The Wave-Style Breaststroke Swimming Technique

The breaststroke, one of the swimming styles currently supervised by the International Swimming Federation (FINA), is also one of the oldest swimming techniques. It is perhaps the most popular style in recreational swimming primarily because the swimmer is able to keep his head out of the water a great deal of the time.

The swimmer performs this swimming technique on his chest. His torso must not rotate as his arms make a series of sweeping movements - the outsweep, insweep, and recovery motion.

The breaststroke is further classified into three styles, one of which is known as the wave style (the other two being the flat style and the undulating style). This breaststroke style is increasingly becoming popular, especially among Olympic swimmers.

The wave-style breaststroke performer begins to swim in a streamlined position and with his shoulders drawn in or contracted. This is important to reduce resistance to motion in the water. The insweep movement of the arms is given emphasis here, during which the water is pushed backwards.

The insweep goes this way: The hands, which are pointed downwards, push the water; then the hands that were in a horizontal position during the countersweep (outsweep) align in a vertical position. Finally, the palms go back to the position of facing each other near the chest (which is actually the starting position in the outsweep). The pull is done in a circular motion, with the hands increasing speed to maximum.

Throughout all these, the elbows must remain at the surface and in front of the shoulders. This provides the leverage for the abdominal muscles and torso to give support while doing the stroke. Simultaneous with the insweep, the swimmer increases the speed of his hands, hollows out his back, and lifts himself out of the water to take a quick breath.

The simultaneous actions of increasing hand speed and hallowing the back are the keys to lifting the head (which should remain in its natural position - forward and looking down) out of the water. The swimmer uses the moment to breathe in. The contracted position of the shoulders is aided by the swimmer's pulling back of his feet to his buttocks to reduce resistance in the water. At this juncture, the swimmer is at his highest point.

The swimmer then draws in his shoulders and thrusts his arms forward, hurling himself back into the water (note that the swimmer focuses on going forward); as he submerges, he curves his back (as in an arch), and kicks. The kick, done at the precise moment, transfers its force through the curved back. The swimmer soon returns to the streamlined position, and the series of actions begins anew.

The kick used in any of the breaststroke styles is called the "whip kick", so named because the swimmer strokes his legs like whips. Actually, professional swimmers have made tremendous improvements on the breaststroke swimming technique. One example is that they emphasized on the use of the abdominal muscles and hips in powering the whip kick.

Becoming a proficient breaststroke swimmer requires persistence and hard work. After all, this swimming technique is regarded as one of the strokes that are difficult to master.


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