Five Top Swimming Tips
Learn from Adam Peaty, and our Swim Coaching Partner, Swim Smooth
Adam Peaty is the golden child of British swimming, but what many people aren’t aware of is that he also won the FINA (the worldwide governing body for swimming) award for the best swim of the Rio Olympic Games following his demolition of the field in the 100m breastroke. Adam is something of a maverick when it comes to his breaststroke technique and together with his coach Mel Marshall are redefining how the stroke should be swum.
Here’s five things we can learn from his breaststroke to improve your own:
1. Freestyle and backstroke are similar strokes as the swimmer rotates their body from one side to the other as they swim (imagine your spine twizzling on a kebab stick). Breaststroke is a little different as you must undulate up and down with a porpoising like movement. When you learn breaststroke you should exaggerate this undulation movement until you get the feel of the stroke.
To develop this motion, try wearing flippers and performing a dolphin (butterfly) kick with the legs combined with breaststroke from the arms. In the long run you want to reduce this movement to minimise drag but exaggerating it is a great way to get the feel of the motion.
2. The push and streamline off the wall involves what is known as a split stroke before you surface and is one of the hardest parts of the breaststroke to get right, but when you do, it feels great. Start by pushing off the wall in a long thin torpedo with arms outstretched. Whilst still underwater pull through with the arms like a normal breastroke, hold this position for the tiniest fraction of a second before then driving the hands forwards as you simultaneously kick back to bring yourself to the surface.
3. Timing is everything in breaststroke. Once you’re off the wall and into your stroke, ensure that as you commence each pull through that your head rises out of the water to take a breath forwards. Doing so quickly and returning your head back to the water almost immediately ensures you don’t create too much drag with the body being in too much of an upright position for too long.
Adam Peaty is a pro at this - in fact he does what we call the “Adam Peaty head butt” where he takes a breath quickly before bringing his chin quickly towards the chest and driving his forehead down into the water which powers his stroke forwards. It’s a very noticeable head-bobbing action but one which defines him amongst his rivals.
4. Get this “head butt” action right and you can sustain a higher rhythm in the stroke - this faster turnover is a real characterstic of Adam’s stroke. It used to be said that swimmers need to glide as much as possible when they swim (especially in breastroke) but Adam Peaty has little to no glide in his stroke which ensures a continuous fluid motion from one stroke to the next.
In fact in Rio, Adam’s stroke rate was 58 strokes per minute - 10 strokes per minute quicker than his rivals! The irony here is that by the age-old metric of “fewer strokes and longer glides” being more efficient, Adam Peaty is the LEAST efficient swimmer in the field (which of course is absurd). He is redefining how breaststroke should be swum.
5. The leg kick generates a large amount of propulsion in breaststroke and requires significant levels of hip flexibility to master. If you are a triathlete attempting some breaststroke for a bit of cross training and fun, ensure that you stretch out your hip flexors before you attempt to swim breaststroke as these are typically very tight from all the bike riding that you do. Focus on keeping the kick quite narrow, drawing your heels up towards your bum with toes pointed back before rapidly turning the feet out to kick back describing a narrow oval shape in the water. Care should be taken to not break the surface of the water with the feet as you kick back (called a “screw kick”) as this would result in possible disqualification in a race scenario.
Swim Smooth is an innovative swimming coaching company originally from Perth, Australia and now operating around the world. We focus on helping swimmers develop their strokes using a truly individual approach, taking into account their body type, build, experience and personality. If you've tried to improve your swimming and failed in the past it's almost certainly because you were following generic advice that wasn't right for you.
Swim Smooth are proud to work with British Triathlon and the International Triathlon Union leading their coach education in swimming, this means that all BT and ITU coaches now follow our coaching curriculum and receive training in our methods.
Head to www.swimsmooth.com to start improving your swimming today.
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