In breaststroke, a narrow kick is usually more powerful than a wide kick. But there’s another reason for developing a narrow kick: injury prevention.
This can be a sensitive subject ‘ in every sense of the word ‘ but what we’re talking about here is the dreaded groin injury. The mere mention of that word brings sniggers from the youth of the world, but if you have ever pulled a muscle in that particular region (the inside of the thigh, where the pelvis bone attaches to the thigh bone), you can understand the seriousness of the subject.
A pulled groin muscle can put an end to serious training. It’s one of those injuries that take a long time to heal, in part because it’s so hard not to use these muscles. The groin muscles are ‘adductor’ muscles, which means they move the leg toward the centerline of the body. They play a major role in breaststroke kick, during the phase when you need to slam your feet together to create power. The older you get, the easier it is to strain or pull these mus-cles.
The groin is also a very tough area to strengthen, because the gracilis muscle is long and skinny, and easy to strain. Kicking breaststroke is one way to strengthen the groin muscles, but once you’ve injured this area, it takes a long time to get it functional again, to the point where you can swim all-out, no-worries breaststroke.
One way to begin to work this area is with eggbeater kick. This is the same eggbeater kick you did as a kid or as a lifeguard, only now we’ll put a competitive swimming spin on it.
Why Do It:
Avoiding the pain of pulling a muscle in the groin area means you’ll be able to swim breaststroke better and faster and without fear. You’ll even be able to WALK out of the pool like a normal human.
How To Do It:
1. Start slowly, with both hands below the surface of the water. You may even want to scull a bit to place less pressure on the legs. Think of this as one -egged breaststroke kick, except that you’re alternating legs. This exercise is to be done like interval training, 30 sec-onds on, then 15 seconds off. Repeat 6 to 10 times.
2. As you become more and more comfortable and capable with the kick, raise your hands and rest them on the surface. When you stop using your hands for support, your legs will have to do more work, and you’ll feel this in the groin region. If you feel any acute pain in that area, stop immediately. This should be the good kind of muscle burn, not the bad kind.
3. The next step raises the bar, or at least the hands, a bit higher. Now show your entire hand above the surface of the water. Holding anything high out of the water places tremendous responsibility on the body parts trying to hold everything up. Once you’ve reached this stage, you probably should be able to increase the workload as well… some-thing like 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off.
4. When you’ve reached the elite level of the drill, grab a weight, and hold it above the water. This requires not only good endurance and strong legs, but also VERY FAST FEET. Have fun with this one.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
Stay vertical. Try not to lean back when practicing this drill. You want to make sure you’re working each leg as if you were really kicking breaststroke.
Obviously, stop if you feel any discomfort, and start slowly… build into the more advanced levels, don’t start there. The advantage of working this way, is that you’re not stretching that thin muscle at the same time you’re stressing it. By using only one side of the groin area at a time, you’ll be better able to work it harder without fear of strain.