees are positioned just close to body width, or fairly close, with the upper leg at an angle of about 110-140 degrees to the rest of the trunk as in the image below.
The feet are then driven back following a curved pathway, moving towards each other in a whip motion. This produces a smooth powerful movement forward, ending with the inner sides of the feet touching close to the large toe as the rest of the legs come together, extended to streamline. The body then goes back to position in figure 2 ready to pull.
Trying this movement on land, while standing, then later while holding onto the rungs/side of pool will help you get comfortable with this stroke.
*Images courtesy of Royal Navy Swimming.