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If you want to split 47.65 for your leg of the 400-meter freestyle relay, you need a breakout that looks like this. In this lesson, we’ll go under water and slow things down so you can see the little things Cullen does...that add up to a world-class breakout.
The secret to Cullen’s breakout starts at the top -- with his HANDS. In this clip, let’s focus JUST on Cullen’s hands. They’re locked into tight, hand-over-hand streamline as he enters the water...and they STAY locked until he’s ready to start his first, powerful arm stroke. As he takes that first pull, the other hand STAYS in streamline, with fingertips pointed straight ahead.
From the side, the hands look like this. Notice how they stay locked together until Cullen takes his first pull...and how the non-pulling hand continues to drive FORWARD, with the fingers pointed straight ahead. Cullen generates a lot of energy with his kick, and sends all of that energy right through his fingertips and into the breakout.
In this clip, let’s focus on Cullen’s head and arms. Cullen uses his locked hands to pull his upper arms TIGHT against his head and into super streamline. Cullen’s head is RIGHT between his arms. His eyes are looking DOWN. And the eyes CONTINUE to look down right into the breakout.
From the side, watch how Cullen’s head remains stable and constant, right into the breakout. He leads into the breakout with the top of his head, and not with his forehead. This helps him shoot forward, rather than UP, through the surface.
Keeping the head steady and low is so important to a good breakout that we’ll watch Cullen again from another angle. Notice Cullen’s eyes, and that his head barely moves from where it was during streamline. He directs all of his energy forward through the fingertips.
In this clip, let’s focus on Cullen’s legs and kick. He starts with three to four dolphin kicks, then makes a smooth transition into flutter kick. He uses flutter kick to POWER into his first pull and into the breakout.
How many dolphins should you take? Should you take ANY dolphins? This is something every swimmer has to decide, based on how effective you are at underwater dolphins.
Cullen likes to start with three or four dolphins, but how many he takes depends on how deep he is in the water. Different starting blocks will give you a different trajectory, so you have to base this on feel...each time you dive in.
Before we move on, let’s do a quick review of the basics for a freestyle breakout.
• A great breakout starts with a tight streamline. Eyes down. Head locked tight between the arms.
• Start with a few quick dolphins and transition immediately into flutter kick.
• Maintain a direct line with the extending hand, sending all your energy right through the fingertips.
• Don’t look up!
• At the exact moment of breakout, the head should be in the same position it would be in if your hands were in streamline.
• Don’t breathe until at least your second stroke.