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Breaststroke Teaching Progression
Step #2: Teach Breaststroke Kick
Breaststroke kick can be divided into two parts. Part one is the recovery. This is when the heels are drawn up toward the suit and the feet are turned out and flexed. Part two is the propulsive phase, when the feet and legs push back on the water. The legs pushing back will be described as the kick firing.
To teach breaststroke kick, I start on land with ankle exercises. I want the swimmer to know what I mean by “flex, turn out, and point.”
While sitting in an “L” position, we start by practicing just the POINT and FLEX.
We practice FLEX and TURNOUT. Make a “V” with your feet.
We practice ankle circles…POINT, FLEX, TURN OUT, and CIRCLE back to the POINT.
I like to teach breaststroke kick first on the back… and then show techniques for teaching it on the front.
Next we go to the edge of the pool. The swimmer sits on the side and extends her legs, from the knees down, over the water.
Keeping her toes pointed, she drops her heels and toes down toward the wall.
The lower legs “V-out” slightly, so they are now under the outer portion of the hips.
The knees have separated a bit.
Next, both feet simultaneously flex and turn out.
Have the swimmer FREEZE in this position.
Knees should be in line with the hips or slightly wider.
Ankles should be wider than the knees.
Toes should be wider than the ankles.
While keeping their feet in this turned-out and flexed position, the swimmer should slowly push against the water with the instep of their feet and lower leg. Have them watch the water move away.
The toes should return to a point as the legs come together and straighten…and not before.
Practice this kick for a few minutes so the swimmer gets the feel of it. Assist when necessary.
Next, take this to the water and have the swimmer try the kick and let them move their arms as if they were doing elementary backstroke.
If the swimmer needs help floating, have them kick while holding a kickboard over the legs.
Try kicking without a board with the hands by the side.
Try kicking on the front with the arms still extended by the side.
Many swimmers experience difficulty when they go from kicking on the back to kicking on the front. They may revert to a scissors kick or to sending the knees too wide. If this happens, return to kicking on the back until they develop muscle memory for an effective kick, then try again on the stomach.
Next, try kicking in a missile position.
For teaching the breaststroke kick on the front, I have the swimmer lie on their belly on a kickboard. First, I hold the lower legs with my fingers on top and my thumb underneath.
I say “suit” as I bring her heels up toward her suit. The toes are still pointed and turned inward.
The knees come apart just a little bit…no wider than her shoulders.
Then I say “flex” as I help flex and turn her feet out.
Freeze in this position and check the following.
Are the knees slightly wider than the hips?
Are the ankles wider than the knees?
Are the toes wider than the ankles and pointed to the side walls?
I then turn my hands palm up as I put my thumbs on her big toes. I put my fingertips on the top side of her feet. I’m putting some torque on her feet — turning them out and flexing them at the same time.
Now I say “circle” as I rotate her lower legs back and around.
The feet are like rotating propeller blades making a quarter turn
I say “squeeze” as the feet come together. She points her toes.
Next, bring the swimmer into the water and use a kickboard like this, making sure the eyes look down and the arms are straight with shoulders covering the ears.
Assist with the motion of the kick.
Have her try it by herself.
Here she is doing the flex by herself and I’m controlling with width of her knees as she brings her heels up and as she begins extending her legs back.
In the final step we take away the kickboard and she kicks in the missile position. She kicks three times with a long glide after each kick.