Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Breaststroke - Backstroke: Benefits of Diversifying Your Routine




Swimming can be monotonous

Let's face it, coaches can look at a set and groan with as much mind-numbing misery as the swimmers who have to swim it. By definition, swimming is a back-and-forth sport, but a little variety can change the routine and move swimmers (and coaches!) from miseries to medals, with a few good workout tips. First, let's look at two strokes that help with achieve the diversity, and then we'll look at a good example of how to implement them.

Breaststroke

In swimming, timing is everything. Nothing forces a swimmer to hone their timing skills like good breaststroke instruction. So, focusing time and energy in breaststroke technique will improve a swimmer's timing in every stroke. Here's why: there is nothing better at stopping a swimmer in his/her tracks than an ill-timed breath. For example, if the swimmer's head rises for a breath before the hands begin the pull, the hips drop, and the chest rises. At this point, the swimmer begins the pull but is trying to drag their squared chest through the water. A correctly-timed breath brings the chest up as the pull finishes, and drops the chest down as the kick begins. The kick, pull and breath are timed for maximum efficiency.

Backstroke

While breathing is not an issue in this stroke, a great benefit of backstroke is the balance that this stroke forces the swimmer to learn. Balance strengthens a swimmer's core, and this increases endurance and stroke efficiency. Balance is integral in other strokes, and learning good balance in backstroke will improve the all-around swimmer.  Being largely dependent on the swimmer's kick, backstroke helps teach proper and powerful kicking along with good streamline feel through the water. Often prescribed as a remedy for back problems, backstroke can also improve posture while exercising the entire back through low-resistance movements. In this way, backstroke can be swum for long periods of time and in varying speeds, creating variety in differing workouts. 

Technique

The most important move a swimmer's body makes, whether swimming breaststroke or backstroke, is reaching long. Reaching long helps elongate the swimmer's body creating the streamline. Streamline minimizes resistance, and the closer the swimmer's body stays to good streamline, the less resistance he/she will encounter. This reduces energy spent, and increases speed.

Intervals and Interest

Backstroke is a great way to add variety to a group of tired, hard-working swimmers. Including a mixture of breaststroke and backstroke sets throughout a workout can break up the monotony of the pool and give the swimmers their "second wind". Here's a great example of a well-written workout that includes every stroke, varied set lengths and good use of intervals:
  • Warm up - stretch out the swimmers' muscles to prevent injury

  • Kick set - Build up the swimmers' leg strength

  • Drills - This is where variety counts. Focus on improving technique. Use a small set to help the swimmers focus on the drill.

  • Aerobic set - This set focuses on the swimmers' endurance, and variety becomes crucial for the swimmers' mindsets. Intervals and IM's are your friends at this stage. A good idea is to alternate between long sets of breaststroke and backstroke.

  • Cool down - Stretch the swimmers out and allow their heart rates to drop back to normal.
The variety in this workout will keep swimmers interested while working out their entire body with every stroke. Of course, if a swimmer is just getting started in the sport, learning each stroke can be intimidating. Find a well-recommended swim instructor in Houston or your own hometown who can walk the swimmer through each stroke. Technique is key in swimming, and good swim lessons create good technique. 

Enjoy
    Richard

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