4 Techniques for Improving your Breaststroke Kick

Breaststroke is a unique stroke, requiring uncommon range of motion in combination of unique strength. For example, free, back and fly use a lot of shoulder internal rotation, core strength, and thigh strength. However, breaststroke requires more hip range of motion and groin strength. While there are some similarities and these differences may sound miniscule, but these differences require attention.

As written previously, leg drive dominates propulsion in breaststroke. This makes unique requirements mandatory for elite breaststroke swimming. During the breaststroke kick, the legs undergo the following stages, written by Mat Leubbers in his piece Teach Yourself How to Swim Breaststroke:

The breaststroke kick does resemble a frog kick, but it is not exactly the same - people do not have the same legs as those of a frog! Start in the pencil position, then bring your feet up toward your rear-end. Next, flex your feet - heels in toward each other, toes pointing out to the sides and, if you are flexible enough, toes pointing slightly down. You want to turn your feet out so that you can push back on the water with your instep or with the side of your foot, from your big toe to your heel. Now move your feet and legs in a circular pattern, pushing the water backward as your legs extend and your feet move back, out, and then together again as your legs fully extend. Finally, get back in the pencil position by squeezing your legs and feet together, legs fully extended, toes pointed. That is one full breaststroke kick cycle. Pencil - Rear-end - Feet Flex - Circle - Pencil.

Here are 4 techniques for improving your breaststroke kick:

01
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Strengthen your Groin!

Phelps-Breaststroke.jpg

The groin muscles are unique muscles which are minimally utilized in other swimming strokes. However, the groin muscles provide the powerful snap for a poweful breaststroke kick. If seeking improvement in the groin muscles, try performing the bunkie exercise for engaging the core and activating the groin muscles. If you are unable to perform the bunkie, simply practice squeezing a ball between your legs for a simple strengthening exercise.

02
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Improve your Hip Internal Rotation Range of Motion

Rebecca Soni
Rebecca Soni of USA competes in the Women's 200m Breaststroke final on day five of the 10th FINA World Swimming Championships. Clive Rose/Getty Images

The greater a range of motion for the legs to move through, the greater the potential for force production. Therefore, having enough hip range of motion, specifically hip internal rotation, allows a larger range of motion for a greater catch with the legs. For a greater range of motion, try performing some self myofascial releases to the hip, specifically the tensor fasciae latae (TFL). Another option is to strengthen the hips through this larger range of motion. 

03
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Improve your Groin Range of Motion

Jessica Hardy, 50m Breast 2008 SC World Champion and World Record
Jessica Hardy of USA competes in the Womens 50m Breaststroke heat during the ninth FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) at the MEN Arena on April 9, 2008 in Manchester England. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Although elite breaststroke swimmers don’t go through a massive amount of range of motion at the groin, having some groin range of motion is necessary. Therefore, performing soft tissue mobilizations of the groin with a foam roll are an excellent method for reducing the risk of groin injuries. Another technique for improving groin range of motion is to actively strengthen the groin through this range of motion, like performing a side split squat.

04
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Glute Strengthening

Caitlin Leverenz, 2007 SC Nationals
Caitlin Leverenz, 2007 SC Nationals. Nick Laham/Getty Images

Finishing the leg snap with a butt squeeze creates a strong finish for the kick and returns the body to streamline. As you finish your kick, a strong glute squeeze, brings the legs closer together (by externally rotating the hips), and streamlining the body.Therefore, performing glute contraction exercises, like the hip thrust are appropriate exercises.

Summary

These tools give you the potential of maximizing your kick and becoming a better swimmer. Now, use the tools wisely and become a better breaststroke swimmer! Updated by Dr. John Mullen on April 26, 2016