One of the age-old questions in breaststroke is, "Where do I recover my hands — above or below the waterline?" It’s a good question, with many answers, and we’re only going to cover ONE answer here.
Since breaststroke is a stroke known for SIGNATURES, it would be wrong for me to say that one type of recovery is best for everyone. If we look at Amanda Beard, the answer is going to be ABOVE the water. If we look at Leisel Jones, you’ll see that the hands are much lower. So, what we’ll do in this particular Drill of the Week is average them out — split the difference. As our subject, we’re gonna use our pal Dave. He’s got a great stroke, and the way he recovers his hands is pretty easy for most people to duplicate.
Why Do It:
Well, of course, you recover your hands so you can start your next stroke. The real question is why recover your hands THROUGH the surface? Because there’s less resistance than if you recovered them under the surface…and because it doesn’t require as much energy as recovering them over the surface. A split-surface recovery is not too high, and it’s not too low. For Dave, it’s like Goldilocks’s porridge — just right.
How To Do It (this is a really easy one):
1. Swim breaststroke like you normally would.
2. During the recovery, SPLIT the surface of the water with your hands. Use the surface as your guide, and extend your hands quickly through the surface.
3. Uh…well…that’s it. I told you it was simple, so let’s hope it’s as easy for you as it is for Dave.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
Recovering your hands is a "necessary evil" of swimming breaststroke. When you think about it, you’re really pushing yourself AWAY from the direction in which you want to go. Because of this, you have to really concentrate on doing it correctly.
The most important thing to do during your recovery is to minimize resistance. The goal is not simply to have your hands HIGH. The goal is to hide your arms and present as little surface area as possible to the water. If you can recover your hands through the surface, the forearms and elbows tend to creep up and follow the hands in a tighter recovery. Goal accomplished.
Experiment with the height of your hands to determine your best trajectory. Start the process by splitting the surface, then move a bit up, or a bit down. See what spot is the most comfortable to you, and which allows you to keep swimming at a higher rate for a longer distance. Play around and discover what’s best for you.