By Matt Barbini//National Team High Performance Consultant | Monday, January 26, 2015
We often discuss proper breaststroke technique as ‘pulling your legs’ and ‘kicking your streamline.’ Put simply, that means that you try to minimize the amount of time in your stroke where multiple parts of your body are contributing to deceleration. While your arms are out of streamline and bending to establish and execute your pull, your legs are in streamline and vice-versa.
A specific element of this technique, which can be overlooked when thinking about the stroke as a whole, is the impact of quick heels when initiating the kick. It makes logical sense – the longer you can stay in this position…
And the less time you spend in or getting to this position…
…the more effective your pull will be, and your stroke overall will be more efficient. Quickly getting your heels to that set position will allow you to maximize the time spent efficiently streamlined and minimize the disruptive force of the knee bend.
An area where the principle of quick heels is often overlooked is in the pullout. This, more than any other point in a race, has the opportunity for body position to impact acceleration and deceleration. If you can increase your heel speed you’ll be able to be more patient and wait for your hands to get further into their movement from your sides to streamline before initiating the kick. This will allow you to glide further, reduce your energy usage, and maintain more of the speed generated by your pull-down.
In my opinion, being able to effectively move your heels quickly from streamline to the position where you set your kick is one the elements that separates great breaststrokers from good ones.
A couple of things to think about when trying to apply this to your own stroke:
- You should actively be pulling your feet up with your hamstrings. This needs to be a conscious motion; it won’t happen on its own.
- Make sure that any efforts to increase foot speed do not impact your body line. If zipping your feet to the surface causes your hips to drop or pulls you out of line in any way, you’re just creating a different problem.
- Don’t compromise the technique of the kick itself. You’re not trying to rush through the entire process. The focus is on decreasing the amount of time spent in the most decelerating portion of the stroke.