Breaststroke is a beginner-level swimming style. Let's start with learning breaststroke.
Getting used to the feeling of water
Getting used to the water environment requires letting go of fear and not panicking, trying to get used to floating, and trying to exhale underwater. For these points, there is a detailed explanation on wikiHow (in Chinese).
For safety reasons, it is important to emphasize a few points:
- Do not swim alone outdoors, do not swim in unfamiliar waters, do not learn to swim in moving water, do not swim in bad weather, do not swim in water that is too cold.
- Swim within a suitable depth range and be prepared for emergencies.
Getting used to floating
To learn how to swim, you must get used to floating. Beginners usually use a kickboard or hold onto the edge of the pool to experience the feeling of floating. Below is a diagram of the floating position, taken from swim-tech.com.
Floating is not difficult, and here are some methods:
- Stay calm and relaxed. It is impossible to float if all the muscles in your body are tense.
- Nose and ears are not easily filled with water. There is no need to pinch your nose or plug your ears with your fingers. After entering the water, the air in your nasal cavity and ears will be compressed under the water pressure, blocking the water from entering. You may feel like the water is trying to enter your nasal cavity, but this is normal because the air is compressed. Don't be afraid, as water will not actually enter.
- Hold your breath and bury your head. Usually, people cannot float because their heads are not submerged enough. According to calculations, based on a person's density, on average, a person can float with 2% of their volume. If the head is too far out, it will change the body's center of gravity and occupy more than 2% of the buoyancy volume, making it difficult to float.
If you unfortunately find yourself in danger in the water, pay attention to the following: struggling with your arms not only tires you out but also occupies that 2% of volume. If your arms are outside, your mouth should be submerged in the water. The recommended method is to keep your mouth and nose above the water for breathing, and then float and wait for rescue.
- Relax your fingers. If you are practicing floating by holding onto the edge of the pool, be careful not to use too much force with your fingers. Holding onto the pool edge is just for support. If you are gripping the pool edge too tightly, you will not be able to float.
After getting used to floating, you can try letting go of the pool edge or kickboard with both hands. At this point, beginners often face a sense of insecurity in not being able to control their bodies in the water. Once the body position is not well controlled, it is easy to panic. Often, people instinctively struggle in this situation. In reality, to quickly regain a standing position in the pool, all you need to do is bring your legs together. In the floating position (refer to the image above), by bringing your legs together, bringing your thighs close to your abdomen, and folding your lower legs, you can use the buoyancy to stand up easily. During the process of bringing your legs together, you can also use your hands to push downward, which will provide an upward force to assist in standing up.
After getting used to holding your breath while floating, you can try practicing breathing while floating. The most recommended breathing method is: inhale through the mouth - submerge into the water - slowly swallow the air in your mouth - exhale through the nose - after exhaling, come up to the surface to inhale.
Many beginners may not be able to achieve this breathing cycle immediately and may need to start with inhaling and exhaling through the mouth. The process is very similar: inhale through the mouth - submerge into the water - exhale through the mouth - after exhaling, come up to the surface to inhale. Generally, exhaling through the mouth is easier than exhaling through the nose.
Why exhale completely before coming up to the surface to inhale? Because time for breathing is precious while swimming. If there is still air in your mouth, when you come up to the surface, you need to exhale the remaining air before inhaling, which wastes a lot of time.
What if you can't exhale completely? If that's the case, just come up to the surface to breathe. It is normal for beginners to have difficulty exhaling completely. Exhaling also requires practice, and the size of the bubbles and the speed of exhaling can be controlled.
Breaststroke Crash Course
Here is an English reference for breaststroke technique: Breaststroke Tutorial on swim-tech.com
Starting position and basic body position
Start by lying on your side, with both hands (or one hand) holding onto the edge of the pool, curling up your body, and placing your feet against the pool wall.
Inhale, release your hands, kick your feet, adjust your body direction forward, quickly enter the water, and use the reaction force from pushing off the wall to glide forward.
During the glide, to reduce resistance, adjust your body position as quickly as possible, which is similar to the floating position practiced earlier:
- Keep your legs together and straight.
- Press your palms together and extend them forward.
- Bury your head between your arms.
Beginners are recommended to use a kickboard for leg movement exercises.
After stabilizing your body position, you can start practicing leg movements. The leg movements can be broken down as follows, with the image taken from swim-tech.com:
- Propel your legs from the thighs, bringing them under your body while keeping your legs mostly together. Fold your legs as if your knees are touching your abdomen.
- Turn the soles of your feet outward, pointing them towards the back of your body. This allows for a larger surface area to push against the water, resulting in better propulsion.
- Kick both legs out simultaneously, extending them straight, and then bring them together in a circular motion. Try to bring your knees closer together and keep your toes together, while slightly extending your feet (do not use excessive force, just enough to reduce resistance) before returning to the initial position.
For more detailed breaststroke kick technique, you can refer to the English article Breaststroke Kick on swim-tech.com.
Once beginners are comfortable with leg movements, they can remove the kickboard and try incorporating arm movements. Arm movements can also be practiced on land.
The arm movements can be summarized as pulling and gliding. The image is also from swim-tech.com:
- Before starting the pull, turn your palms outward at an angle of approximately 45 degrees to the water surface. This creates a feeling of pushing outward and downward against the water.
- During the pull, keep your elbows high and your forearms downward and backward (this generates a forward and upward force that helps with lifting your head for breathing).
- When your forearms are approximately perpendicular to the water surface, quickly rotate your elbows inward, bring your palms together, and extend them forward (again, to reduce resistance) back to the initial position (with palms facing downward and arms extended).
Breathing in breaststroke is coordinated with the arm movements. When your head naturally comes out of the water during the pull, it is the time to inhale. Keep your neck relaxed, and your head should come out of the water naturally with the help of the force generated by the arm movements, not by intentionally stretching your neck!
When you finish the pull and start extending your arms forward, your head will naturally submerge into the water. The time for inhaling is not long and requires practice.
If you accidentally inhale pool water while inhaling, don't panic. You can exhale the water while exhaling. Occasionally swallowing a few mouthfuls of water is also normal.
The time to exhale is when you are underwater. While gliding and kicking, exhale through your mouth or nose. The speed of exhaling and the size of the bubbles can be easily controlled.
Beginners generally use mouth exhaling. Exhaling through the mouth is easier than exhaling through the nose. You can switch to exhaling through the nose once you become more proficient.
Coordination of arms and legs
The coordination of arms and legs in breaststroke follows the cycle of arm movements - breathing - leg movements - glide. The image is from swim-tech.com:
Here are the steps:
- Push off the wall.
- Perform the arm movements.
- Lift your head, inhale, and start the leg movements.
- Before kicking, your head should submerge into the water, and your arms should extend forward to reduce resistance.
- After extending your arms and legs, you can glide for 1-2 seconds before repeating the above movements.
Continuous practice and experiencing the joy of swimming
With this, all the movements of breaststroke have been introduced. To master breaststroke, continuous practice is necessary. I hope everyone can enjoy swimming and have fun. Lastly, safety is the most important!
This is an informal crash course on breaststroke. If there are any inaccuracies, please feel free to add or correct. Thank you.