Breaststroke: What we Can Learn by Watching the Champions by Glenn Mills and Dave Denniston (2005)


Published


Introduction and presentation by Glenn Mills, with comments by Dave Denniston in all caps.

One of the reasons I’m involved in swimming is because of guys like Dave Denniston. Whether or not they are swimming or being challenged with things that we don’t know how we would deal with, athletes like Dave have spirit, and they want to share it with others. When I was asked to do this, I wanted to make sure that Dave was with me because he was the one who helped me get started with all of this stuff. So…my great friend and obviously one of the funniest guys in all of swimming – Dave Denniston.

Yeah – go ahead – follow that up.

ARE WE TALKING ABOUT BREASTSTROKE?

No.

BUTTERFLY?

Yes – okay – now this is the stroke that we really know the best. But it is still a study, especially with some of the new styles. A lot of people are asking me about the new breaststroke rule. We won’t be covering it here because I don’t have any good film of anybody cheating yet. I actually have a session set up next Monday or Tuesday with Kevin Clements, one of Dave’s great friends and you saw him this morning during our freestyle presentation. Kevin is going to cheat for me for a couple of days next week and we will get something really good put together.

FOR SOME REASON, YOU DIDN’T ASK ME TO BE IN THAT VIDEO.

That wasn’t even funny. I tell you what – nothing would make me happier than to see you cheat next week, all right?

OK. Breaststroke extension. I have worked with kids a lot and try to tell them to get full extension – get the perfect streamline on every stroke. Unfortunately it is a little bit too much to ask in reality.

BUT THAT LOOKS GREAT.

It does, Dave. But that’s you doing a pushoff.

TOO BAD I DON’T DO THAT ON EVERY STROKE.

Right. But let’s watch what you do on every stroke. Okay. There it is. Not quite streamline but it is with very purposeful hands that Dave swims.

Even though Dave doesn’t have a perfect streamline out front, the important thing that I take from this video clip is that his hands are inside of his body. His hand position is not going to affect him adversely and his hands are ready to pull him and ready to catch. I think the important thing about this is that he is completely extended — as far out as possible -– just like the freestylers we saw this morning.

As Dave picks up the pace – what do you think about here, Dave? Is it A) How deep you go or….

IT’S B) I’M THINKING I WISH MY LEGS STILL WORKED. OH, YOU MEAN ON THE EXTENSION PART. YEAH. THAT ONE. REACHING AS FAR AS I CAN. IN BREASTSTROKE WHAT I TELL KIDS IS THAT OVER 50% OF THE STROKE IS IN THE STREAMLINE POSITION OR AS CLOSE TO ONE AS YOU CAN GET. SO I TRY TO MAKE SURE I’M REACHING AS FAR AS I CAN AND HOLD THAT A LITTLE BIT LONGER THAN I THINK NECESSARY. SO I AM GOING TO STREAMLINE MY POSITION AND RIDE THAT GLIDE.

IF YOU EVER SAW ME SWIM SHORT COURSE, I TEND TO HAVE A VERY FAST TURNOVER AND I NEVER RODE OUT THE STROKE IN FRONT AS LONG AS I SHOULD HAVE – MUCH LIKE ED OR AMANDA DO.

But notice something else about Dave’s stroke here. As he picks up the pace, everything happens close to the surface of the water. So because he knows that his style is going to be one of a quicker turnover, there is really no reason for him to dive way down deep like you will see in a minute with Amanda Beard and Kaitlin Sandeno.

OOH. THERE SHE IS. WHOO. WHOO.

Dave is a big fan of Amanda so you might hear some things, but we will calm him down a little bit.

Now Amanda. What I notice about her is that she finishes her stroke in full extension with her palms together. Now, is this some big thing that she thought of or is this just the most comfortable way for her to extend forward? I don’t know if Greg already left. I told him I was going to call on him. Did he take off? All right. Greg Rhodenbaugh, my old lane mate in Cincinnati, is one Amanda’s coaches. And he snuck out because I was going to ask him to tell you directly. You know, is this something they worked on or is this something that Amanda just does? And I think that since he is not here…ah…she just does it. He didn’t do anything for her. Yeah he is gone, all right. So again, this is…what did you call this last night, Dave?

I AM NOT ALLOWED TO SAY.

Isn’t it kind of wild how Kaitlin Sandeno had the same thing going on with her hands in freestyle as Amanda does in breaststroke? She’s got like that West Side thing, you know. Her hands are so relaxed that they are kind of in a funky position. Everything is really reaching out front, but she is not so worried about what her hands are doing at this point.

SLOWER, PLEASE.

Yes, sir.

SLOWER. OH YEAH. OH, THERE IT GOES FORWARD.

So she does attack a little bit further down, but then planes herself out just under the surface of the water.

SHE IS MUCH DEEPER THAN I AM.

Yes, because she has a great….

PHILOSOPHICALLY AND SWIMMINGLY.

There you go. She has a great kick, which we are going to see in a little bit, whereas Dave doesn’t take as much advantage of his kick.

THAT IS BECAUSE I HAVE LITTLE FEET AND MY LEGS DON’T WORK.

Let’s stick with the little feet right now, okay? Now Kaitlin and Erik Vendt. Erik is a tremendous breaststroker – he can do anything. And Kaitlin will tell you, breaststroke is her weakest stroke, but she still is pretty phenomenal, even though she has got the Amanda hands. This was kind of a crazy thing in watching this. Erik and Dave both extend forward with their palms flat down. Amanda and Kaitlin both extend forward with their palms in toward each other. I don’t know if this is a guy thing or a girl thing and I don’t know if you coaches really focus on that with your athletes, but it is one of these interesting things — if you try to force one person to do something else, something natural or unnatural is going to come out and you might actually affect their stroke in an adverse way. So the hand position – all I am taking from this is that let them do whatever they want as far as extending forward. It is full extension regardless – narrow and completely out front.

THAT IS CUTE HOW YOU GOT ERIK AND KAITLIN TO SWIM TOGETHER LIKE THAT. WHY DIDN’T THEY HOLD HANDS?

Again, here is Erik extending forward with palms down, but reaching. You get a sense here of just how much he reaches. You are looking at some of the greatest athletes here. What is the position that you tell your age-group swimmers to never be in when they push off the wall? Superman. Any of you ever said “superman”? Look at this – every stroke. Erik is in superman, but at the same time his hands are inside his shoulders so he is just leveling himself off and gliding forward. We are going to see in a minute that his hands catch in a different way than Dave’s and Amanda’s, so this is actually a pretty good position for Erik to be in.

SO, GLENN. WHY DIDN’T I GO INTO STREAMLINE ON EACH STROKE?

I forget.

I TOLD YOU THREE TIMES.

Well, tell me one more time.

BECAUSE I DIDN’T FEEL LIKE I COULD GRAB WATER AS QUICKLY. OF ALL THE ATHLETES, THE ONE WHO HAD THE WIDEST HANDS PROBABLY IS ED MOSES. I SAW HIM HAVE THE WIDEST HANDS THE MAJORITY OF THE TIME BECAUSE YOU CAN JUST GRAB THE WATER THAT MUCH SOONER. WHEN YOU HAVE HANDS ON TOP OF THE OTHER IT IS HARDER TO GET AN EQUAL BALANCED PROPORTION AT GRABBING THE WATER AND SO AS LONG AS THEY STAY INSIDE THE SHOULDERS I THINK THEY WOULD RATHER HAVE THAT POSITION. I KNOW I DID. IT WAS JUST EASIER FOR ME TO HOLD THE WATER THAT WAY INSTEAD OF GOING RIGHT INTO A PERFECT STREAMLINE IN BETWEEN EACH STROKE. THAT AND I WAS JUST LAZY.

I think we are also going to find out in a minute that if you go into a perfect streamline — as we focus on the head position in breaststroke, and the action that it takes — if you are too tight with this extension out front, you are really going to cut off an important part of the stroke.

Again – right there – extension. She was just so far forward. So this was just a little fun thing I did for Dave is that we have got Dave’s hands extending with the palm down. Amanda’s hands are extending with the palms inward. Erik’s hands extend with the palms down and Kaitlin’s hands extend with the palms inward and here we have got all four of them side by side and the most important thing about this is not necessarily the palms, but look at every one of them. They are reaching as far forward as they can.

YOU KNOW WHO LOOKS THE BEST?

Let’s see…. If we take a quick vote, who votes for Dave? Okay. And everybody else says no. Okay – Dave wins.

All right, full extension. Make sure the hands go as far out as possible. Send the hands forward and make sure the pull doesn’t start until they reach out and you can almost feel it in your body. You are almost groaning – reaching forward on each stroke of breaststroke. You strain to get your hands out there even farther.

YOU MAKE IT SOUND SO PAINFUL.

Well, you know what – for a short guy like me it was.

All right, breaststroke pull. Just like on freestyle – create a ledge. Create something to pull on as soon as possible. So, as Dave was telling you – he gets his hands turned out quickly. Dave has an extremely wide pull.

I HAVE LONG ARMS

He has long arms. He is using them for everything they’re worth.

THAT IS BECAUSE I HAVE SMALL HANDS.

But how far back does he go?

I TRY NOT TO LET MY ELBOWS GO BEHIND 90 DEGREES.

So he cuts his pull off right at his shoulders and doesn’t go past his shoulders so he makes sure that at this part – when he is really sweeping out — he engages his back and his lats and he gets everything involved into it and you can see….

WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THE BACK WORD.

Oh I am sorry – just the lats then.

NO. ALL RIGHT, IT WAS FULL BODY. THAT IS WHAT I TRIED TO FOCUS ON – USING MY WHOLE BODY AND NOT JUST ARMS AND LEGS.

Now really quickly here – the one thing I want you to think about on this is that once you’ve gone out on the outsweep, everything starts in. You will see on all these athletes – how fast the hands start to come in.

We are going to go with the recovery next, but the in-sweep of the pull is probably one of the most important things for your kids to think about and if they do pull back too far, that is when they get stuck if their body position isn’t correct.

AS SOON AS THE ARMS WERE IN GEAR I WAS TRYING TO HAVE EVERYTHING GO FORWARD. PART OF THIS DEVELOPED THROUGH A POWER RACK-TYPE SYSTEM THAT WE WERE USING AT AUBURN. I FOUND THAT WITH THE OTHER BREASTSTROKERS, WE WOULD TRY TO HAVE THE WEIGHTS GO UP IN MORE OF A STEADY MOTION. I FOUND THAT IF I RECOVERED A LITTLE BIT QUICKER AND JUST GOT EVERYTHING GOING FORWARD, IT WOULD GO UP MUCH SMOOTHER AND EVERYTHING WOULD BE GOING FORWARD. THAT IS WHY I STARTED TAKING A SMALLER STROKE THROUGH COLLEGE AND EVEN AFTERWARDS.

Amanda also has an extremely wide pull. You will see that she uses every part of her arm possible. This is such an impressive – I mean – I loved working on this video because I learned so much about what she really does.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO TELL THEM, GLENN, WHY YOU HAVE 14 HOURS OF FOOTAGE OF AMANDA AND ONLY 45 MINUTES OF ME?

It is all about the editing, Dave. Again, notice how wide she is and depending on the angle you catch her at – you can actually get some misinformation. You know, it looks like her arms are absolutely straight just from where I am sitting and where she is swimming over me right there, but you can see that she really uses her hands quite a bit and you start to understand – she has got really long fingers too — so she is using as much as possible. She was just being nice there – dove under me, but again – let’s watch this quick at full speed. Watch the in-sweep. Watch how quick her hands are as they come in.

THIS IS THE PART THAT I REALLY LIKE, OKAY?

Enough out of you. She pulls as far back as she possibly can without running into her body. She gets everything that she possibly can out of her pull and it is almost as if she hugs herself right in here.

WHEN I TRIED THAT, GLENN, I RUBBED MY NIPPLE OFF.

That’s not good. The reason that Dave doesn’t come up as high is because his shoulders are really wide and he would plow into the water on the recovery if he took his hands too far back. So how far do you want to turn your wrists over? It is probably going to depend on each athlete. You have to be careful about this because there is nothing productive there and a lot of your swimmers will really push like that because it feels good – it feels powerful. They feel like they are doing something and they care about swimming. People love that feeling of power and press too much. You are not really getting anything because you are so weak right there.

When we go to Kaitlin and Erik – they both swim with a similar stroke that they developed at USC where it is almost like a butterfly stroke and every thing straight down. It is a narrow stroke, but it is pulling straight back and you will see the hands actually go down instead of out with both of them. You can see how far back Kaitlin’s elbows are and how close her fingers and her hands get to her torso right there. She just hugs herself – she has done everything that she possibly could with her arms without hitting herself.

ABSOLUTELY. YEAH. I DON’T LIKE THAT BECAUSE IT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME. OBVIOUSLY WITH AMANDA, I MEAN, SHE HAS A GOLD MEDAL AND A WORLD RECORD AND A BUNCH OF OTHER THINGS I DON’T HAVE, BUT IT WORKS GREAT FOR HER, OKAY? I WASN’T STRONG ENOUGH WITH MY BODY TYPE TO SWIM LIKE THAT AND I THINK FROM MY PERSPECTIVE AND WHAT I HAVE TAUGHT KIDS – A LOT OF TIMES IT IS DIFFICULT TO TEACH KIDS TO SWIM LIKE THIS BECAUSE 1) THEY AREN’T THAT FLEXIBLE – AMANDA WAS INCREDIBLY FLEXIBLE AND 2) THEY AREN’T THAT POWERFUL — AMANDA IS INCREDIBLY POWERFUL. AND IT IS SOMETHING YOU CAN DEVELOP OVER TIME, BUT IT IS GETTING THE ABSOLUTE MOST YOU CAN GET OUT OF A BREASTSTROKE PULL.

That is because of the flexibility of her back.

EXACTLY.

It looks like she is pulling the same range as you are. The difference is that she is getting so much higher because she has got some hyperextension in her spine.

There is so much that she does. She is drawing her hips so far forward – she has got such tremendous hip movement that she draws them and pulls them forward. The flexibility in her back allows her to get out of the way, and in order to get out of the way of the hips she comes up higher, and to come up higher her elbows are so high in the water and so far back that they almost hit her butt.

Could Amanda do this if she didn’t have a great kick? Probably not. A lot of swimmers, kids especially, are going to get stuck right here. This is where we get too much just up and down. You know, for some swimmers it is kind of for show — they just want to get up really high. Sometimes Amanda is almost faulted for that because what the kids see is that she comes up out of the water and they think that’s the whole point. But when we really look at it – it is her back and her torso and everything getting out of the way of her hips. And it’s all done to set up for the kick. When we look at her kick and how high her feet get and how much she gets out of it – again – it is just like on freestyle this morning. Amanda is maximizing what she does best and she is getting her upper body out of the way to set up for that.

HE USED TO GET THAT EXCITED WHEN HE TALKED ABOUT ME. NOW HE JUST GETS THIS EXCITED WHEN HE TALKS ABOUT AMANDA.

[Takes a question: How do you explain this to age groupers because when you look at this, it is very obvious. She has an arch in her back and we are all about a flat back – staying flat. And they look at this and…I mean…we know it is her kick and her hips. How do you get past that because you are right…all the kids come in and are, like, well Amanda goes up and down and why is she so fast?]

The question was how do you explain this to an age grouper – that it is about the kick. It is about what she does, not just about how high she comes or popping up out of the water or arching her back up like that. And that is one of the reasons that we didn’t focus on that on the video. We try not to show the things that these swimmers do that nobody else can do. We try to communicate with kids what does she do that you can do. And it is very difficult. Sometimes you cannot give all that information to kids. Now it is different here because as coaches you know more than they do so and it is like, if I got a kid that could do this? Goodness gracious – let’s go with it. It is kind of like the straight-arm freestyle. If that is the way that kid is supposed to swim – let’s see if we can figure out how to do it better.

Let’s look at Erik Vendt’s pull. Erik almost lifts himself out of the pool. If you want to teach a kid the perfect stroke or pull, just have him climb out of the pool and try not to get him to think too much about that. When I first saw this I was like – that is wild. You can see Erik plant his hands and he just – just right there – it is like he is climbing out of the water. There is not a lot of wasted motion in his strokes. He just climbs out of the water and shoots forward. He just sets those levers up and shoots forward.

Here’s Kaitlin and I’ll let you watch her real quick here, without me getting in the way. I have been trying this for a while and it is actually really cool and I talked to Mark Schubert about it and he said this is something that they work on. She is just climbing out of the pool. It is so simple – so simple. And that is what we want to teach kids – set up your levers and just climb out of the pool. This transfers the best to freestylers and butterflyers. That is kind of their natural stroke anyway. Obviously, you have got Erik Vendt and Kaitlin Sandeno, IMers, but they are also incredibly strong freestylers and butterflyers so it is natural for their stroke to go into that motion.

Okay. Recovery. Hands above the water or hands below the water – which is it, Dave?

I TRY TO GO RIGHT AT THE SURFACE – TWO OR THREE FINGERS ABOVE AND TWO OR THREE FINGERS BELOW. AS I WENT FASTER, MY HANDS WOULD BE A LITTLE BIT HIGHER ABOVE THE WATER, BUT RIGHT AT THE SURFACE FOR ME.

This is so easy to teach kids and it really takes care of that low push with the biceps and the arms through the water. Just have them cut the water in half on their extension. By the time their hands get out they will sink a little bit, but I like to use the surface of the water as a target — just cut the water in half with your hands and it makes it real easy. They understand that part so it is very easy and then you don’t have them pushing all the water through from underneath. They finish their stroke higher, they have a good extension, and they are going to be directing their energy much more forward rather than diving too far down.

In this clip, you start to understand that it is not just about where the target is – it’s also about how FAST THEY RECOVER. Watch how fast the hands recover. Watch the intensity on the last two strokes – there…and watch this…BAM. So you have to really make it fast as they recover. You shoot the hands forward as fast as possible. That starts at the in-sweep of the pull. Amanda gets her hands back in the water as soon as possible – almost right under her chin and then extends forward. This is pretty unique to her. If you teach this to kids, they will have a tendency to dive down. Amanda has such fast hands and body extension that she drops them straight down….

SLOWER, GLENN.

…and then boom – she extends forward as soon as her hands are under the water. What I really like about this is the attention to detail that she gives, and if we can somehow teach our kids to start thinking like she does and I know it is very difficult but, you know, she comes up with her palms back because she has basically hugged herself and in just a couple of frames of the camera – in a couple hundredths of seconds – as she shoots her hands forward – they all of a sudden just happen to slice into the water and not push – slice. I just think stuff like that is so cool. I am so impressed by how these people do this stuff.

YA, YA, YA. AMANDA IS THE BEST. BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.

It is just that determination of getting back out as fast as possible.

WE KNOW. WE KNOW. WE KNOW. HUGS HERSELF…FAST RECOVERY. TWO HOURS OF FOOTAGE OF THAT AND ALL OF IT IS ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL.

Now, with Erik – Erik has an attack on the front of his stroke that you can really see. The way that he just shoots his arms – he has a wider recovery, but again – now we know – he has got that catch right there so he is pretty much set up for it, just with his extension forward.

IT’S TOO BAD HIS ARMS ARE SO SHORT.

Here we go again. Poor Erik.

Kaitlin has a little bit lower recovery, but you can see that her hands reach right at the surface and shoot forward so she is very much like the others. She is a little bit lower, but this is what works for her in what she needs to do so obviously we would all like to have someone as fast as her in breaststroke.

Did we do this one? I thought there was one before that. You were already laughing about it. It was Erik Vendt swimming and Dave you started making jokes about him. I don’t think it was very nice either. What is this? Head position.

HEAD POSITION. HEAD IS TOO HIGH. CAP IS FALLING OFF. THIS IS A DISASTER. SO LET’S WATCH AMANDA. DOESN’T THAT THING HAVE A FAST-FORWARD BUTTON? COME ON. IT DOES. [Switches to video clip of Dave.]

HERE WE SEE PROBABLY ONE OF THE GREATEST ILLUSTRATIONS OF KEEPING THE HEAD IN LINE WITH THE SPINE. GO AHEAD, GLENN…YOU CAN SAY IT.

I didn’t want to say it because you are going to give me a hard time about it. But…keeping the head in line with the spine. Dave never really comes out of line with it and he – you can really tell now, from the question before – he is falling forward right here. Gravity. Everything is helping him move in the direction that he wants to go in.

ONE OF THE THINGS I WORKED ON LATER IN MY CAREER, AFTER WE FILMED THIS, WAS KEEPING MY HEAD DOWN LONGER. TAKING THE STROKE, ALMOST TO THE BENT-ELBOW POINT, WITH THE HEAD IN POSITION DOWN AND THEN AS MY HANDS CAME IN LIFTING MY HEAD UP. I THINK I LIFTED MY HEAD UP A LITTLE TOO SOON IN THIS CLIP AND THAT IS SOMETHING I WORKED ON AFTER THIS WAS SHOT – KEEPING THE HEAD POSITION DOWN AND LOWER A BIT LONGER.

As breaststrokers get tired — and you will see this with your kids — their first movement is with their head. And a lot of times when their timing gets way off it is because they lift their head first and then take a stroke.

WHAT I TRIED TO WORK ON IS START THE STROKE AND THEN HAVE MY HEAD COME UP THROUGH MY SHOUDLERS.

And when you try to get out of the water, are you trying to lift?

NO. I AM TRYING TO GO FORWARD.

Well, what brings you out of the water – just the down pressure of your hands?

A LOT OF WHAT I TRY TO DO IS USE MY BODY, AND I WOULD LIFT UP BY ARCHING MY BACK AND USING MY HANDS JUST TO GET UP ABOVE, BUT TRY TO KEEP MY HEAD IN LINE. WHEN I GOT TIRED I WOULD TRY TO INITIATE THE STROKE WITH THE HEAD, BECAUSE IT IS A HEAVY PART OF YOUR BODY, RATHER THAN MY ARMS.

You are also going to feel the rebound of the buoyancy of the body as you are going down. It wants to come back up, so you don’t want to push it back up.

MY HEAD IS FULL OF AIR…IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE SAYING?

No, no, not your head – your chest.

OH. OKAY.

Your lungs.

[Takes a question: I have a hard time with breaststrokers because they want to look to see where they are going. When you swim are you focused on the bottom?]

YEAH, AND ACTUALLY THE FIRST DVD WE MADE…THE FIRST TWO FOCUS POINTS ARE ABOUT EYES BEING DOWN ABOVE THE WATER AND EYES BEING DOWN BELOW THE WATER. A LOT OF PEOPLE USE TENNIS BALLS TO HELP YOU LEARN TO INITIATE THE STROKE WITH THE HANDS AND LET THE HEAD FOLLOW. THAT IS A BIG LESSON THAT I LEARNED WHEN IW WAS 25 – 26. WHO KNOWS IF I WOULD HAVE WON IT IF I WAS 15. YOU MIGHT HAVE HAD MORE FOOTAGE OF ME THAN OF AMANDA.

This is true. But, Dave, I don’t think I would ever have more footage of you than of Amanda so – just being honest. A buddy of mine had a swim camp – actually took one of the lifeguard collars and put it on a kid and made him swim breaststroke with it.

I HAD ONE OF THOSE ON ONCE.

And the lifeguard went absolutely berserk trying to watch this kid swim, so you have to be careful where you do this type of stuff.

This was probably the first complaint I got on any of the DVDs that we did and there were many to come, but this was from the guy that is speaking in the next room – what is his name again? Oh yeah – Eddie Reese – so I am talking to Eddie about it and he was looking at it and he said he thought we focused too much on keeping the head in line because with his breaststrokers there is a draw or a little bit of an upward motion to draw the spine, which goes down to the hips and draws everything through. The reason that we don’t put this type of stuff in the videos and especially in the first video with Dave is because in working with kids, if you start to tell a kid to move their head up and move their head down, what do you get?

CHICKENS ON CRACK.

I mean it is just – that drill is in the next DVD, okay?

FEATURING AMANDA BEARD, I BET.

Who else?

Going back to the head position – we see here that even when Dave is focusing on head down, eyes down — all this stuff — the first thing that happens – he starts to….

I ADDRESSED THAT ALREADY.

I know, but here you were….

CAN WE SEE AMANDA NOW, PLEASE?

I’m saying this was good. So, watch this because I am going to point this out with some of the other swimmers. Watch the head position now with Amanda. Are you happy now?

THANK YOU FOR THAT. VERY HAPPY. CAN WE SLOW IT DOWN A LITTLE? SLOW IT DOWN.

There’s more. Don’t worry.

This is what we were talking about on Dave’s clip. Amanda initiates the pull in the extension position with the eyes down. She is in a perfect horizontal position – really driving forward. So this is the eyes-down position. This is what you don’t necessarily show your kids just yet, but watch her head. She is drawing up with her head, then the spine and her hips follow. So as your swimmers start to progress, start to think about leading that whole motion from way up here and actually you are almost pressing your chin forward to start that going. If your kids aren’t ready for it then you get that other thing that he was talking about earlier.

CHICKENS ON CRACK?

Yup. You can really see it right here, that she initiates up. But the thing about Amanda is that watch how fast her head goes back down. It starts up to draw and then immediately her chin is on her chest – falls right back in.

Let’s look at the same thing with Erik Vendt – great head position – eyes down – right in line – he doesn’t draw up as much – and this was really cool right here – you can actually see his goggles going forward. Now what stroke is that? I mean, doesn’t that look like butterfly? Like he is getting ready to take a stroke of fly? Look how far back his arms are, but this is the way he swims. He is pushing or lifting himself up out of the water — but in cooperation with the buoyancy of his chest. And he is just going to grab a quick breath of air and shoot right back down again.

[Takes a question: When you tell kids to lead with their heads – any kind of head movement – I think they have a tendency to exaggerate that. Should we tell a kid to lead with their shoulders rather than the head, and just leave the neck relaxed?]

I think it depends on the situation. Breaststroke is such a unique stroke – it is like a walk or a fingerprint – we all are just so unique in how we swim. I mean, Amanda – very few people swim like her because very few people are built like her.

MORE PEOPLE SWIM LIKE ME BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL WEAK AND SKINNY.

Well – there are exceptions, but leading with the head and through the head is good terminology to give to a kid – definitely for teaching purposes. What I try to do with kids – especially at this phase – which is the recovery portion of the stroke and you are worried about them putting way too much head motion in – is have them watch their hands. Follow them forward and it is just like this with Erik – right here – his eyes are down – almost like he is looking at his hands and he follows them directly forward and falls right into the water. So if you are going to get them to look at anything – not forward – watch their hands and as they fall forward – just fall into the water – it is just an idea. It might not work because if they really watch their hands they are going to end up like this and they might as well be swimming in 1980 at that point – right, Ben?

[Takes a comment.]

The question or the statement was basically in order to minimize a lot of the extraneous movement – the up and down — is to teach the swimmers to pull like a heart shape and then cut it right down the middle. But sometimes in order to teach both sides of the stroke one of the ideas is to think about which way the heart is facing. Somebody like Erik Vendt is going to pull in here and get more out of that so the heart is actually upside down – do you know what I mean? But I am just saying that is great, try them both and see what works best for the kids.

CAN WE SEE HIPS? I WANT TO SEE HIPS.

I am on the way.

PLEASE. THANK YOU.

Okay – hips. The whole goal of the pull, other than trying to move you forward and get the air and all that stuff, is to draw the hips up to the next point. The goal is to set-up for the kick, so we watch these swimmers set up with their hands and draw their hips forward so they are really setting up the kick and just really yanking the hips forward as much as they can. For kids….

OH, IT’S AMANDA. CAN WE PAUSE THIS REAL QUICK WHILE I TALK? THANK YOU. FOR KIDS…WHEN WE WORK WITH THIS I TELL THEM THE FIRST THING I WOULD DO IS GET THEIR HIPS LOOSENED UP. KIDS ARE SUCH STIFF BOARDS THAT THEY HAVE A HARD TIME BEING LIKE A SLINKY. I DON’T KNOW IF A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE EVER HEARD OF THAT TERM, BUT GETTING THEIR BODY TO JUST KIND OF SLINK THROUGH THE WATER AND REALLY USE THEIR HIPS AND GYRATE THE HIPS LIKE PROM NIGHT, YOU KNOW?

IT IS KIND OF A KINKY THING TO WATCH, BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT IS WHAT BREASTSTROKE IS AND PEOPLE THAT HAVE STIFF HIPS TEND TO HAVE A HARD TIME WITH BREASTSTROKE. WHEN YOU CAN USE YOUR HIPS AND UNDULATE YOUR HIPS, THE STRONGER AND FASTER YOUR STROKE IS GOING TO BE AND THAT IS WHY LOOSE HIPS IS ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS I WORK ON WITH KIDS. WE CALL IT A SLINKY AND TRY TO GET THEIR HIPS INTO IT AND LOOSENED UP. BECAUSE WE SIT ALL DAY AND WALK ALL DAY, OUR HIPS ARE VERY TIGHT AND GETTING THIS MOVEMENT BEFORE YOU GET IN THE WATER HELPS WITH BREASTSTROKE AND ESPECIALLY DRAWING THE HIPS FORWARD AND USING YOUR HIPS THROUGH THE STROKE.

Amanda is really good at drawing the hips forward. One of the things that you notice here is how high Amanda keeps her hips until it is time to come forward. They are very close to the surface and you can see that she is trying to maximize the line – there is a little bit of tension as she holds her hips up and then as she starts to draw them forward – they snap forward. If she had low hips like this she would have to really draw them forward, relying on her arms to do that, and it is really tough like that.

For some of my younger guy swimmers, their homework is to go to the mall and watch all the 12- to 14-year-old girls stand around and just kind of like this so we try to get them to roll back up like that and of course – they love that homework. They love that homework because it is something they can understand.

In this clip – now…right there – as she is gliding forward you see how she is keeping the hips up on the surface. That is to make sure that she has got the most range of motion from up to forward. Again?

SLOWER. COULD WE GET THAT AS A SCREEN SAVER?

I think this was a picture of the week at one point. It is amazing how high her hips stay right there. Even when she drives them forward, she doesn’t drive them down, which is what a lot of kids do when they try to drive them forward. They drive them down toward the bottom of the pool instead of forward toward the wall and that is one of the tough things to teach. One of the things that Amanda can do because of her stroke is pull them at the surface forward, rather than down. I think right here you start to see it. The hips follow her and then right as she is starting to set up you see that tilt – it is this thing that she is doing right there, okay? The hips tilt up, which sets her up to then snap them forward. They follow for a little bit and then she just snaps them forward, but there is so much other stuff. This is the type of stuff that you really have to be careful of letting your swimmers in on – depending on how old they are. You start this stuff too soon – man – this is one of those strokes – you can screw them up so early in the process.

CAN WE WATCH IT AGAIN AT FULL SPEED?

Just get the feeling for this – feel how her hips just snap forward. See how high they are and how she just draws them forward. Now Erik Vendt….

BOOOOOOOO.

What? Erik does not have quite as much snap forward and his hips are a little bit more stable.

And here you see Kaitlin Sandeno really drawing the hips forward.

A couple of things on breaststroke kick – obviously we are thinking about hiding the kick as much as possible. Dave actually brings his knees out wider, but he hides his calves and his feet behind him very effectively, so it is a wider kick.

Dave finishes the kick all the way, closes the toes and everything is together – snaps them together – very fast feet – a high foot recovery – very close to the buttocks and kicks all the way down – full complete kick.

I DO IT THAT WAY ON PURPOSE. I TRIED TO TAKE BIGGER KICKS, BUT IT WAS JUST CREATING TOO MUCH DRAG FOR ME AND I WASN’T GETTING AS MUCH PROPULSION, PARTLY BECAUSE I HAVE SIZE NINE-AND-A-HALF FEET. THEY DON’T HOLD AS MUCH WATER, SO I TRIED TO FOCUS ON THE SNAP AND THE FINISH AND GET THE MOST OUT OF THE KICK THAT WAY. MUCH LIKE A PITCHER – YOU KNOW HOW THEY CAN SNAP A PITCH AND MAKE IT GO 90 MILES AN HOUR. I TRY TO DO THAT WITH MY FEET AND MAKE MY FEET GO TWO MILES AN HOUR, AND THAT IS WHAT I WOULD WORK ON.

The great thing about Amanda….

OTHER THAN EVERYTHING ELSE.

The highlight of Amanda is her kick and how phenomenal and flexible she is. Let’s watch the way she holds the water. Amanda – knees in a little bit more – calves are outside a little bit more. Because of her ankle flexibility she is able to get out there a little bit wider so she really grabs the water high up.

In this next clip I want you to see her toes. She recovers her feet with her toes pointed inward. This is amazing. Having your toes in the whole time and then at the last second she points them out. Obviously we have to be very careful with that. Right here – how high does she get on her kick? Boom – it is almost all the way up to her rear end. That is probably one of the highest kicks there is and look at the feet pointing out – all the way at the top. Ankle flexibility. Great power in her legs – wonderful wonderful stuff.

Erik Vendt is more like Dave. His knees are wider, but the calves are completely hidden so he is hiding the feet coming up behind him so whichever way your kids do it just make sure they either have great ankle flexibility and can afford to have the calves and the feet out a little wider or hide the legs coming forward.

Kaitlin Sandeno is a little bit more like Amanda so her knees are wider. Her feet are out a little bit but she has great flexibility on her ankles and points her feet out way at the top.

Finally, the most important thing with all four of these swimmers – get your feet way up nice and close. If you kick with your hands held behind you – touch them each time with your feet. Get your kids used to dragging their feet all the way up to their butt and grabbing the water. Try to grab the water as high up as possible to shoot yourself forward.

ONE OF THE THINGS I WORKED ON WITH DAVE SALO A LOT WAS KICKING STRAIGHT BACK. IF YOU NOTICE ON MY FOOTAGE HERE, IT IS ALMOST A KICK DOWN AND THAT WOULD CREATE MY BODY MOTION FORWARD. BUT AS I GOT BETTER AND OLDER I WOULD TRY TO KICK STRAIGHT BACK AND THAT IS SOMETHING THAT IS DIFFICULT FOR KIDS TO DO. IT IS DIFFICULT FOR ME TO DO BECAUSE OF THE HABIT, BUT KICKING THE FEET STRAIGHT BACK, LEADING WITH THE HEEL, THAT IS WHAT REALLY MAKES YOU GO FAST WITH A KICK LIKE THIS.

In the video, you can see that before Dave’s feet grab the water his arms are in complete extension. His feet are still recovering — coming up. He is at complete extension before his feet grab the water so he is really shooting his hands out front.

[Takes a question: Is it a strength thing? Most of the kids that I know that are not good breaststrokers do not get their heels up.]

I think that it is probably more flexibility than anything, but strength and timing are also involved. And endurance. Breaststroke kick takes more energy than any other kick because there is just so much movement. And most non-breaststrokers aren’t used to moving their legs as much so they are going to take a smaller kick because it doesn’t take as much energy. Here again, Amanda, before her feet even catch the water, is completely extended back out front, ready to take advantage of that kick. Kaitlin – see when the feet start to catch – right there? Look at her extended arms and her head completely in the water. She is ready to take advantage of the kick. She is really focused. Each of these athletes gets the hands out front before the kick comes in. Let’s look at Erik – feet recovering – grab – there he is – completely extended out front.

Get your kids to completely extend out front with a fast hand recovery before their kick starts to push them forward. Kicking the hands forward is something we have all heard forever, but it is something that really is a picture the kids can pick up quickly. It’s the idea of kicking their hands forward.

We are a few minutes over already, but if there are more questions – if you have to leave – thanks again for everything. We will hang out for a while and answer more questions. Thank you.

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