Stroke count, stroke length, and glide are important in swimming, but the overriding KING of efficient swimming is rhythm. One of the best tools for developing a sense of rhythm is the Tempo Trainer by Finis. Here’s a fun, challenging breaststroke set that uses the Tempo Trainer to help you develop a smoother, more efficient rhythm.
If you’re using a Tempo Trainer for the first time, or if you’ve used it only for freestyle, it’s a good idea to swim a few lengths of easy breaststroke with the TT to get a sense of your cadence. You might start with an initial TT setting of 1:65 or 1:70 or 1:75. This means that the TT will beep every 1.65 (or 1.7 or 1.75) seconds. Remember: this should be EASY swimming, not all out. Start by swimming 25s, and adjust the TT up or down until you find a pace that feels comfortable.
OK. Now it’s time for the breaststroke set. Keep the TT at the setting that felt most comfortable. Then put on some fins. Any fins will work, but my favorite are the Zura Alpha fins because they’re light and don’t give me TOO much propulsion. They also make me work my hips more than a longer fin. When you first do this set, start with 25s. Once you get the hang of it, you can switch to 50s — or even 75s or 100s.
The set is 20 X 25. The first 10 X 25 are with fins; the second 10 X 25 are without fins. Use dolphin kick when you’re wearing fins; breaststroke kick when you’re not. And you should ignore the pace clock. This set is all about paying attention to your rhythm and to how your body is feeling — not about time! If you want to stay on a "sendoff," using the Tempo Trainer. Take "X" number of BEEPS as your rest interval between each 25. (I like to take 6 to 8 BEEPS rest on the first 10 X 25, and 10 to 15 BEEPS on the second 10 X 25.
2 X 25 of Hand-Lead Flow, breathing every 4 to 6 dolphins. Just take it nice and easy, matching each forward pulse to a BEEP on the Tempo Trainer.
2 X 25 of Hand-Lead Flow, breathing every other dolphin. On the breath, take a small pull of breaststroke, making sure to keep the entire arm motion smooth and even, from the "catch" to the insweep and all the way through the recovery of the hands. Keep it nice and smooth and keep the pulses in rhythm with the BEEP.
Now take it under water with
2 X 25 of Underwater Flow with Breaststroke Pull. This is dolphin kick with breaststroke arms. Again, keep the chest press in rhythm with the BEEP. Take 3 to 4 pulses under water, take two quick strokes on top for air, then go under again.
Now it’s time to get a little more intense, with
2 X 25 of Karla Drill. This is 1L/1R fly followed immediately by 2 (or 3) strokes breaststroke with no breath on the breaststroke. Keep repeating this sequence for the entire length. Keep EVERY pulse on the BEEP.
2 X 25 of Hand-Lead Flow, breathing every other dolphin, then take off the fins.
Without changing the TT setting, swim the following 10 X 25. Don’t worry about doing an underwater pullout on the first 8 X 25. Just get to the drill.
2 X 25 Pulse Breaststroke (use dolphin kick on the pulse; breast kick after the pull and breath). Keep everything flowing and steady — from the catch to the insweep to the recovery. No part of the pull is more important than any other part. Think RHYTHM.
2 X 25 Breaststroke with an Extra Kick. Oh yeah! Youll wonder how things could have changed SO MUCH from the last 2 X 25. The challenge is to fit the second kick into the rhythm. That 2nd kick will come up RIGHT AWAY. Make it quick and make sure to FINISH each kick.
2 X 25 Underwater Breaststroke Kick with arms in streamline. Finish each kick in rhythm with the BEEP. Watch the tiles to make sure you’re moving forward at all times. Come up for air every 3 to 4 kicks.
2 X 25 Breast stroke Breathing Every Other Stroke. Focus on keeping your eyes down and head low during the breath.
2 X 25 Breaststroke with a pullout. Keep every stroke on the BEEP. It should feel light and quick, and the kick and pull should feel balanced in effort, weight, and importance.
If you’re feelin’ good after this set, swim some freestyle or backstroke as short recovery swim and to clear your head of the BEEPS. Then adjust the TT down by .05 of a second (e.g., set it to beep every 1.55 seconds if you originally had it at 1.60 seconds) and try the set again. If you’re feeling REALLY good, take it down another .05 second and try it a third time!
The point of the set is to let you experiment with your breaststroke rhythm without swimming too much breaststroke. If you do this set (or your own version of it) on a regular basis, you might find that you have more hip action in your breaststroke — or that you have more balance between your kick and your pull — or that you swim with less tension in your body — or that you have a better sense of how to find EASE at a faster stroke rate.
Have fun with it. Add your own drills to the sequence. Go swim!