Teaching Breaststroke by Jon Urbanchek (1995)


Michigan head coach Jon Urbanchek has distinguished himself as one of the finest swimming coaches in the nation, if not the world. In 12 years with the Wolverines, Coach Urbanchek has led his teams to nine consecutive Big Ten Conference titles, and eight straight NCAA Top 10 finishes. Internationally, Urbanchek has proven himself equally as well, establishing himself as one of the premier distance and individual medley coaches. He has served as an assistant coach for three U.S. Olympic teams. He has bred 20 Olympians, including four gold and silver medalists, and numerous American and world record‑holders.  Coach Urbanchek has had 20 years of IM success starting with Rod Strachan ‑ 1976 (Olympic champ ad world record ‑ Montreal), continued with Mike Barrowman 200BT (world record) along with individual medley and Eric Namesnik ‑ American record 400IM. Currently, Tom Dolan has world record



I spoke in front of  this group, I believe, six years ago with Joseph Nagy on Wave Breaststroke with Mike Barrowman. Well, for those of you who attended the Clinic six years ago the stroke hasn’t changed. We tried to make it a little better, tried to perfect it, but, you know, breaststroke is much easier to visualize today than it was six years ago when we only had one person in America who could actually show us how to do the wave breaststroke. But since Mike I have seen so much improvement throughout the country. You go to age-group meets, we have campers, nine-ten year olds come on the campus and they already know the “wave” breaststroke. Of course they all come to Michigan hoping to get a great improvement and I don’t have a magic formula, it doesn’t come easy. I was very delighted to see so many great breaststrokers today at the National level and Jr. National level. So perhaps the talk we gave six years ago is finally paying off. And as I see the young, especially some of the girls for a young age, very successful, it looks very good for U.S. for next year’s Olympics.


I brought you a video. Unfortunately, that is all I have left of Mike Barrowman. Mike retired at the top and after the Olympics he decided to go on with his life. He’s doing something similar to swimming and a lot more exciting as he says. He doesn’t have to look at the bottom of the pool for four-to-six hours a day. He’s got kayaking to do and look at the pretty girls on the beach and whatever.


The wave breaststroke is very hard to teach unless you have a picture of it. First you got to have a mental picture. Now we have more and more great athletes out there whom your athletes can look and watch and imitate. I’m not telling you that this is the only way to swim breaststroke. There are many variations of this style, but generally they all are trying to do the same thing, depending upon the body types. But there is not a whole lot more to this breaststroke than the old conventional breaststroke. First of all the old stroke was always led with a strong kick, wider than the door, and a glide.  Well the only thing Joseph Nagy, who actually brought this into America, added on to this was that it is better to lead the stroke with the arm first. Learn the arm first then add the kick to it second. But in between the arm and the leg kick he inserted another movement, it’s called a lunge or jumping forward. And that’s probably the only way this stroke is different from any other stroke. And the reasoning behind it is very obvious to all of you.


Breaststroke is the least economical stroke according to Sir Isaac Newton. By the way Sir Isaac never lost a race with the very technique in backstroke as Tom was talking about in freestyle as Nort will tell you, the more you can keep the continuous motion the better the energy expenditure.  Well in breaststroke it’s very hard because you have to have the recovery and there is one dead point in there. And the reasoning for Joseph was to see if we can just cut down on that deceleration.  We can’t eliminate it entirely because you are recovering both arms and you’ve got to bring your feet up. So that is the purpose of this technique and we are going to show this video of Mike Barrowman.


We are going to start out at Olympic trials which wasn’t Mike’s best race but obviously he was focussing more for the Olympics then for the trials. But for as far as technique I use this video quite often to teach my athletes.  We have some breaststrokers who swim IM and kind of double in for breaststroke so this is the first time I feel like I’ve have to do some teaching. We had a couple guys that are a minute flat. Let’s see if we can do something with that. Barrowman came in at 55, Wunderlich came in at 55. So I am at a different level, so we’ll see how well Urbanchek can teach the breaststroke to youngsters coming in.


Let’s roll this video. It will be the underwater picture. I’m going to run this at real speed. I want you to know I will break this technique down a little better. Notice that little dolphin kick there? Luckily our judges can’t see through the water, Thank God. This you can see, nice full extension even though he is not going that fast in this film, but the technique is about as correct as you can get it. If you can get a good picture of that in your minds.  Just go with it and move your head and move your arm with it as he’s swimming. I think that is the way you are going to get the feel of the rhythm.


This is probably the highest velocity in the stroke right now.  He’s got his shoulders tucked on his ears, stretched out, he’s just about finished the kick right here.


And this is the highest point of his stroke.  That is the critical point, just when his elbows come under his chest. This is the key element of the breaststroke and this is probably the hardest thing to teach to athletes. When the shoulder is rising up, as you are coming up from sculling you notice that Mike’s hands are a little bit closer on his body than the elbow. We try to keep the elbows little bit wider out as the hands coming under the chin, but at the same time as the elbows are coming in getting ready for the recovery, the shoulders are pointing up. If you could have your athletes concentrating on bringing their heels and their knees up. So at one moment both the shoulders, and the knees and the heels are up. So what does it look like from underneath. First it looks like the bottom of the boat You probably have the least amount of resistance here. So the object here is to try to eliminate a lot of the drag. It is a very key element. What I try to tell my kids is at this moment that your center of gravity is right about just a little bit above his suit where his bellybutton is, roughly. Ask him to try to push the pelvic bone toward the bottom, not necessarily going down to the deep but keep stretching your pelvic bone. Force the hip down during this moment as the shoulders are coming up. This movement, from this movement on, we are getting ready for the lunge.


This is the highest velocity as you rise out of the water from that concave position.  I think you are getting some wave action. From the head all the way down to your toes, you’re getting a wave action. You almost look like a dolphin.  Definitely your body is helping you in a forward progress.  I  looked at a picture of Anita Nall at the same meet. Murray Stephens was analyzing it last summer and it caught my attention. Anita is even more in this arched position.  Back to this picture of Barrowman:  and then he lunges forward using the hip as a focal point there and the upper body is kind of pivoting going back and forth on it. I think this movement of the torso, especially if your chest is rather flat and round, will probably help you a great deal in the forward motion. Think about it again, forcing your heels to come up and I would recommend that you keep the knees a little bit open, it is kind of bowleggedness. At this moment you don’t know if this guy is going to do breaststroke kick or dolphin kick cause the two kicks are identical at this moment. If you see a good butterflyer they usually have knees open at the middle as they are getting ready for the kick. So it could be either way.


In this picture the instep has just gotten ready for the power of the kick and the extension.  Watch how the toes are pigeon toed on it.  This is coming into the 150 mark, this is full speed. Mike liked to increase his tempo on the third and fourth lap. Unfortunately at this meet he wasn’t in good shape and he increased his tempo but he still had fallen off the time about a second and a half for 50.  He has such an intelligent instep. I know, his instep probably feels the water better than most people’s hands.  Now it’s a genetic trait. Unfortunately not everybody is going to have this. And this is why we have the born breaststrokers versus the phony ones, the ones we have to man-made. And man-made is only going to be so good. This is one stroke where you have got to have some talent coming down from your parents.


Now this picture of Mike is taken in practice just to show you how wide we expect that pull to be. This is done with the dolphin kick. This is just one of the many drills we do as part of our training. It is a good picture for you to see how wide is stroke is.   I say your fingertips are shooting at three o’clock and nine o’clock. Right now it looks like he’s doing butterfly. You probably couldn’t tell if it was butterfly or breaststroke. It is amazing when they look at it they say, “Am I really that wide?” Well, this is how wide you are supposed to be. So let your hand do all the work not the elbow. Many mistakes are made when the elbow is leading versus the hand leading out. And we’d like to see the elbow stop about in line with the shoulder. From that moment on the hand pivots around the elbow.


This is a picture of Mike in His second year at Michigan. He was still learning the technique — he was not 100 percent on it but it has some nice movements on it so I kind of saved this for you. It has beautiful extension on it and you can see the work of both the pull and the work of Mike’s kick. Actually Mike’s kick is narrow compared to a lot  breaststrokers.  Here is another view. You can actually do the breaststroke while someone holds their feet or they put their feet in the gutter. I think maybe for young kids to let them know what it feels like to pull that wide. Put the hand out there at 9:30 o’clock and 2:30 o’clock.   But you can see it is a perfect demonstration of how high Mike has to keep his shoulder and elbow close to the surface. As I said to you, the elbow should not go farther back than the shoulder.


Either you can practice kicking against the wall, some of you do that or maybe kicking against the kickboard.  I like to see the knee go out about the width of the outside hip. This is just a couple segments of a normal stroke cycle. I wish all you athletes could see this to have a mental picture of that.  See how high the heels are coming up.  Mike had a little bit extra fatty deposit around his waist and I think God created him for this purpose of breaststroke because this way he can float better.  Everybody teased him, how fat he was and he was very self-conscience.  You can see veins in his arms and legs, but his torso always had a little bit extra. This is a beautiful picture of the undulation and the rhythm of the technique.


This is the drill we do as part of the workout: 25 yards dolphin kick with breaststroking. You know everybody does the breaststroke pull correctly underwater cause you never stop. You know if some of your kids have a tendency to stop their hands during the stroke.  When you make them do it underwater they never stop and the elbow always continues as long as you do it with the dolphin kick and you can keep up a fast turnover.


This is called an anatomical resting position. In a breaststroke cycle you should have this position for a fraction of a second in every stroke cycle. You should be in this position. This is just practicing, just the pulling with the dolphin kick. Make sure they  have only one dolphin kick per stroke cycle. Now that should come only during the recovery — it should come when you lunge. Lunge, kick and nothing until you come back ready for the lunge again. A lot of times the kids like two kicks like you do in butterfly but it should be only one kick.


Now he is just getting into the pool and see how wide. Watch how close the elbows are to the surface and the palms are perpendicular to the water so you are not just sliding out but actually holding, actually pushing the water away from you.


This is the way Barrowman lunges forward. This is a streamlined kicking position. You should be able to be in this position. If you cannot hold your shoulders on your earlobe then you can not do it in a swim either. So you have to learn to streamline. This is the normal kick for Barrowman was always two and three kicks and then come up. Not with a kickboard,  but just kicking without a board. Matter of fact the only equipment Mike ever used is just handmade paddles — no pull buoy, no kickboard, nothing, that’s it. All the kicking has been done without the kickboard.  This is extremely good drill to go two three kicks in a row – fast. Not easy kicking, this is done fast. This is just another drill we use, remember one dolphin kick for each arm cycle. This is pulling with your chin up. Two kicks, try not to go too deep under the water because you end up going up and down. Stay as close as you can get to the surface, sometimes your heels might even break the surface on that. Two to three thousand yards of pulling sets a day was not unknown for Mike, easily.


This is a typical Barrowman double pump. And he plays with that until he is ready and usually has his toes curled around  the block so the ref will say please step back and when he steps back then the race goes on. He controls the people quite well. Nice dive, so streamlined. He kicks in the air but by the time he hits the water, watch this, one hand on top of the other about as good streamline as you will see on anyone. Mike was only 5’8-1/2″. He is even with me.


This next video is at NCAA’s when Barrowman broke the record.  Watch the undulation of his body as compared to Stackle who is  basically flat.  They’re going neck and neck. 1:24:4 would be Lundquist’s record split at 1:50.

They turn at 1:24:3. We are still ahead of the record pace. And remember, Lundquist was dying, Barrowman is accelerating.  I just slowed it down for you to get a chance to watch his stroke — this is another feel for the lunge.  With the height he comes up, you can see his hemisphere — I’m talking about his suit literally, right and left hemisphere both out of the water. And he is going to shatter Steve Lundquist from the record book. Lundquist time was 1:55:01 and Barrowman went 1:53.7. This was beautiful wave action right there.  That’s the height of the stroke, he’s keeping his head up a little higher than normal. It is ok to go under water because I think it helps your hips to come up higher so you can get more like a dolphin action. So I’ve been encouraging my athletes to actually go a little bit deeper to get your rear-end up and during that undulation between your rear-end and upper body I think we’re getting some wave motion.


Watch the finish, Mike has a very nice lunging for the wall.  I watched the heels going out and the instep, how wide the pull is, the hand comes in and then the elbow comes in. The hand always squeezes in under the chest, then the elbow comes in front before you get ready for the lunge. Right there, perfect picture.


Unfortunately, I got stuck with a man-made breaststroker named Eric Namesnik. Eric came to Michigan at 2:24 for the 200 meter breaststroke and he got down to, I think, 2:15:9 or something. So it can be done. It took me seven years to get it down there.  Eric is going to do basically the same drills I had Mike to do. Eric was very smart and swam with Mike for a long time in the same lane. They were neck and neck especially in the IM sets. Eric kind of copied Mike. The only thing Eric didn’t have is God did not give him the insteps, the inward rotation of the thigh to set up for the kick. As I’ve said, those are anatomical and nothing John or Betsy can do about it. If I could do it, I would do it, but some of those things cannot be helped. Eric is basically pulling his elbows back about two inches further than Mike did, but again, he is man made and he is kind of a phony. But he learned, he learned it as good as he could and holding his own with the current breaststrokers in America today. It is good enough to improve his IM.  As a matter of fact, his IM improved seven seconds in seven years and all of it contributed to the breaststroke. He does a real good job on the lunge. He leads with the elbow more than Mike. Mike was extremely strong across the chest so he didn’t have to help with the elbow to pull out. Eric is little bit cheating, he let the elbow lead instead of the hand lead. But he has a very good lunge. That is one thing he learned extremely well to fill in the gap between the pull and the kick with the lunge. He is a very consciences worker, probably the most ideal swimmer I ever coached. I wish God had given him just a little bit more in one stroke and that’s all that he needed. Actually, two strokes, freestyle is not the greatest either.


These are not drills, they’re are actually training sets. We do a 200 and the first fifty is going to be like this. Again, this is not kicking back for joy. This is kicking hard. You might have to go a 33 or 34 on the kick. This is extremely good hypoxic work — anaerobic stuff. Nobody does more anaerobic work than Mike Barrowman.  I think the key to his success was the amount of time he spent under the water. He spent half the workout under the water cause part of our training is to do a lot of the kicking, pulling and swimming under the water. I think your body just adapts to that. Again, these drills are done fast. They have to go as fast as the other people have to do as far as making the threshold paces, etc. And, I think the breaststrokers here work harder than anyone else. Nobody gives them credit and they think they’re all wimps because they swim slow compared to the others but it is very demanding. And I think this stroke needs more skill work, technique work, and correction by the coach than any other stroke.


This is another picture of Eric in the flume at Colorado Springs.  I think his elbows are pulling back way too far on that. We’ll let him watch, he’s very smart and is able to make some corrections on it. Right there I think his elbows are coming back.  Most of the time the kids can’t feel it until they actually see it and even when they see it they don’t believe it. So I have to reinforce that. This is a head on view. Of course swimming in the flume is going to create an awful lot of air bubbles. That is the reason I don’t like them. You see the air bubbles in from his face. It is mandatory that you have to force the air out while your face is in the water. It is one thing you have to keep in mind. Often there is not enough time to exchange your air by the time your mouth comes up so  have them blow the air into the water before they lift the head up.


This is just one of the stroke cycles.  These drawings were made by Joseph Nagy. I don’t have that much artistic ability. I told Joseph I was going to use his information and he is more than glad to share it with everybody else. A couple of things I want to bring to your attention. That very first line is your anatomical floating position on breaststroke. You like to come to that point in every cycle. I think one of the key factors here, after you finish the glide, is to make sure that the palm of the hands are wall-eyed. And literally, it is nice if you can lunge forward and stay at water level. But it can’t because you will sink somewhere in, everybody does. So what would happen first is you go in, the hand will sink down. You keep your face down, chin down and let your hand make a small circle, outwardly motion with the palm facing out. You are literally pushing the water out of your way as you are getting ready for the pull. So at first he is sculling out. Like I tell the kids, if you have a curtain and you want to pull open the curtain in both hands. Make a little door, make a little opening for yourself so you can stick your face in it — so you make a little room in there and that way your head can go down in it. So, when you get to this position and I told you from the side view, the critical point is to make sure that the elbow stops in line with the shoulder. But at this moment you are still looking down. The key is don’t lift the head up until you actually have made the inward motion. The biggest mistake most kids do in trying to do this stroke is they start lifting their head up right here. Tell them to keep their chin down on the chest until you get all the way in,  until the palms make the turn from outward sculling to inward sculling. At this moment then start lifting the chin up and the shoulders also come up. Actually the shoulders not only come up but try to force your shoulder right on your earlobe. What would happen is, if I was a flat breaststroker like Stackle was, then I would be like this. What would happen is, as you start, if you stop right here and your shoulder comes up then your elbow will never go past the shoulder line because the elbow starts right there. If I didn’t rise up, if I didn’t rise the shoulder up — watch my head, ok, then as I’m getting in my elbow would be back here like Eric Namesnik was. See that. But at this moment if you start moving your shoulder coming up then the elbow stays stationery in one position. So the hand is pivoting around your elbow. We don’t want to pull in with the elbow we want to pull in with the hand. And once the hand comes underneath the body then at this moment both the elbow and the hand travels together forward.


It would be nice if you could have that picture on line four and even more so on five and six and seven, keeping that hand on the surface as long as you can. It is probably the hardest thing to teach because many times you see the kids, they want to go down like this. No you’ve got to stay down. And the object here is to keep the head up as long as you can. The hand, the elbow, the shoulder goes then the head. The head will be the last one to actually be getting into the play. So that 35 pounds or 25 pounds, whatever your head weighs, the momentum (well, some guy’s head are bigger than that, heavier than that — pretty thick) so you want to put that head into it. The object here as you’re rounding is to go from a very concave-arched position like this into a round position. And that is probably the hardest thing for some kids to learn. At this moment, I want to arch like this. And, actually you can have your rear end stay up. Almost like a picture of the butterfly. You see the S pattern of the butterfly. Can you picture that. A good butterflyer has very good flexibility in the hip — same thing on breaststroke. Your rear end stays up, you’re arched, and as you are coming up, I think as your shoulder comes up as the hip goes down a little bit there’s a wave action that goes through the body. And that is what makes your breaststroke so fluid , so beautiful to watch.


Poetry-in-motion. Again, some kids learn it, some kids don’t. I have a lot failures so my idea to you is: you can’t teach everybody this technique. We can try but if they don’t pick it up — if they are going to get it they will get it fast.  They either learn it fast or they’re not going to learn it at all.  Of course I’m dealing with kids, 18, 19 and 20 and it is very hard to make changes because first you have to forget the old and relearn and many of them do not want to forget the old and so they’re too old to learn the new technique. But I think with younger kids you can experiment with it.  I think it’s very important that you spend a lot of time on it. So, basically as you go through this one stroke cycle you get a feel for what’s happening in there.


The head is instrumental in determining the rhythm of the technique. The head should be the last thing to come up and the position of the head is important too. You would like to look into the water at about 60 degrees. In other words, I tell the athletes that your neck and the back of your head and the back should be one  — like you have a stiff neck, you can’t move it. Instead of lifting the head up to breathe, lift your entire shoulder girdle up at one time. Once you come up then you round your back then lunge forward. That lunge forward is key, you have to lunge fast.


What sets the rhythm of the stroke is your arm movement, You have to be extremely strong across from fingertips to fingertips to do this technique. So you can spend an awful lot of time either in the weight room or working with a medicine ball so you have strength from the fingertips and very good control.   The arm stroke is continuous — you never stop in the stroke.   There is very little pause in the middle here, except maybe in the first 50 of a 200 where you kind of glide but from that moment on it is continuous so you’ve got to be very strong across here.


The speed of the hand needs to be the same as the speed of the kick. Well the way you pick a good breaststroker is how fast do they kick. If they have a fast kick they could be a good breaststroker. If they are very slow then forget it because what will happen is by the time they finish the kick they can’t stay up there that long so the body will start falling down and the swimmer is going to be playing submarine.   We do this a lot with my guys, they come up beautiful, and they lunge then they disappear. So their shoulders come up beautiful but because they have no instep, and they don’t have flexibility in the hip or the rotation to get the feet ready fast enough to kick, by the time the kick comes it is usually too late so the upper body is already in the water then what happens? Sir Isaac Newton wins again. Listen, that guy never lost a race. And maybe you want to teach your athletes about who Sir Isaac Newton was because he probably had many good laws for swimming.


I said your head is like in a cast with your neck and your shoulder.  Let me add that the chin should be always tucked in. If you look at the European breaststrokers they kind of look weird. They look this way, kind of tilted forward. There is a reason for it. They were told at a young age. “Don’t move your head or I’ll get a whip and hit you.” When Joe Nagy came to my program and Mike Barrowman was a freshman and Eric Namesnik was trying to learn his technique, Eric kept his head up. Joe literally got the pole at the end of the pool, one of those hooks you pull people out with, and he literally hit Eric on the head. He has still never forgiven him for that.


So basically what happened is, as you round your shoulders, as you round your back, you don’t have to move your neck at all because as you are coming back down the head will come down. You should be looking at the bottom. Much of the breaststroke should be looking at the bottom of the pool. And even when you come up for taking a breath, it should be at about 60 degrees looking into the water — not coming up and smiling for the camera.


Well you can do this stroke drill out of the water.  You can have young kids can do this on the deck especially if you have a tile deck.   Lie down and arch up and slide the hand forward. Little kids will do that, the big guys won’t do it. But little kids will do it, put a kick board under their body. Arch up and while they arch up put the hand forward. It is very important for them to learn to jump forward. This jumping act is important. We do quite a bit of that with chin up. It is daily practice.


Pulling breaststroke with a dolphin kick is probably 60% of the time. I said Barrowman will go two to three thousand a day or more just pulling in various forms. If it is 50 meters you go the first 15 meters with your chin up, the next 20 meters you lunge as good as you can, the last 15 meters you have chin up again. You can go the mid 15 meters or the mid 20 meter underwater pulling breaststroke, or you can go underwater kicking breaststroke, or there are so many combinations that is why it is fun to coach breaststroke because so many things you can do with them.


Tom Dolan has miserable breathing problems and he doesn’t exchange air very well so I’ve started with Tom to get all the air out of his body before he comes up.  But even Mike said to me many times that he likes to blow the air out forcefully at the time he is reaching forward. Not too early, because I think the extra amount of air will probably give you a little more buoyancy. It is not like you want to go immediately, but, remember your head is going to be down a little bit longer cause you are already extending. Actually your chin should be down there, you are already extending.


There are so many great swimmers today.  Kurt is excellent from Stanford, I love his style.  I’m glad he is back because I think he has a pretty good shot next year.  Eric Wunderlich is back in training so we are going to have some good breaststrokers for next year. Though, none of those guys swim alike. Wunderlich is broad shouldered, big body. He is not swimming the same way as Mike Barrowman but very similar. But again, you have to have a God’s given body style. If you are short, and have a good coordination — look at Amanda, this young girl from Irvine, how tiny she is, 95 pounds. Certainly she goes through the water good. She’s got beautiful legs. God given. I’m not taking away from Dave Salo but the legs were given to her by her mom and dad.


So as the shoulder comes up at the highest point of the shoulder at that moment my feet are still up and pigeon toed. Keep it pigeon toed for less drag until after you finish the lunge.


You know for that for some not-born breaststrokers it is hard to get the instep in the right position to grab the water because they don’t have the inward rotation of the thigh.  They can’t put their feet where they want. It is not possible for them to come up there. So for that, they have to bring the knees wider and more under the body. Well, this again, Sir Isaac Newton wins again. That’s drag, the bigger the thigh bigger the drag. The wider you open up your knees the greater the drag. Because if you can hide your legs and knees behind your round chest that will be the least amount of drag.  So you want to keep your feet behind you as long as you can. And the object will be to get the instep ready to kick without bringing the knee out.


Now what happens is for those other phony breaststrokers, they have to go wider out with the knees and a little bit lower. Well this is beautiful, perfect kick. But what happened is, anatomically then your kick is directed where? There, so you are kicking to the wall. And from there it is like a book, goes in a book like this. So you’re not getting enough forward propulsion for jumping action from the kick. So that is why it is important to have that ability to be able to kick more backwards, to go forward. Is that Isaac Newton too? Doggone it he’s right.


It is very important that from the moment you get to this point as you are getting to the inward scull you should have about a 15 degree angle in the pitch of the  hand. Maybe some of the scientists don’t agree but I don’t always trust the science, I’m sorry. I go by my feel.  What I see in Mike Barrowman when he comes in, sculls in is the angle-pitch of his hand coming in like this. It is almost like building a sand castle at the beach.  Bring it up like that. For kids it is easy to teach. Then as soon as you come up in front of the chin then you flatten it out. From this moment on then the rotation or rounding of the back becomes very important and you stay on the surface. This way you have something to support yourself on. If I’m like this, sooner or later I’m going to have to let go with the pressure.  I’m going to have to have these hands come back again. So in order to avoid that losing the pressure on the water might as well just recover like this and go forward. I mean that is my interpretation of the way Barrowman and just about all of my breaststrokers go. I have seen some very successful like this.


I prefer the hand, the palm of the hand facing downward. First facing out, then about a 15 degree angle, sand castle your building right this way and then flatten it out. Then getting back into the beginning of the catch and into the pool.  That lunge is actually part of the recovery. As he is coming back it is fast. The way you should teach this probably is:  The outsweep is S L O W, the insweep is FAST and the lunge and recovery is FASTEST. It has three speeds.  Lunging is not only lunging but lunging with a lot of kick.


Many kids like to lunge with the hands only. Others lunge with their head and nothing else, like little idiots. You don’t tell this to a young kid, cause he might take it literally. So you have to make sure as we are getting into the lines, that the little finger, the wrist, the elbow and the shoulder and probably the upper torso, they all travel together at the same time. It is not exactly, because it is a rhythm that starts with the finger tips, but getting into a continuous movement. So you have to lunge up and forward.


What I tried to do once is put every other lane line in the pool and made the guys swim the wave breaststroke and when they come up they have to jump over the lane line. Well it hurt them after a while so we stopped it. But it gave them the idea. You’ve got to come up and roll over something. Especially at the beginning when we tried to teach this technique we had no concept, we couldn’t see anybody and Barrowman was the only one and you know when you are swimming in the water it is very hard for you to see what the other guy is doing. I think we have a lot more people doing the stroke correctly in America today and I can see the next century is going to bring us tremendous results of what we are all trying to do, trying to teach a stroke correctly.


Well we didn’t even talk about anything out of the water. It is very important for you to have exercises.  Build up the upper body. If you want to do the wave style you have to have a strong upper body. I recommend medicine ball.  If you have a really skinny kid first work on the torso. Get the core strength up then you get the limbs.  The medicine ball would be pretty good for the upper arms. And you have to do an awful lot of work on your legs. Jumps and working on the flexibility of the ankle. Watch television sitting down with your instep out. I can’t do that very well, but sitting down on your rear end then come up. If you just watch television you can do that. That is good for any exercise sitting on your heels for flexibility.


And lots of jumps —  the jumps which your  trainer doesn’t allow you to do. Jumps where you go all the way down and up. The “don’t go past ninety degrees” — well that’s B.S..  You aren’t going to get better. You have to go all the way down and literally sit on your heels and you can tell if somebody can do it. If you can sit on your heels with the knees together, hands on the hips without falling down then you are not going to hurt yourself. That is a good test. You won’t hurt yourself to do those jumps if you can have your feet together, heels together.  Stand up straight then sit down on your heels all the way down without falling back. You’ll find that one half to three fourths of your swimmers can do that. So you would not recommend to do the jump from all the way down because you could … Better get good liability insurance.

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