Improving Breaststroke Technique

I believe strongly in the wave-style breaststroke.  I also believe that doing the same drills day after day and week after week will not create the same adaptation that the drill would have done when they were first started.  Adaptation requires a change in either: intensity or volume (or both).  So a few lengths of “2 kicks – 1 pull” breaststroke may have got your swimmers along when they were 12yrs old but it no longer does


anything when they are 14 or 16…or 26.  Basically they are too good at it.

I have a lot of swimmers come to see me in a 1-2-1 capacity which gives me the advantage to see if the drill I prescribe actually makes a change in the right way.  I have been forced to develop new drills.  I find this very exciting and rewarding.  I want to share some of these drills with you.

If a swimmer swims with poor balance in breaststroke and their head needs to get lower I recommend these drills:

Granny Breaststroke.  This drill is head up breaststroke.  A swimmer really needs to understand that holding their head up high is hard work.  With this drill they really do ‘feel’ how hard it is.  This also speeds up the arm pull so it is also a good drill for timing issues.  Swimmers love this drill balancing a pullbouy on their head for fun but also it is a good tie-in with the Granny drill.

Spider-man Breaststroke.  I did some fun relays with my group in Calgary and found that swimming underwater frontcrawl was a good race and seemed to teach good balance.  So all the strokes that are swum underwater became ‘spider-man’ strokes.  So spider-man breaststroke is breaststroke underwater.  It teaches the swimmer how to


get their head out of the way…and low.  I have heard that Kitajima’s coach also did this drill so I was happy to know I was on the right track!

Head Down breaststroke.  We have also called this ‘headless’ breaststroke.  Some swimmers are so good at this drill that we have considered using this as their ‘normal’ stroke.  I don’t see why breaststroke swimmers swim with breathing every stroke and I think it will evolve into a Butterfly breathing pattern, especially in the sprints.  Using a Centre-Mounted-Snorkel works really well with this drill.

Snow Plough Breaststroke Kick.  This is a great way to improve your swimmers power on their breast kick.  Take a kickboard and turn it sideways, use the surface area to create a huge amount of resistance.  You can use steps for this drill and go in this 3C108BD9bpJqSJNT6B-Mzpj7UHDcfj2XrdgwbYIUkeIpattern, holding these items with the most resistance: pullbouy, kickboard (tombstone way), kickboard (long ways), medicine ball (if you have the kind that can go into the water, or a dive brick), large plastic container (for the big brash lads) and for those who have real ambition and want some fun use a innertube.

Submarine Kick: this kick is done under water and meant to be done with NO PAUSE between kicks.  I say “kick-kick-kick-kick”.  This style of drill will also begin to show the use of the upward sweep of the finish of the kick.

If you didn’t get a chance to look at this Youtube video clip I made on Breaststroke, then have a look here.

About Coach Gary

I competed in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul representing Canada and coached in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics for Great Britain. I have a degree in History and a minor degree in Psychology from University of Calgary. I have travelled extensively and have been very lucky to see so much of the world while representing Canada and Great Britain at swimming competitions. I am very proud of the fact that I coached a swimmer to become number one in the world in the fastest swimming race in 2002. I pride myself in my ability to find new and interesting ways to teach swimming. I am an accomplished artist specialising in sculpture, I have another blog called 'swimmingart' where I publish some of my swimming drawings. I have three young children; all boys. I have recently taken up painting and yoga....but not at the same time. You can see my new paintings at:
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2 Responses to Improving Breaststroke Technique

  1. Morgan Knabe says:

    Def on the right track. I did heaps of uw br when training, was a quick way to find my stroke when it wasn’t feeling good.
    Head down or no brth br was another of my faves. I especially got a habit of not breathing my first stroke at breakout to keep up speed. I even raced quite a few 50s with little or even no brths, especially sc (think I broke couple nat records that way)
    I’ve developed a drill (still developing actually) I call evolution br drill. It lets swimmers find their own style and what works best for them. Starts out with a wave like action by fly kick with head down and scull arms above head. Then they grow it from there. As scull gets stronger, fly kick action loses frequency and head begins to lift more with the scull. The in sweep of the scull is timed with down kick. It’s very natural movement and the two go very well together, kids can tell when it clicks. You can add a small br whip kick very other kick, but keeping the flow of the drill constant. Snorkel works well. Eventually the drill grows a stoke for the swimmer that they are comfortable with. Anytime they lose timing or flow, just go back to the start as scull and fly kick and let it evolve up again. I have to make a video cause it looks awesome to watch from basic drill through full stroke within a 50.
    Keep it up man!


    • garyalison50 says:

      I love the way breaststroke looks and moves with a dolphin action. I think that your feeling and ideas support this idea that the smooth style and underwater style seems to produce. It supports both of our feelings of these drills. I genuinely appreciate the thoughts of a true Breaststroker. A rare and strange, but beautiful bird. Thank you.


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