Breaststroke arms – getting it right

From E-Learning I

Fig.1 Use of Xerte in e-learning

The following is the first stage in thinking through the construction of a series of activities or learning object where thought has been given to improving access – in this case for swimmers and swim coaches. This collation of the materials in the desired chronology will be re-versioned on the Xerte platform that offers far greater versatility for the user to set adjustments to the way the material is presented to suit their individual needs.

From Swimming

Fig.2. A leisure swimmer in the Pells Pool, Lewes. Illustration by Neil Gower.

Figure one is an illustration by Neil Gower done in the style of the artist David Hockney showing a swimmer doing breaststroke hidden under the ripples of water in a swimming pool.

Swimming breaststroke can tie you in knots – this is how to identify and fix problems.

How to fix Breaststroke

The purpose of this activity is two-fold

  • Firstly, to help identify and fix common problems in competitive breaststroke so that the swimmer is not disqualified in a gala
  • Secondly to help the swimmer become more efficient.

The swimmer might be progressing from teaching to competitive swimming or they wish take part in a gala and realise they may have faults to address.

Let’s start by taking a look at what we’re trying to achieve.

Here’s breaststroke as it should be.

From Swimming

Fig.3 Still of a cartoon animation of breaststroke from BBC Sport

Figure two shows in side video a graphic representation of a swimmer paused at that moment in breaststroke where they are about to kick the hands out into a glide. This is a still from an animation produced by BBC Sport.

BBC Sport Breaststroke < CLICK > http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/swimming/4225756.stm

A description of the video animation

Repeated on a short loop this animation shows a figure swimming breaststroke.

The stroke is correct in competitive terms with the hands pulling in front of the shoulders and the leg kick symmetrical.

Other good practice is demonstrated – the body is horizontal in with the hips high, the head is steady and the chin tucked in – the breath in is short and explosive – the breath out underwater is a slow trickle. the arms reach forward out, pull out and scoop to the chest in one inverted heart-shape – in a symmetrical frog-kick the feet rise to the bum, the toes bend out and in a whipping action they press outwards against the water then come together in a streamline position with pointed toes.

Here’s another way of looking at it

From Swimming

Fig. 4 Swimming competitive breaststroke – from Swimming Fastest : Maglischo. (1997)

Figure three is a graphic a line drawing of a swimmer demonstrates in two columns, and – side ways on – two ways to swim breaststroke.

In the first column we see a swimmer adopting the flat style of swimming competitive breaststroke. In the second column we see a swimmer adopting the wave style of competitive breaststroke.

Looking at the first column we see that the flat style swimmer keeps his hips close to the surface at all times as he goes through the sequence of reach, pull, breathe, kick glide.

Looking at the second column we see that the wave style swimmer drops his hips further – this will create a pronounced undulation in his swim.

In each case the sequence shown ends with the swimmer in a fully extended stretch.

The stretch is important in all competitive swimming, but particularly in breaststroke.

Let’s consider why.

From Swimming

Fig. 5 A competitive swimmer photographed in mid-glide (from below)

Figure four is an underwater photograph of a swimmer overhead who is stretched out, their head tucked down, the hands clasped one over the other above their head – their legs stretched out behind them with the toes pointed.

How would you describe this swimmer?

The swimmer is stretched out horizontally on the water, head down, arms stretched out legs extended and toes pointed.

This is the streamlined position.

What metaphor might you use to you describe this position?

  • Javelin
  • Harpoon
  • Arrow
  • Like a dolphin

Why is streamlining important in swimming?

The streamlined position minimises resistance.

In breaststroke you are moving faster and more efficiently through the water when you are doing nothing at all – this streamline position is vital. The arm pull is short, the legs whip out against the water to get you into this sliding, gliding, streamlined position.

As a teacher or coach observing a swimmer you will be familiar with the mnemonic – B.L.A.B.T.

Do you remember what it stands for?

B = Body

L = Legs

A = Arms

B =Breathing

T = Timing

Once your swimmers are warmed up, and ideally using a lane by the side of the pool – ask them to swim ‘their best breaststroke’. Walk along the pool observing them as they swim and register, using B.L.A.B.T, what they are doing. Keep your observations objective. Record what you see if you can or, as you see more swimmers in your group identify the key faults that they present so that you can then offer a sequence of progressive fixes and drills.

What faults might you identify?

Even at the elite end of swimming breaststroke can be improved, so what at the level that you are teaching are the common problems? What level are they in the scheme that you use? They are likely to be in a senior teaching group or in a competitive development group.

Make a list of the faults you identified or think would be most common. Use B.L.A.B.T to ensure that you think about all aspects of what the swimmer is doing.

Common faults include

  • The head tips back and forth rather than being steady, the chin tucked in as the shoulders rise from the water.
  • The fingers are splayed.
  • The arms pull down to the hips rather than staying in front of the shoulders.
  • The arm pull is broken into two or more parts rather than a continual action.
  • The arm pulls out wide, rather than staying shoulder width.
  • The hips are low in the water.
  • The leg kick is not symmetrical and synchronised – one leg may be kicking later than the other, one may do a screw kick, there may be a short flutter kick or dolphin kick at the end of the stretch – all of these would result in disqualification in a competitive gala.
  • The legs go out, but the action is slow, not a whip kick.,
  • The legs fail to come together in a streamlined position.
  • Watching the feet and ankles do the toes pull in as they are raised to the backside then push and flex outwards, planta flexion, as they kick ending with pointed toes and the streamline position?
  • The inhale and exhale take equally long instead of a short, explosive inhale and a long, trickle-like exhale when the head is underwater.The correct timing should result in a fluid, even dolphin-like ‘stitching’ through the water. This can only occur if there are distinct phases – pull, breathe, kick, glide.

Whole Part Whole

The simplest approach to isolating parts of the stroke to put in a fixing drill or exercise is known as ‘whole-part-whole’. This means, simply, that having seen the full stroke, you then concentrate on one part at a time, typically arms or legs, though sometimes it is possible to isolate the breathing and head position, or to look only at the ankles, for example, dipping your head underwater to blow out to teach ways to breathe or sitting on the side of the pool running through actions with the flexing of the foot.

Sometimes with breaststroke if you plan to work with swimmers out of the water it may be best to do some drills before they get wet – for example if you wish to take them through the arm action or leg action and be able to stand or crouch next to them. With due care and appropriate actions in relation to child protection issues, or simple manners before you touch an adult swimmer, the teacher may wish to physically put the swimmer’s arms or legs into the correct position and move the swimmer’s arms or legs through the correction motion.

The following table shows a sequence of progressions that can be used to develop breaststroke or to fix specific problems (see below for details):

1 DRILL Purpose TIPS

Distance /

Duration

2 Breaststroke arms standing (poolside or shoulder high in water) Establishes the correct arm action.Begins to address swimmers who pull down to the their thighs Keep arms in front of shouldersPutting tomato sauce on a pizza 2 minutes
3 Breaststroke Arms with flutter kick Keeps the body horizontal and moving forward making it easier to develop what may at first be a weak arm stroke in front of the shoulders. Keep the flutter kick steady. Wear fins if you have them. A dolphin kick is a good alternative. 2 x 50m
4 Arms with Woggle Excellence to provide a physical barrier or line that indicates how far the arms may pull back too. Push off slowly to keep the Woggle in place. 2 x 25m
5 Legs: Kick with float To develop the correct kick and to introduce and develop the ‘whipping’ action. Bend, Open, Snap 2 x 50m
6 Legs: 2 kicks one pull To develop the kick and put emphasis on the gliding action. Breathe out slowly, chin tucked in – head looking down breathe in explosively. 2 x 50m
7 Whole Stroke Drill To develope the glide in breaststroke.

Pull, breathe, kick, slide

Hold the slide for a count of 3 seconds

2 x 100m

Table. 1. Six drills for breaststroke.

Table one comprises four columns and six rows. Each row represents a logical sequence of drills for breaststroke, beginning with arms only drills, then leg only drills, then whole stroke drills. The second column in each case gives the purpose behind the drill. The third column offers some tips in relation to the drills – suggestions that can be made to the swimmer. The fourth and final column suggests that two minute should be spent on the first drill, while each subsequent drill is expressed as a repeated distance over the length of a 25m pool.

1 Breaststroke Arms – Standing – walk through of the arms

From Swimming

Fig. 6  Breaststroke Arms out stretched

Figure five is an illustration of a person standing upright in a water over their shoulders their hands together and reaching out in front of them, thumbs touching, palms down.

Position your arms out in front of you.

Thumbs touch, palms down and slightly out.

FOCUS – Keep standing up straight.

From Swimming

Fig. 7 Arms reaching out

Figure six shows the same person as figure five this time with their arms extended fully and out to the side, the palms still facing down, the hands lower in the water.Fig. 7 Breaststroke Arms reaching outwards

Sweep your hands outward until they are just beyond shoulder width and are an arm’s length apart.

FOCUS – Take it slowly at first checking that everyone id getting it right – then speed up.

From Swimming
From Swimming

Fig. 8 Breaststroke arms scooping in

Figure seven shows the same figure as in figures five and six, here he has dropped his forearm from the elbow – the palms are facing at an angle and into his body as if he is about to scoop the water up.

Rotate the hands inward, begin to bend the elbows back and sweep you hands in drawing an equilateral triangle as your fingertips come together in front of your chest.

FOCUS – Watch your hands – they should always been in front of your shoulders.

From Swimming

Fig. 9 Breaststroke arms ready to push forward

Figure eight shows the same illustration of the person featured in figures five, six and seven with his fingers touching beneath his chest.

Shoot the hands forward just below the surface.

FOCUS – Pause in the starting position which equates with the glide in the swim.

[DETAIL IN RELATION TO THE FIVE FURTHER DRILLS OR EXERCISES TO ADD HERE]

2

3

4

5

After the session take some notes and reflect on how it went.

Run through the narrative – from the timeliness, preparedness and mood of the swimmers, their response to the individual activities, any feedback they gave and outcomes you observed. Think what went well and what did not. Bring any assessment sheets up to date regarding your swimmers in their grade. Add some thoughts on how you would do it differently next time.

Think how you performed. Were you prepared and ready in good time.

  • Were you able to respond flexibly to changing circumstances?
  • How much time did you spend watching the swimmers compared to looking at a lesson plan?
  • Were there any safety issues to consider?
  • What was the tone of the session?
  • Was it fun?
  • Was it effective?
  • Were you in control?
  • Did any one swimmer struggle with how you put over the exercises and drills?
  • Were you clear?
  • Could you be seen and heard by all of them?
  • Did they all understand what you meant?
  • How were drills carried out? How many times did you have to repeat something before they got it right?

What would you share with other teachers about the session you gave?

What tips would you give? What resources would you suggest? Are their tools you would recommend using? How practical is this? Is there a cost involved? How might you put your ideas into a common knowledge pool to share with fellow teachers and coaches?

How might you feed back to the swimmers and or their parents or guardians?

Advanced Insight into an Olympic Swimmer

 

From SwimmingFig. 10 A velocity pattern graph for East German Olympian Silke Horner. Maglischo. (1997)

Figure nine shows a graph on which the vertical axis shows velocity in meters per second. The base figure is zero point four meters per second while the highest figure is two point zero meters per second. The horizontal axis shows time in seconds, starting at zero and rising in increments of zero point two or two tenths of a second up to one second point to, or one second and two tenths.

Across the top of the graph and covering its width there is an illustrative image of a swimmer doing breaststroke. The various actions of the strokes correspond to various points on the axis below to indicate at what point the stroke increases or decreases the velocity of the swimmer through the water.

The competitive breaststroke swimmer knows that they are moving fastest through the water when they kick into the glide. This chart shows the velocity of a former world-record holder set against time shows the peaks and troughs of Silke Horner. Entering the stroke this chart shows how her velocity is at 1.4 meters per second as she enters the ‘catch’ when her hands begin to find purchase on the water, this drops as her arms reach out to 1.2 meters per second, rises as the arms scoop inwards to 1.5 meters per second, drops again as her arms begin to reach forward and the legs are drawn up to 1.2 meters per second, lifts a bit to 1.5 meters then drops right away to the slowest part of the cycle when her legs are tucked up creating resistance and her hands are reaching out to 0.8 meters per second – then, kicking into a streamline glide she accelerates to 1.6 meters. holding this glide for nearly half a second before repeating the cycle.

REFERENCE

Guzman, D (2007) The Swimming Drill Book

Maglischo. E.W. (1997) Swim Fastest

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

How to do the breaststroke (development)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xH4mV7rRBnE&feature=fvwrel

How to swim breaststroke arms (competitive)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=yt4P9oPs8r8&feature=endscreen

Breaststroke Animation: Side one

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Breaststroke2.gif

Common breaststroke mistakes

http://swim.isport.com/swimming-guides/common-breaststroke-mistakes

How to kick breaststroke – frog kick

http://swim.isport.com/swimming-guides/how-to-kick-breaststroke

Bend, Open, Snap – Breaststroke Frog Kick demonstrated

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkVLkGei7nY

Teaching Breaststroke by Gator Swim Team

http://www.gatorswimteam.org/2004/5/breaststroke.html

About Swimming Breaststroke

http://dayrecipe.com/2011/05/12/about-swimming/breaststroke/

 

e-Lessons from s-training – what the whole-part-whole approach to swim training can teach us

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One tactic used in all swimming training from club squads to the Olympics is the concept of whole-part-whole: to develop the stroke, either to improve skills or strength, you break the stroke into parts. The simplest expression of this is arms only or legs only followed by the full stroke. This is repeated over different distances and whether an aerobic or anaerobic set, against different turn around or repeat times. This is finessed with drills, so taking on of the four competive strokes – frontcrawl backcrawl, breasstroke and butterfly – what might we see? This morning’s Master’s set had the following drills: short doggie laddle, long doggie paddle, carchup, touchfloat and closed fist. Each was a 50m drill followed by 50m full stroke. Later we did some arms only sets over 100m against the clock. And we swam sme backstroke and breaststroke for slme variety before some short full strokes sprints on Frontcrawl and a swim down.

How might this translate into a training session or e-learning module? To start with the module, like a set, would need to change every week, so that there is progression in the challenges set, the skills in technique to demonstrate and even the times to rest or turn around a swim.

There would need to be variety too, which typically means emphasis on a different stroke but inlcudes having a different coach, swimming in a different lane and having different swimmers in the lane with you.

I rarely see such variety or such progressive, long term, planned in progression in learning and development, while many e-learning modules are no better than the leaflet or linear video they replace – they are fixed.

Does this work? How do you reversion content so that it gets progrossively more challenging at a pace that puts the individual learning just beyond being able to d the thing with ease? Effort matters, easy learning isn’t learning, just as a stroll in the park isn’t a training run.

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Using Gagne’s steps for instructional design to develop e-learning for swimming teachers

Gagne’s events of instruction applied to helping swimming teachers develop a specific stroke.

1. Gaining attention
The scene opener, even the preview or title sequence. e.g After – then before. A competitive ten year old swimming a beautiful stroke, and then a weak swimmer showing how it starts out with problems and mess galore.

2. Informing the learner (their guardian and coach/teacher) of the objective. Presenting the destination and what milestones have to be reached, or what crests to climb. e.g A programme of development over two years, over six terms, with as many galas and assessments, with fun too.

3. Stimulating recall of prerequisite learning
Tapping into what has already been understood – creating empathy. The known to make the unknown less scary. So swimming as play.

4. Presenting the stimulus material
Presenting the case, offering evidence that might impress or inspire, that could be controversial and memorable. The interactivities, or e–tivities, or interplay between person and PC, or other people online. More than passive viewing or being taught.

5. Providing learning guidance
Offering a way through the maze, the thread through the labarynth or the helping hand. The programme of events, the menu.

6. Eliciting the performance
Now it’s their turn. Having a go in a measured way, making it progressively more difficult, returning to some learning, building on it, adding more …

7. Providing feedback
Sandwiched, constructive feedback on which to build. Where social learning is vital to provide support, guidance and motivation.

8. Assessing the performance
How are targets going? Assessment, as in testing, as part of the learning process, whether a multi–choice or practical. How are they doing? Have objectives been met?

9. Enhancing retention and transfer
Did it stick, could they pass it on and so become the teacher? What event or events can embed, even celebrate the achievement so that others may benefit from it?

The Swimming Drill Book

THE book that matters most to swim teachers for developing competitive swimmers from learn to swim.

Every teacher should have a copy and the best way to have it is on an eBook so that the diagrams can be shown to swimmers.

Breaststoke (our grades 4,5 and 7)

Two weeks in a row makes since for breaststroke, giving some swimmer four shots at it over this period. It is encouraging to see that I am building in their pervious efforts, that I don’t have to repate all the drills.

I concentrate on the glide which most swimmers rush yet is so vital to competitive breaststroke. this is achieved. by getting them into the streamline position: from ‘dead swimmer’ to streamlined, also the streamlined bounce up the pool, as well as push and glide ( or slide) then adding the underwater ‘keyhole’ stroke. This and drills such as : two kicks, one pull and two second glide on evwry kick couting out the seconds as: one missippi, two mississippi.

With one swimmer unable to dive or somersault I do a set in the lane agsinst the side of the pool aimed at helping. This takes from ‘Flip and Fun’ the forward and backward s canonball roll. I get close with K but fer it is going to take a while before she can somersault or dive. Swmmers get stuck in a rut with this one, raising the head, jumping in not diving, unable to get their head tucked in.

Breaststroke (Our grades 4,5 and 7)

These are ASA NPTS equivalents of  grades 6,7 and 9. you teach the swimmer even if they are in a group, so adjust or add activities.

See The Swim Drill Book, Ruben Guzman

(We purchased 8 copies for the club and like every teacher to have one)

Grade 7 are technically superior and have more stamina and may be a little older. The ones I watch out for are the 7 year olds in with 10 and 11 year olds as they need a different approach, TLC and  play.

WARM UP

3 x 50m warm up of front crawl and backstroke, always giving a tip before starting them off (and accommodating the odd swimmer who is invariably late), say ‘smooth swimming’ or ‘long legs’. i.e. reducing splashing and creating a more efficient swimmer.

Constantly adjust lane order, trying to keep them in speed order or to give others a go leading off.

Make sure too that there is 5m between each swimmer too.

(I know all their names within 10 minutes having used their name repeatedly and been corrected if I get it wrong, the name or the pronunciation).

25m of Breaststroke to see what I’ve got and potentially adjust accordingly.

LEGS

Kick on front with a kicker float.
Taking tips from ‘The Swim Drill Book’ I remember to put as much emphasis on keeping the chin in. 

Streamlined bounce just to help make the next instruction clear, which is to do breaststroke kick on the back.

The  glide is key; this is where to put the emphasis.

May start the ‘Kick, Pull, Glide’ or better ‘Kick, Pull, Slide’ mantra to get it into their heads.

ARMS

Standing demo of the arm stroke, from Guzman, forming an equilateral triangle and keeping the fingers pointing away. Will ‘describe’ the triangle poolside then ask what it is and what kind of triangle. Anything to get them to think about it a little.

I show this as a single action. Other things I might say include ‘heart shaped’ *(upside down). And making a sound effect ‘Bu-doth’ as I push my arms out.

Repeat the need for a pronounced glide, even asking fo a 2 second count (one Mississippi, two Mississippi) which I support by showing images on an iPhone or the Kindle

(I’m yet to drop either in the pool. I doubt I will ever risk taking the iPad with me, either in a bag or poolside. What we need is a kicker float sized tablet. One that is waterproof too!).

Leading into the turn we do in sequence (from the shallow end):

    • Push and glide for count of 5 seconds
    • Same, then add the underwater stroke and See how far you can go.

  • The whole BR transition counting 3,2,1.

(May only add later in the season, or with higher groups as the last thing we want them to do or to keep doing is dropping their hands to their ‘pockets’ on every breast stroke).

Up to the deep end as ‘sea otter’

This is a fun one but has a lot going for it:

  • Sculling
  • Duck dive
  • Swimming together
  • A giggle

BR transition with the dive. Getting the depth is often a problem.

For the stronger, more ‘advanced’ swimmers, our Grade 6 or 7 (ASA NPTS Grades 9 or 10) then Breaststroke kick on the back holding the streamlined position. Aim to keep the knees below the surface bringing the ankle into the bum

Dive practise running through:

Jump
Topple and jump
Topple and dive

May do back, breast, FC. With the Fly as a length on its own.

Usually add in somersaults and a handstand at some stage.

TURNS

Swimming in from the flags in the shallow end, may get them out to walk through ‘elbow your brother, phone your mother’ as a way to get them into a pivot turn.

Usual problem is that they are too shallow for the BR transition.

At some point I will do a couple of 25m race pace swims starting them off with the whistle.