Learning the proper breaststroke kick is sometimes a pretty tough task. I know I’ve said that before, but in looking through all the drills there are to help with this task, I’ve got to believe it’s one of the more difficult skills to learn in swimming.
I’m lucky in that breaststroke kick came easily for me. It may have something to do with how my ankles and knees work. As a swim teacher, however, I know that most swimmers don’t have a perfect breaststroke kick right off the bat. It takes patience and lots of practice to get it right — and to make it POWERFUL once you get the mechanics right. Breaststroke kick employs different muscles than flutter kick, and it requires that you use the INSIDE of your foot rather than the TOP of your foot (as in flutter kick) to generate power and force.
Breaststroke kick requires that you keep your knees fairly close together while, at the same time, you whip the heels and legs up and around. If you have knee trouble, this can be a difficult and sometimes painful move. You also need to flex your ankles and rotate your feet so that they are in the proper position to feel for and grab the water. When swimmers try too hard and try to grab TOO MUCH water with the feet, they often make the mistake of drawing their knees up to set up for the kick, rather than drawing their HEELS up. Drawing the knees up introduces resistance, and you have to push really hard with the feet to overcome the resistance. This alone, can lead to MORE knee trouble. On the other hand, drawing the HEELS up minimizes resistance because it allows your feet and lower legs to "hide" behind the thighs and torso as you draw them up. Your kick may feel smaller, but you don’t have to work as hard to overcome resistance.
A more skilled swimmer understands the need to find a balance between minimizing resistance and maximizing propulsion. This drill will help in your search for perfect balance.
Why Do It?
Stage one of this drill makes a very clear statement if you’re doing something incorrectly. If you kick the wall with your knees, you’ll know right away that you’re lifting your knees — rather than drawing up your heels — to set up for your next kick.
How To Do It:
1. Hang from the side of the pool, with your legs dangling below you and with your belly against the wall.
2. Start kicking breaststroke, while keeping your belly against the wall. Keep your knees fairly close together. If you let the knees go too far apart, you won’t get the full effect of the drill. Wide knees let you cheat a bit, and when you start swimming again, your knees will tend to go too wide.
3. While kicking, be careful NOT to hit the wall with your knees. Focus on drawing your heels up behind you to initiate the kick. This will keep your thighs more in line with the rest of your body.
4. After you’ve had a chance to practice this for a while, move your hands lower on the wall, and kick directly toward the wall under water. Alternate these positions until you feel very comfortable under water. Try to carry the sense of alignment and of grabbing the water with your feet that you feel in the horizontal position into the vertical position. Be careful not to kick so forcefully that you hit your head on the wall. But if your kick becomes so strong that you can’t hold yourself OFF the wall… COOL.
5. When going horizontal, make sure you place your hands below the surface. You’ll see in the 2nd set of pictures how Dave’s body position isn’t quite so good as Staciana’s. He’ll be practicing kicking uphill, rather than forward. Lower your head, and develop a sense of sending your feet straight back, or your body straight forward.
6. Repeat this drill thousands of times, and you’ll have it all worked out.
How To Do It Really Well (the fine points):
Make sure you bring your feet together at the end of each kick. Your kick won’t be nearly so effective if you rush into the next one. Get a full kick each time.
Take your time. Feel how your legs contact the wall when you’re vertical, and feel how your feet draw you back (resistance) and send you forward (propulsion) while you’re horizontal.
Have a good time.
This drill is borrowed from the upcoming Go Swim Breaststroke Drills video. Read about it here.