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When I swim breaststroke, I think about keeping my hands and arms in constant motion.
I get my body into a straight line on every stroke, but once I get there, the hands separate and start to slide apart. As the hands separate, the palms turn and the thumbs point toward the bottom of the pool.
The first part of my pull -- the initial outsweep of the hands -- is slow and controlled. I think about sliding the hands out rather than pushing them out. I’m not putting a lot of work or force into this move. I’m just keeping the hands moving.
In this clip, notice my body position as the hands start to slide out. My head and eyes are still down, my hips are high, legs together and long, and my toes are pointed. I’m pressing just a bit with the chest, but overall I’m in a very long and straight line.
As the hands continue the outsweep, I think about setting up a nice wide pull and accelerating into the corners. It almost feels like I’m sweeping the hands toward the sides of the pool. If we stop it here...at the widest point of the outsweep, my fingertips are pointed toward the lane lines.
When my hands are at the widest part of the pull -- at the corners -- notice that my face is still in the water. I’ve started to pick up my head and look forward a little bit, but my head is still in the water.
Everything happens quickly at this point. My head continues to lift, and this helps me accelerate my hands around the corners and into the insweep.
From head on above the surface, you can see that I’m lifting my head straight up and looking straight down the pool as I take my breath. This extra head movement is very different from my old stroke, and it took two years for it to feel natural. But lifting the head helps me get around the corners and into the insweep.
From the side, you can see the other thing that’s going on as my hands come around the corners. Watch the hips. If we slow it down, you can see that as the head lifts up and the hands come around the corners, my hips slide forward.
I’m actually pulling my hips forward and this helps me get the hands around the corners and get them back up under my body. And pulling the hips forward helps me push the hands back out front into streamline.
Also notice that as I slide the hips forward, my legs are still long and together and just beginning to set up for the kick.
At this point, with the hips under my body, I’m thinking about getting the hands back out front as quickly as possible. I want to keep the hands moving.
I recover my hands out of the water, because it’s easier to move them through air than to push them through the water. I recover them almost as if I’m praying.
As soon as the hands reach forward, I’m already shifting the palms and pointing the thumbs toward the bottom of the pool -- ready to start the outsweep and start holding and catching all that water.
Here’s the whole sequence. Brief streamline. Head stays under as the hands sweep out. At the widest point the head and eyes start to lift. The lift helps me accelerate around the corners and slide the hips forward, which helps me spin the hands back to the front and into the next cycle.
When you try this with your own stroke, the tricky part is the transitions -- between eyes down...eyes forward...and eyes down again. It’s easy to look forward as you’re coming up for the breath. The hard part is getting the head and eyes back down for the streamline and the glide.
If you simply lean your head down after the breath and continue to look forward -- like this -- you never achieve an ideal body line for breaststroke.
To minimize resistance, you lift the head and eyes up for the breath, then get the head back in line and into streamline.