SwimmersBest Drill of the Month: Powering the Breaststroke with Targeted Drag Resistance

By SwimSwam Partner Content
March 01, 2018

SwimSwam would like to thank SwimmersBest for sponsoring our “Drill of the Month.” This is a SwimSwam recurring feature that brings drills and idea submissions from various creative and innovative coaches all over the world.

Breaststroke is clearly a blend of ideal technique and timing. However, over-focus on technique and timing can cause swimmers to ‘go through the motions’ and miss power in their kick or pull. Drag resistance can target specific elements of the breaststroke to help swimmers find the true power that separates a ‘good’ breaststroke from a ‘great’ breaststroke.

Adding drag resistance to the breaststroke kick helps with a wide range of problems, such as:

  • connecting the ‘catch’ power as high as possible in the kick
  • generating power across the entire calf and foot
  • learning to expose the calves during the catch by hiding knees inward
  • maximizing the finish ‘whip’ of the kick
  • and learning to hide the legs behind the body during the glide phase of stroke.

But there is more to powering the kick phase than simply adding non-specific resistance with stretch cords, parachutes, or towers. Unlike any previous drag sock option, SwimmersBest Power Bags can be worn on the feet or the calves to create a wide range of uses that present the coach and swimmer with the means of targeting the catch phase, the whip finish, or the recovery phase of the breaststroke.

Connecting ‘catch’ power as high as possible in the kick results in having more power throughout the entire kick. Activating the muscles early encourages a stronger kick, and using Power Bags on the calves allows you to feel more power on the calves. Your calves will feel like they catch more water once the drag socks are removed, and more force will be targeted to the entire calf and foot to result in a stronger kick.

Using the Power Bags on the feet will also help train swimmers to catch more water by encouraging the knees to remain close together. If the knees stay inward, the calves become a more substantial component of the catch power phase as the calves are more exposed when the knees are ‘out of the way.’

Maximizing the ‘whip’ at the end of each kick will give an extra boost into the glide phase. Power from the whip kick can also help bring the feet level with the body by up-kicking, which will result in less frontal drag resistance. Using Power Bags on the feet or on the calves will help train a swimmer to ‘hide’ their legs behind the body in the glide phase. The resistance of the Bags accentuates the frontal drag from dropped feet or legs during the glide phase in order to force the swimmer to naturally lift the legs (i.e ‘hide’ them) with repeated practices.

Drag resistance can also be used on the front half of the breaststroke. Power Bags attach over the arms, with the hands either exposed or covered. This provides the swimmers with a new way to feel the catch, recovery, and glide phases of their arms. In addition to the recent evolution of the ‘tight knees’ for the kick phase from top Olympians, the recovery phase of the arms has also become blisteringly faster with each new year. Power Bags on the arms add drag resistance at a level that forces the swimmer to engage in increasing levels of power with their recovering arms to ensure a faster recovery. Equally, the bags on arms create substantial drag resistance to the catch phase and train the swimmer to engage more arm power in their catch.

Another way to develop more power on the catch phase is to use displacement paddles such as the SwimmersBest Brute or Precision paddles ‘cover’ the hands to force the forearms to be the only source of forward power. The Displacement Pad can be added to these paddles to additionally cover the top of the wrists to force the swimmer to engage the forearms much more aggressively at the initiation of the catch.

For overall drag resistance, the SwimmersBest Drag Cups can be worn on the feet, hips, chest, or even the hands to target specific areas of the stroke. This can help the swimmer find more propulsive power or reduce front drag during the glide phase. The Drag Cups can be attached with any SwimmersBest ankle straps, wrist straps, knee straps, or waist belt and then slid in position to suit a coach’s needs. When worn on the hips with the 1SwimBelt, the Drag Cups can be slid to the front of the hips, the sides of the hips, or the back of the hips. When the Cups are on the back, the swimmer is encouraged to get the hips out of the water to reduce frontal drag; when the Cups are on the sides or front of the hips, the swimmer is forced to use more core muscle engagement to target the speed of recovery of the hips during the leg recovery.

Few would argue that the breaststroke isn’t the most complex of all strokes. Front drag is a great enemy of the stroke, and swimmers must learn to overcome frontal drag both with power and perfect technique. Targeted drag resistance allows swimmers and coaches to focus on specific elements of the stroke to engage both power and reduced frontal drag, simultaneously or separately.