A question I hear more often than not, “Why is my Breaststroke Slow?” Breaststroke often gets a bad wrap for being the SLOWEST Olympic Stroke, but the reality is time wise, yes, Breaststroke is the slowest Olympic Stroke but in regards to effort required and power produced – one could argue that Breaststroke is the hardest and most technical stroke to swim. My goal in this next series is to debunk some beliefs about the Breaststroke stroke and help change your attitude from a why can’t I swim Breaststroke well – to – I know what to do.
Let’s get started!
At one of my recent lessons, I was discussing how Breaststroke is a short-axis stroke and is kick driven. With that, we went into our regular drill progression talking about avoiding the starfish position, mechanics of the kick, and pull. From there, we were left to put the new technique together and try to increase the tempo. This is always the defining moment in lessons because it proves one of two things: retention (and whether a swimmer remembers all the pieces) and two: coordination (how quickly can they adapt to what they just learned and put it into execution).
I posed this question to my swimmers that I was coaching that day and asked them if they knew how to increase their Breaststroke Tempo now. They both started thinking and said, “Yes, with your legs.” It was right then and there I knew I did my job for the day. Breaststroke is the only stroke that requires a swimmer to work on KICKING more efficiently and faster for a quicker tempo. The other 3 strokes you increase tempo by moving your arms faster.
After that, I asked them another question – so how do you ACTUALLY kick faster and that’s where they began to stumble. I never connected the dots with this in my brain, but as I began discussing the width of the Breaststroke kick and the two styles of Breaststroke out there. It dawned on me that most swimmers do gravitate towards more of a DPS Stroke or a Fast Recovery, but in a race when you’re starting to slow down and really get tired – if you want to keep your tempo up, you have to adjust the width of your kick.
One of my favorite blogs I’ve written is the Two Styles of Swimming Breaststroke and within this blog, I discuss how a swimmer’s hip mobility actually points them into a certain Breaststroke kicking style. The more mobile a swimmer is – the more they morph into a DPS Stroke style. The less mobile, the more a swimmer is likely to have a Fast Recovery. The BEST Breaststrokers out there are ones that have very mobile hips, so they can actually switch the width of their kick as they swim down the pool. Crazy, right?
This also puts someone like me (who has bad mobility) at a disadvantage, but I’m already swimming Breaststroke with a pretty small kick width – so to increase my tempo, there is only so much smaller I can make my kick before it becomes to inefficient.
A Good Rule of Thumb:
To summarize, if you are someone who is a DPS Stroke Style of Breaststroker naturally – you need to learn how to increase your Breaststroke tempo by reducing the width of your kick. Having your legs travel a shorter distance will take less time per stroke and allow you to increase your tempo much more drastically.
If you are someone who is more of a Fast Recovery Breaststroker – you need to work on WIDENING your kick so you have a larger SPECTRUM of kick width to deal with from the start, versus try to shorten your kick too much and end up spinning in the water.
So to answer the main question here – Why is my Breaststroke Slow? The reason is most likely due to your kick not being efficient and when you speed up your tempo, you don’t change the width of your kick. If you want to go faster, you need to learn to KICK FASTER and to kick faster – you need to kick with a SMALLER kick.
Man, I love when lightbulb moments go off like this. Be sure to check out our 90-Day Breaststroke Training Plan for Swimmers too, if you’re looking for a great place to start.
Until Next Time,
Thanks for the great breaststroke series. Breaststroke can make or break the IM…as it does for my 11 year old age group swimmer:
The mechanics of the kick are understood and practiced, but despite focus and attention, the kick seems to slice through the water with no forward propulsive force. Attempting wider or narrower kick doesn’t seem to impact this. The whole stroke then look like it’s “slipping”.
Is there a common flaw that can be addressed/do you have video examples of what happens to cause this?
I will look through my archive to see what I can dig up! Sounds like the legs are not natural to Breaststroke to which you’d really want to look at maximizing the pull as much as you can.
Foot position. If you omit that little twist from a flexed foot to pointed toes as you complete the kick, you lose a significant portion of the kick’s propulsive force.
Great advice. We are going to practice on it with my 8 years old grandson !
Amazing! Let us know how it goes!