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As you watch how I swim breaststroke, and as you try to add some of the concepts to your own stroke, keep in mind that they may feel odd at first...and they may not work for you.
Four years ago, my breaststroke looked like this. My pull was narrow, and I kept my head down pretty much through the entire stroke.
When I came to Austin, the first thing Eddie Reese did was change my stroke to look more like this. I thought he was crazy. Breaststroke was my best stroke, and he wanted to turn it completely upside down.
Going from this kind of head/eye position...
...to this...was really hard. It felt awful at first. Not natural at all. But after a couple of months my times started to drop. After a year, the new stroke felt better but still weird. And after two years, in 2008...well, I probably wouldn’t have made the Olympic team without the new stroke.
The message is that you can’t be afraid to try new things, even when they feel awkward and unnatural at first. If your coach asks you to do something different, just give it a try, stick with it for a while, and see how it works.
Breaststroke is all about minimizing resistance and minimizing your dead spots. What’s tricky is that the point when you have least resistance is here.......but if you hold that position for too long, it becomes a dead spot in your stroke.
I try to achieve a streamlined body position on every stroke. Here it is again on the next cycle. The body is in streamline with arms extended, head between arms, eyes down, hips high, legs long, feet together, and toes pointed.
This is a very good line to have, and you want to get in this position on each stroke. But you don’t want to spend a whole lot of time in that line.
In a 200 breaststroke or on the breaststroke leg of a 400 IM, you might spend some time in this position, riding the legs and gliding a bit.
But if you ride the legs too long, you risk losing your momentum. For me, I never want to have the hands stop moving. So as soon as I recover the hands forward -- as soon as I reach streamline -- I let them start to slide out to start the next stroke.
Here’s another angle where you can see that I get into streamline, with head and eyes down, on every stroke. But my hands are constantly moving and I’m maintaining forward momentum. I don’t want the glide to become a dead spot.
When I get to the breaststroke leg on the IM, I’m thinking more about my arms than my legs. I like to come up and stay long and controlled on the first couple of strokes, but then I don’t want to ride the glide too long. I get into streamline but try to keep the hands moving.