The 2 Styles of Breaststroke Swimming Technique:
Woof! It’s been a minute since I’ve written a new blog for you guys! I trust that things are going well for you – wherever you are in the world! I know some teams are STILL patiently awaiting pool time, and if you are one of them – hang in there!
Our next series, we are going to dive deep into everything about Breaststroke undulation and how to improve your Breaststroke technique. Today’s post features a discussion the two Styles of Breaststroke Swimming Techniques and what that means for undulation as well.
Out of all the four strokes, Breaststroke has the MOST variance its’ biomechanics – but there are still some common aspects seen throughout.
Let’s get started!
Two of the greatest Breaststrokers of all time – live in our era: Adam Peaty and Lily King. These two are the perfect example of swimmer’s swimming Breaststroke with a Fast Recovery. Two other notable swimmers like Kevin Cordes and Cody Miller swim with the opposite style of Breaststroke, which focuses on maximizing their Distance Per Stroke.
The Fast Recovery:
The Fast Recovery Breaststroke Swimming Technique hit the stage in STRIDE over the past couple years. From Lily King’s epic race win against Yulia Efimova – this style of Breaststroke swimming has been really exciting to watch!
The more upbeat and tempo-driven Breaststroke is not exactly new, though – the swims themselves are just faster than they’ve been historically. One world-class Breaststroker, Kosuke Kitajima, who is mainly known for the controversial dolphin kicks during his pullout, swam and dominated with a fast tempo Breaststroke swimming technique in the early 2000’s.
Benefits of the Fast Recovery:
Benefits of the Fast Recovery include: less dead space, less time between breaths, and getting back to your propulsive phases sooner. Deterrents include: more drag and absolutely NO relaxation time!
To swim a FAST Recovery Breaststroke, swimmers must be very strong, physically. This is the equivalent of swimming Freestyle with a straight-arm pull. This Breaststroke swimming technique has the HIGHEST amount of drag associated with it, because the body is doing a lot MORE up and down motion over the same distance – than someone who is trying to maximize their DPS.
Breaststroke, in my opinion, is the hardest stroke to swim. It requires a swimmer to be very powerful, hold their breath more than any other stroke, and never stop working — no matter what technique you’re using. So combining all these components, but just doing it faster — means you need the strength and training background to do so.
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The Distance Per Stroke (Stroke):
The DPS Breaststroke is the MORE common Breaststroke swimming technique of the two. This one a swimmer MAXIMIZES time where they hit their ‘body line’. Their body line is the point at which a swimmer is gliding with their hands reached out in front of the body – head down – and the legs are snapping around out back to finish side – by – side.
Interestingly enough, the BEST Fast Recovery Breaststrokers STILL DO hit their body line every time. It’s just the time they spend there is LESS than someone who is maximize their DPS.
Benefits of the DPS Stroke:
Benefits of the DPS style include: less drag, more time to recover, and minimal stroke cycles. Deterrents of the DPS style include: little to no oxygen, super powerful stroke cycles needed, and an unbelievable kick.
While this style of Breaststroke swimming technique is the most commonly taught – don’t let it fool you into thinking it’s actually an EASIER way to swim. Because the short answer is, it’s not.
With the DPS Breaststroke technique, swimmers MUST be very much okay swimming in an hypoxic environment. Yeah, as a coach, you could argue every stroke requires that from swimmers – but this is more (wayyyyy more).
Let’s do some math. Kevin Cordes likes to average around 4 strokes per lap in the 200 yard Breaststroke. At the beginning of the race, he’ll hit 3 and towards the end – he’ll speed up his tempo. We will just use his average of 4 for now.
His 3rd 50 of his 200 yard Breaststroke in his FASTEST swim to date – he went 28.4. For ease of math purposes, let’s say it takes him 1 second to complete a breath. That means in his 3rd 50 of his 200 yard Breaststroke, he held his breath for 20.4 seconds, while only breathing 4x per lap (or 8 seconds in total).
Can you imagine swimming a race (if we multiply that 50’s stats by 3) where you held your breath for 1:21.60 of it? That’s ¾ of the entire race being done with your head underwater!
So while this type of Breaststroke swimming technique is the most commonly taught – it’s taught with allowing a swimmer to take a ‘break’ or a vacation. Swimmers are taught to relax and go slow, as Breaststroke does have the slowest average speed.
But the reality is – if you want to swim FAST in Breaststroke and hold a good DPS, you don’t have time to ‘chill’. Unless, you consider ‘chilling’ while holding your breath underwater as a good time! Haha
So the short of the story is, most swimmers are taught the DPS Breaststroke. I believe this type of stroke is HARDER due to the lack of oxygen, compared to the Fast Recovery Breaststroke. But to do the Fast Recovery Breaststroke, you have to be super strong to do. So if you’re teaching a beginner swimmer all the way to an elite I would recommend the progression of:
1.) Teach DPS Breaststroke Fundamentals (ages 6-12)
2.) Decide whether a swimmer is a natural Breaststroke kicker or not (around age 13)
3.) More natural Breaststrokers, lean towards a DPS stroke (13+ years old)
4.) Less natural, try a high tempo (13+ years old)
Be sure to tune into next week, as we discuss the differences in undulation between these two Breaststroke styles!
Until Next Time,