Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How to swim 101 - Breaststroke - A Detailed Description

I have already discussed the most common fault of breaststroke but learning to swim breaststroke has a number of advantages ad disadvantages.

  • it is a good endurance stroke when performed slowly
  • it can be adapted well to swimming underwater
  • it allows uninterrupted breathing if your head is high above water
  • it allows unrestricted forward vision if the head is held above water
  • Your head may be turned away from wind and waves.
  • it is a slow stroke
  • there is increased resistance when your head is held out of the water
Your body should be kept as flat as possible in the water to reduce resistance. This is achieve by:
  • raising late the head in the arm stroke to minimize the rise of your shoulders caused by the pull of the arms
  • the legs recovering by bending at the knees and hips so that your hips are kept high in the water with the heels close to, but not breaking, the surface. 
Leg Action
it can provide excellent power and is well suited to use on your back for survival and rescue purposes. It can be used to advantage in treading water.

The leg action should be performed as follows:
  • recover from an extended position by bending at the knees and hips.
  • your feet are kept together at first but they may separate to about shoulder width as your knees fully flex. Your knees may also separate to a similar degree
  • your toes should be pulled up towards your shins (ankles dorsi-flexed) at this stage
  • before starting the kick, your feet must be cocked outward (everted) and ankles must remain dorsi-flexed. The inside of your feet and legs face backward and provide the surface for use in the backward thrust
  • your kick is started by thrusting the feet apart and backwards with the heels tracing a circular pattern as they travel backwards your feet come together just after the legs straighten.  
Water pressure should be felt on the insides and soles of your feet during the kick and should accelerate smoothly, reaching maximum speed only at the final stage of the kick. The knee extension provides the speed; so the knees should not complete their extension until your feet have come together at the end of the kick.

Most inefficient kicks result from incorrect positioning of the feet just before thrust begins. You need to persist with the kick when you are first learning. It is not uncommon for new swim students to think they are not moving when they first start to learn this kick. If you are doing it correctly you are moving it just feels so unfamiliar that it seems like you are stationary or that you  are not making good progress.

Arm Action
The arm pull should be made by:
  • pressing downwards and outwards in a diagonal motion with the hands. Pitch your hands at a 45° angle with your palms facing outward at the maximum pull width
  •  elbows bend and hands accelerate towards the centre line of your body. Your hands should be pitched at about 45° with the palms facing inward
  • a high elbow position should be maintained until the hands finish the inwards movement
  • the hands glide forward to full arm extension 
    The palms of the hands should never face upward during the pull or the recovery.
    A breath should be taken on every stroke:
    • lift your head by extending the neck at the end of the arm pull and breathing in

    • return your face to the water just before your arms return to full extension and breathe out. 
     The water level will generally vary between your chin while breathing in and your forehead while breathing out.
      When learning breaststroke you need to take into consideration that it is a timing stroke and a short glide should be used after the kick just before the next arm pull starts. This stops the two propulsive parts of the stroke overlapping. Your body should be at full stretch for the glide. This position may be held for a very a short time when competing or for a long time when swimming slowly. No matter what your speed, swimmers should be in the fully extended position before starting the next stroke.

      For rescue purposes, if it is necessary to watch the person in difficulty, which it usually is, your head should be held above the water.

      Breaststroke is by far the most relaxing and versatile strokes of all the swimming strokes once you get used to it but it does require lots of practice.

      Enjoy your swim

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