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When you swim breaststroke, there are two key things to remember when you breathe:
Maintain good body position… and maintain forward momentum. You can accomplish both if you learn to look down when you breathe.
Watch Dave’s eyes. He directs them down at the water, almost seeming to watch his hands extend forward. This allows him to maintain good body position. His head remains in line with his back, and this prevents his hips from dropping too deep in the water.
To give you an idea of the line that Dave’s body gets into when he breathes, we’ll stop his stroke so you can see how his head, neck, and back are all in line while breathing.
Many swimmers, either out of instinct or to see where they’re going, look forward. You’ll notice how this creates a hesitation in the stroke, disrupts the natural rhythm, and causes the swimmer to slow down.
The most important reason to look down when you breathe is it lets you achieve this straight body line. This guarantees that you won’t drop your hips out of line with the rest of your body.
This body position allows you to go faster. It helps your body stay shallow as you extend your arms forward. It helps you maintain forward momentum. Keeping your eyes down above, keeps you from coming up too high during the breath.
When you do this correctly, you’ll feel that you’re sneaking just over the surface of the water, rather than coming up so high that you end up crashing down onto the water.
Let’s watch Dave take a few strokes at race speed. And watch his eyes.
Now watch the same fast breaststroke in slow motion. Notice how Dave lifts his eyes just a little higher. This is instinctual, because no swimmer wants to swallow water, especially when they’re really working.
Another good way to focus on keeping your eyes down above, is to use the Underwater Breaststroke you learned in the last segment, and gradually bring it to the surface. Then work in a couple strokes with no breath. Play with this sequence until you feel that your head is stable and that you are keeping your eyes down, both above and below the surface.
Remember: eyes down above. Keep looking down when you take your breath on breaststroke.