As the world is battling coronavirus, we hope you are safe and healthy wherever you are. Even though life’s on hold with public spaces (and pools) closing down temporarily, we hope to inspire you this week with one of our favourite subjects: the breaststroke.
Breaststroke has a bit of a bad reputation. Is it because it always looks so slow? Is it because you had to learn it as a child? Or is it because it's the most swum technique amongst elderly? At SwimGym we actually don't know the answer to that, but we DO know that breaststroke deserves a better reputation than it has. So let's play a game of 'Fact or Fiction' and see if we can unveil the misconceptions about breaststroke that gives it its current rep.
1. Breaststroke is the easiest stroke?
Breaststroke is often taught to prevent kids from drowning. The big, circular arm motions and frog-like leg movements make it easier to stay at the surface and to keep your head above water. This way you can breathe continously and you're able to swim slow and forever. In competitive swimming however, the purpose is not to stay afloat, but to go fast. Therefor the technique changes dramatically, requiring great body coordination, excellent timing between pull and kick and a lot of strength to overcome the frontal drag this stroke creates more than any other stroke.
Imagine swimming breaststroke. But now you want to raise your upperbody high out of the water, while keeping your pulling motion small and compact with your hands. You want to propel as much water with the soles of your feet, but at the same time you need to keep your knees together and hips pressed down as much ass possible to decrease frontal drag. And after every explosive stroke you want to streamline fully submerged to maximise your effort and stroke efficiency.
Try and apply this next time you swim a lap of breatstroke and you'll understand why some say it is the hardest and technically most challenging stroke in swimming.
2. Breaststroke builds strength & fitness
Breaststroke is a stroke that requires strength to swim properly. The technique of lifting ourselves up and over the water, creating enough speed with the hands and using the feet properly, works your muscles and builds strength. The increased frontal drag plays a big role in this strength development, let alone the stop-start movement of every stroke and the different breathing patterns. If you are swimming breaststroke in a swim set, it is difficult to swim breaststroke properly at an easy pace. It feels more like a steady pace and this increases the intensity of your swimming. This makes breatstroke a great stroke to for interval training, which will ultimately increase your swim fitness.
3. Breaststroke doesn't benefit my freestyle
In general, swimming other strokes helps you develop more body coordination, muscle strength and skills in the water. That said, breaststroke particularly can contribute to a better catch in your freestyle. Your hands move simultaniously when making the catch for the breaststroke pull, which looks and feels quite similar to a front scull movement. This movement helps you understand how you can get more feel for the water by positioning your hands correctly. Another great thing about breaststroke is that streamlining after every stroke is crucial to maximise your stroke efficieny. Something a lot of freestylers tend to forget.
So swimming breaststroke regularly and properly will not only make you a better freestyler, it will make you a better swimmer in general. Period.
4. Breaststroke is the slowest stroke
FACT! (with a proviso)
Empirically yes. The 100 meter breaststroke World Record is almost 10 seconds slower than the 100 meter freestyle World Record. But it is like comparing apples with pears. Breaststroke is a very different movement and as we have already mentioned, propulsion is garnered in a different way than other strokes. Add to that the more vertical body position, which exposes the body to a lot more frontal drag than the other stroke. Therefor we could make an argument for it not being the slowest stroke.
Being the slowest in terms of speed, it hasn’t always been the 'sexiest' stroke to swim. Hence the bad reputation. But that has changed over the recent years since Adam Peaty arrived on the scene with his big lion tattoo, impressive physique and breaking one world record after the other. Let's say he brought 'sexy' back to breaststroke. And we at SwimGym thank him for that!
So, lets re-write the traditional story we have come to believe about breaststroke and embrace it for the wonderful and challenging stroke it is.