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Woofus B. Loofus
July 2nd, 2011, 03:43 PM
A friendly difference of opinion arose this week between Ande and Allen, two USMS greats, about the best technique for the breaststroke armpull. The exchange occurred deep into an otherwise unrelated thread, so I thought a new thread might give the subject wider attention. Here follows an amateur's take on the two techniques for breaststroke armpull; hopefully the experts will then finetune the issue.

One technique involves a shallower, wider, more circular motion of the arms, "like wiping the inside of two big bowls," as Paul Bergen is quoted in Whitten's Complete Book of Swimming. Whitten also describes the motion as a "heart-shape pattern," which involves a sculling outsweep, catch, insweep and recovery. This technique is considered quick, smooth, and easy to accelerate through in the insweep-to-recovery phase, as the path is fairly circular, continuous and shallow.

The other technique attempts a straighter pull, using an early vertical forearm, with some similarities to the butterfly armpull. The outsweep is less pronounced, or as Jim Montgomery writes in Mastering Swimming, the "sweep-out is more of a slow and deliberate stretch than a deliberate movement." Then, as Cecil Colwin describes in Breakthrough Swimming, "the hands are planed directly backward." The advantages to this technique are presumed to be the superior propulsion offered by a straighter armpull, made deeper by a vertical forearm. The disadvantages could be that the arms and hands have to turn a sharper corner to begin recovery, and from a deeper level, which might create a resistance hitch.

The two techniques share a high elbow position; the shallower heart-shape pull has been around longer than the deeper straight pull. Elite swimmers use both techniques with success, and many use what appears to be a hybrid of the two techniques.

One explanation for a swimmer's preference for one technique over another may be stroke count. A breaststroker who uses a higher stroke count generally, or is primarily a sprinter, may prefer the quicker heart-shape pull. One who uses a lower stroke count, or swims longer events, may prefer the presumably more propulsive straight pull.

The increasing popularity of the straight pull may be a reflection of the fact that stroke counts as a long-term trend are dropping across most strokes and events. For example, Grant Hackett set his 1500 freestyle record ten years ago using (on average) 17 stroke cycles per length. Sun Yang almost beat it recently using an average of 14-1/2 stroke cycles per length. Rebecca Soni has evolved over the years from a heart-shape breaststroke armpull to something straighter, while her stroke counts have decreased.

Allen Stark
July 2nd, 2011, 05:37 PM
Thank you.I had swum with the wider pull for years until I had a propulsion analysis with Dr. G who recommended the straighter pull.I later went to a clinic by Megan Jendrick who also recommended the straighter pull.I am not sure who benefits more from which pull,but I think people should experiment with each.
This is definitely a YMMV.

Woofus B. Loofus
July 2nd, 2011, 06:03 PM
Allen, one question I wanted to ask is whether you use a palm-out position at any time during or after the glide phase. If so, does it occur only as you widen your hands to "the corners," or does the actual catch-and-pull begin with the palms still facing outward, as many butterflyers do? Thanks in advance for sharing your hard-won technical secrets...

Allen Stark
July 2nd, 2011, 06:23 PM
Now I try to avoid the palms out position as it provides no propulsion.My pull is really heart shaped as I go from hands together ,to angling down to engage the forearms as a propulsive surface, to pulling back with hands little wider than the elbows, to a quick insweep trying to bring the elbows close together into the recovery.

ElaineK
July 2nd, 2011, 09:20 PM
Now I try to avoid the palms out position as it provides no propulsion.My pull is really heart shaped as I go from hands together ,to angling down to engage the forearms as a propulsive surface, to pulling back with hands little wider than the elbows, to a quick insweep trying to bring the elbows close together into the recovery.

King Frog, Dr. G had me eliminate the palms out position, as well, for the same reason. Bob Bugg coached me this week and had me switch to a pull very much like yours. The biggest change he made was keeping my palms down through the pull then making a quick shift to a vertical palm-to-palm position for the recovery. Previously, I was turning the palms up at the end of the insweep and beginning of the recovery. What Bob observed with this position was it was causing too much lift straight up, rather than forward. And, it was causing me to breathe too soon and delay getting my face back down quickly. Immediately after making the change, my stroke was quicker, my head position improved, and my 25m sprint was quicker.

Woofus, Ande and Allen have a completely different breaststroke style- and, completely different builds. Ande has the size and strength to be effective with the style he advocates. But, it wouldn't work for everybody and I know it's not the style I should be using if I am to last in this sport. Allen's style works best for him and his body type and it is the best style for me to use, as well, given my physical build and shoulder issues. In other words, in my opinion, both were correct in the debate; but only in regard to themselves and similar body types; not for each other. :2cents:

tomtopo
July 3rd, 2011, 09:48 PM
The breaststroke kick and pull can contribute unequal percentages of power to the end time / race. Some swimmers can kick faster while other can pull faster. It's important for breaststokers to isolate their pull and kick (a simple timed length or two) to find out the effectiveness of each.

Strength is the major determinant of an effective pulling pattern while flexibility in the major determinant of an effective kicking patter (narrow knees / wider feet). Improving a swimmer's strength may be the most effective means of improving their pull.

The effective use of drag (EVF) and lift (45 degree hand pitch away and toward midline) make the pulling pattern different from swimmer to swimmer. With this being said, it takes a very experinced coach who can not only analyze the strengths and weaknesses but then advise the appropriate technical treatments needed for the swimmer to improve.

So, find out your 25 pull and kick time, have a coach video your stroke pattern then let them make appropriate changes. Swimmers should try to improve both their kick and pull efficiency but when one is clearly deficient the course of action to correct the clear deficiency must take priority.

Because the EVF and the amount of time spent in the EVF is so short for the breaststroke, every breaststroker should try to improve it. The lift force will never create more power than drag force but the fluid transition of both is paramount to an effective pull.

The breaststroker, unlike the other competitive strokes, can use their lats (as they're pulling and finishing their stroke with their elbows closing to their ribs).
The complexity of this stroke make it one of the most difficult to teach. Breaststrokers are.... well.... breaststrokers.

Coco Chanel the famous fashion designer must have been talking to a breaststroker when she said, "In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different."

ElaineK
July 5th, 2011, 07:42 AM
The complexity of this stroke make it one of the most difficult to teach. Breaststrokers are.... well.... breaststrokers.


Would you say there are more style variations in breaststroke, than any other stroke? It seems to me the stroke style that works best is more dependant on the physical build, strength, and physical limitations of a swimmer, more than any of the other strokes.

ande
July 5th, 2011, 10:10 AM
hey y'all,

Breastroke is a mystery to me, it's my worst stroke and I'm trying to improve it for the sake of my IMs.
Technique and timing are critical. The other day Jon told me to get more streamlined before I kick, makes sense.

breastrokers might want to do their pull like this
Kitajima Underwater


SFF Shanteau


here's what made me suggest a wider breastroke pull


Tip 162 Sometimes a Slight Technique Modification Can Create a Major Time Improvement


Ande

Woofus B. Loofus
July 5th, 2011, 05:21 PM
This Kitajima video, during its first few seconds, shows a head-on view of his armpull:

YouTube - ‪Kosuke Kitajima 200m Breaststroke Multi-angle Camera‬‏

If you freeze-frame the different phases of his armpull, he appears to begin with a narrow hand position, then does a wide palm-out shallow sculling outsweep, which kind of magically transitions to a high-elbow, vertical-forearm pull, and finally zooming his hands around and through into the recovery. Pure poetry.

Is it correct to conclude that he is incorporating the major elements (wide scull, vertical forearm) of both armpull styles?