Breaststroke Kinesics 2: Muscles of the lower extremities used in the breaststroke
The last article on Kinesics covered upper body muscles used in the breaststroke. This one will handle the muscles in the lower extremities. For any stroke the kicks are crucial for propelling the body, and I have found it helpful to now what muscles to focus on for a better kick.
The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles that make up the buttocks and are probably the strongest muscles of the body. They are the main extensor muscles of the hip and thigh and are therefore crucial to any swimming stoke including the breaststroke. The gluteus medius and gluteus minimus are used in the initial phase of the breaststroke kick where the legs are lifted close to the buttocks as they prepare to kick.
At this position, although no action is performed, these muscles maintain the legs in that position.
During the kick, the gluteus maximus collaborates with quadriceps and hamstrings to kick backwards, offering strength to the kick. Good breaststroke kicks should be great exercise for those working to firm their glutes and build muscle mass.
The quadriceps femoris (quads) are the muscles in the front of the thigh. The muscle is made up of four separate muscles- the vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and rectus femoris. Their primary function is to extend the knee. As the breaststroke continues, the legs kick backwards as the soles push the water to produce motion. These four heads of the quadriceps aid in generating this movement. However, compared to the flutter kicks of the freestyle and backstroke, the breaststroke works the quads l
The hamstrings are the group of muscles at the back of the thigh and the rest of the rear upper leg. The flex the knee and extend the thigh to the back of the body. From the initial position when the feet are pulled close to the butt, these muscles work a lot during the breaststroke kick. This group of muscles consists of the semitendinosus, biceps femoris, and semimembranosus. Where hamstring injuries are common in other forms of exercise such as running and cycling, swimming the breaststroke is a surefire way to rehabilitate these muscles.
The adductor muscles are named after their role- they adduct the femur to the hip joint. They include the adductor brevis, adductor magnus, adductor longus, adductor minimus, pectineus and gracilis. The muscles are responsible for bringing the legs and thighs together during the recovery phase. The adductors are also useful for pulling the legs to the buttocks as the next phase begins.
The rotation of the hip which ensures a wide kick is generated by the sartorius, obturators and quadratus femoris. The tibialis muscles at the sheen dorsiflex the leg and invert the foot to allow the soles to kick outwards.
In relation to this post, breaststroker’s knee is one of the most common injuries that our swimmers report. Decreased hip rotation causes a swimmer to extend their knee forcefully as they try to generate a strong kick. This stresses the knee and causes wear and tear on the tendons and ligaments around it. Improving the kick should alleviate this pain. This problem will be covered in a later post.