We talk a lot about minimizing resistance as a way of going faster in the water. As an athlete, however, your instinct is to grab as much water as possible. It can feel productive to be fighting the water, but usually it’s more productive to slip through the water. If you focus too much on grabbing water and working as hard as you can, it’s sometimes difficult to feel the resistance.
One of the best ways I’ve found to wake up your senses and to become more aware of how much friction is created by the recovery in breaststroke, is to flip upside down.
Why do it:
Upside-down breaststroke has many benefits, but this week let’s focus just on the pull. When you flip over, your hands will always be connected with a lot of water, and you’ll naturally try to hide them, or slip them forward with as little resistance much as possible. If you do this incorrectly, you’ll feel just how much water you’re pushing with each recovery.
How To Do It:
1. Well, we can’t get a much better demonstrator than Amanda Beard, so let’s focus on how SHE does it. Simply push off the wall on your back, and make sure you go deep enough so that you can take a few strokes without kicking or pulling above the surface.
2. Simply start swimming breaststroke on your back. Of course, you’ll either have to (a) plug your nose naturally like Amanda does, (b) continuously blow out air, or (c) wear nose plugs to get in a few good strokes.
3. Focus on the recovery, or when your hands sweep inward and forward. You should naturally begin to get them closer and closer to your face as you swim. You should begin to pierce your hands forward to return to full extension, rather than push your biceps and forearms forward.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
Of course, trying to perform a drill like an Olympic Champion is pretty tough, but give it your best shot. Make sure you take full, complete strokes. Try not to chop. Finish your arms all the way out front, and finish your kick all the way in back. Try to reach a nice, streamline position at the end of each stroke. This will teach you how important it is to move forward in a smooth, sleek line rather than traveling up and down. It will also teach you how to recover your arms so that they HELP your line rather than harm it.
Make sure you get a good breath of air prior to attempting this for the first time. Try to stay level, and don’t go too deep. A direct line down the pool will also make this easier.