BR Kick Problems – Basic and Advanced

The Breaststroke Kick is clearly the most complex kick to master of all our swim strokes. The problems start with beginners, but it is essential for advanced swimmers to constantly improve their kick technique and power as well. Let’s start by digging into the 3 most common problems we see with beginner breast kickers.

Basic Problems

Problem #1: Scissor Kick or Full Fly Kick.

We have a cluster of problems that can fit this category but typically 1 of the legs makes a ‘functional’ breast kick and the other does a butterfly or flutter kick (i.e. Scissor kick). But of course, some swimmers will just kick down with the tops of their feet with BOTH feet (i.e. Full Fly Kick)

Solutions for Scissor Kick or Full Fly Kick.

New swimmers need to FEEL the proper pressure on the bottoms of their feet. They need to receive a NEGATIVE feeling on the top of their feet when one or both of their feet flutter or fly kick. How in the world can you make them feel both a positive (pressure on the bottom of the feet when done right) and negative feedback (a lack of propulsion when they down/flutter kick)? Quite simply that is precisely what or BR Train fins do. They HINGE off of the bottom of the foot if you down kick / flutter kick. But then magnify the pressure (due to a bend at the pinky toes) when they properly Breast kick. The pinky toe bend helps encourage them to kick in a circular motion and finish behind their bum. When you use these fins, first start by laying on the pool deck with the hips and legs hanging out over the water. Teach them to move on your commands; ‘Up’ = lift your heels to your bum, ‘Out’ = rotate your feet at the ankles to point your feet to the side, “Down’ = arch/bend your big toes toward the floor and ‘Around’ = kick around in a circular motion. Once they can do this on the pool deck, have them do it VERTICALLY with their chest against the wall. Once they master that, have them kick out in deep water vertically. And last, put on a snorkel and practice their ‘up, out, down, and around’ kick steps.

Another notable factor to consider and monitor with swimmers that are kicking downward with one or both feet are to their hips. If they are dropping one side of their body, this can cause their lower leg to be in the wrong position and will force a ‘flutter’ kick. This makes some sense because nearly everyone starts with backstroke and freestyle strokes with plenty of side-to-side rotation of the hips. It is natural for many new swimmers to drop one of their hips.

Problem #2: Not finishing behind the bum:

Many beginning swimmers of all ages will lock the knees when the feet are out in a Y position. This is a problem that isn’t talked about very often. Most swimmers straighten their legs before their feet come back together during the glide. They also allow their legs to relax and drift towards the floor after they kick. With Breaststroke, you want all of the movements to minimize drag.

Solutions for not finishing behind the bum.

The first solution to help with this problem is the hold the knees closer together. You don’t need them to be touching together but just hold them closer than their full width. ONE Swim has many options for this such as our Kick Band, 1FlexBand, Neo Band around the knees, and Knee Adjuster Kit. For intermediate swimmers that are ‘making circles’ with their feet but not really finishing with their feet and legs together, it is good to add drag to their legs so that they learn to ‘hide’ their legs/feet behind their bottom and not below or to their sides. Start with our Power Bags on their calves to create this drag. The most advanced method of building the power and muscle chain of a strong kick is to wear Power Bags on the feet.

Problem #3: Knees too wide.

Caution, many coaches will fret too much over ‘wide knees’ with newer swimmers. However, it is our belief that most younger kids do not have adequate muscle chain development to keep their knees close together and still go their maximum speed. The most advanced Olympians will have at least 6 inches of width between their knees. The less advanced and weaker swimmers are the wider their knees will need to be at their race pace.

Solutions for Knees to Wide.

We feel that the only way to develop adequate muscle chains is to regularly include drills that push swimmers to train with a narrow kick so that they constantly improve their power. At first this can be helped with our Kick Band, 1FlexBand, or Knee Adjuster Kit. Stronger swimmers will benefit from the use of Neo Bands to keep the knees so they can only separate a few inches. Then use the Power Bags on the Calves and with advanced swimmers put the Power Bags on the feet for breast kicking and stroking.

Advanced BR Kick Problems

Advanced Problem #1: Not Squeezing UP on the Finish of the Kick.

Most novice swimmers will leave their legs down below their body as they finish their kick. This creates a TON of frontal drag at the moment at their propulsion should be at its peak. The modern breaststroke needs to ‘squeeze up to finish’ in order to ‘hide the legs’ the moment before their peak speed of the glide. Beware of HOW the legs are lifted at the finish of the kick. The legs need to straighten as they squeeze and lift. If you simply bend the knees to lift the feet, the feet can come up (and/or out) to the surface of the water. When the feet come up too high on the finish, they inevitably then ‘fall’ back down and this ‘fall’ will be judged as a DQ by adding a dolphin kick (as it appears, even if not intentional).

Advanced Problem #2: Underdeveloped Muscle Chain.

There are several problems with the Breast kick muscle chain. First, because the stroke is so slow and many teams obsess over the number of yards they can fit in per hour, the breaststroke is typically heavily neglected. Secondly, many teams only fit in time for ‘choice stroke’ in their sets but swimmers will rarely choose to swim breaststroke because it is so much slower, and they will be getting less rest than their teammates. The third problem is that the little breaststroke that teams and swimmers manage to include in their sets is typically NOT under resistance. And dryland workouts typically dedicate very little (and sporadic at that) breast kick muscle development. All of this adds up to inadequate breast kick muscle chains, which very often manifests in various knee pain problems. The best solution we find is to include just 100 yards per day of resistive breast kicking methods. We like to include things like Power Bags on the calves or feet but with a tempo trainer to force a high-speed effort. To avoid creating tempo problems with the race stroke, we mostly just use resistance with ‘kick only’ drills and not so much with full stroke work.

Advanced Problem #3: Not actually engaging the Muscle Chain.

The most complex problem is to get swimmers to actually engage their full muscle chain once you have developed a strong breast kick. Since a large portion of the speed of the breaststroke is generated by the kick, it is essential that drills incorporate timing methods and resistance to train swimmers to instinctively engage their full muscle chain. Parachutes, Power Chutes, and Long Cords can be used to allow super-fast stroke rates (pull and kick) but with resistance that requires muscle engagement.