Why SOLID Breaststroke Pullouts are Prerequisites For Crossover Turns

There is SO MUCH DISCUSSION on Crossover Turns: when to teach them, which athletes they’re most appropriate for, best drills for teaching them – but one key aspect that’s often overlooked are swimmers’ Breaststroke Pullouts proficiency before learning this turn!

Even though, we just launched our Crossover Turn Course doesn’t mean that this turn needs to be taught to your entire age-group program RIGHT NOW. My general rule of thumb is that if a swimmer cannot repeatedly do FAST and LONG Breaststroke Pullouts – I hold off on teaching them the Crossover Turn!

In today’s blog, I’m going to do a deep dive into the common mistakes I see from age-group swimmers on Breaststroke Pullouts! Trust me; I’ve seen swimmers barely making it to the first single-colored buoy on the lane line, so let’s tackle this issue head-on and I’ll further explain why Breaststroke Pullouts are prerequisites of Crossover Turns.

The Consequences of the Crossover Turn:

While I’m all for innovative turns and techniques, it’s essential to build a strong foundation before diving into the advanced stuff. The Swim Like A. Fish coaching philosophy is to master the basics first by building the foundation of the house. That’s why it’s important to understand what surrounds a Crossover Turn, before getting into the nitty gritty of the turn itself.

The Crossover Turn itself requires a high level of technical skill and body awareness and without a solid understanding of the fundamentals – swimmers may struggle to execute the turn correctly. This will impact their wall touch, and push-off, and ultimately compromise a stellar pullout.

How a swimmer executes their Backstroke to Breaststroke Turn depends on what works best for the swimmer.  As I see it, there are 3 Different Types of Crossover Turns and what is a swimmer should do should be best determined by the coach, after looking at their pullouts and consistency of stroke counts into the wall.

The Need for Speed:

In our world of swimming, every second counts. There’s a fine line between efficiency and rushing through the crucial elements of your race. Many young swimmers find themselves in the trap of hurrying their Breaststroke Pullouts to try and gain a few extra milliseconds on the surface of the water to catch their breath! But, there’s a major downside to this!

In the quest for more speed, swimmers compromise the quality of their Breaststroke Pullouts, leading to suboptimal streamline positions and reduced efficiency. And quite honestly, a lot more drag.

The Breaststroke pullout is a critical phase that sets the tone for the entire length of the pool. Rushing through it not only minimizes the advantage of the underwater streamline and push from the wall, but also impacts the overall swim performance. 7

Many young swimmers rush through the Breaststroke pullout.  As a result they manipulate their body position and lose momentum before even breaking into their full stroke.  In come cases, it’s better to stay in streamline position and skip the pullout. 

Matt Kredich from the University of Tennessee even experimented with eliminating the underwater pullout completely with some of his Breaststrokers, as he thought for some swimmers it may be better to carry the speed from the wall and just get to the surface – versus – doing a rushed pullout.

What are the 4 Phases Of The Breaststroke Pullouts?

A while back, I wrote a 3-Part series all about the breaststroke pullout.  In Part 1,  “Do You Know If Your Breastroke Pullout Slows You Down?”, I break down the 4 PHASES of the pullout.  

Phase #1 : The Push-off or Start

  • Happens the moment the swimmer’s feet leave the block or the wall.

Phase #2: The Glide

  • It is time spent underwater prior to ANY executed movements.

Phase #3: The Arm Pull-Down

  • The time it takes from initiating the underwater pull and finishing the pull with the hands at the thighs.

Phase #4: The Recovery

  • The time spent kicking the hands back forward into a horizontal, streamline position and completing the first underwater kick.

Coach your swimmers through each of these phases and make sure they’ve mastered each phase – before putting them into race pace practice. Once mastered, it is then time to put it together with more technical skills like the Crossover Turn.

The Better Approach: Master the Basics First

It’s simple – prioritize mastering the basics before diving into advanced turns like the Crossover Turn. Start with a focus on improving your swimmers Breaststroke Pullout Technique and making sure they know how to best maximize each phase of their pullout! Then, put them through a simple test. Time them on a 25-yard Breaststroke with their new powerful pullout and show them the time on your watch. Then, have them intentionally swim another 25-yard Breaststroke with their old mediocre push-off and pull-out and give them that time.

Take it one step further, you can even pop your phone or underwater camera and record them on video during each of the two 25’s, so they can see and feel the difference. We can always help you with analyzing your swimmer’s pullouts as well through our video analysis packages, check them out here!

For more inspiration and a look into what’s possible, watch Kevin Cordes break the NCAA and American record in the 200-yard Breaststroke in 2013.  Watch as he spends nearly 50% of every length underwater due to his breastroke pullouts…Mind-boggling! 

If you have any questions, put them in the comments below!

Until next time, 

Abbie Fish

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