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Looking around some information about breaststroke technique, I am seeing different information about the timing of the kick.

With the recreational breaststroke (with head all time out) I tend to have my legs already flexed when breathing and kick when extending my arms. However I am trying to do this stroke and maintain a straight streamline as long as posible with the head under water.

After looking around I see different recommendations about when to start flexing my legs preparing for the kick

  1. When taking the head out (elbows on chest)
  2. When going down / extending arms
  3. When arms are already extended

Which one is the right timing? Does it change when keeping the head out always?

So far my feeling is that I should delay flexing my legs as long as posible, at least not even start flexing during the time I am taking a breath, with the kick happening only after arms are completely extended.

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You might get good answers over on sports.stackexchange.com too. –  Dave Liepmann Oct 31 '13 at 18:42
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Breaststroke timing is one of the funkier things to get down, and I would suggest watching youtube videos of Olympic and World meets, as they will have some underwater shots of top level swimmers. There are also excellent instructional videos.

For the streamline off the wall, ideally you want the arms straight out "overhead", with the hands flat on one another (Palm to the back of the other hand), with your head in front of the arms, not between them.

This will last until you take your first underwater pull, then they will be momentarily by your side until you start your full stroke.

For the timing, when I used to teach to beginners, I described it as drawing an upside down heart (Hands out in front start what would normally be the pointy bottom in a valentine style heart), the pull "draws" the heart, and then the recovery "cuts it up the middle".

The legs should start flexing and coming up towards the body somewhere on the outer arc of the "heart" before it starts to curve into the middle with the hands, and then you kick at about the same time you "cut" the heart and shove your hands forward. If you wait until the arms are fully extended, you lose some of the propulsion, and you also work against yourself when you push the arms out. You do a little even if you extend while kicking, but it's minimized in that instance.

Personally, since I swam competitively for so long, even my lazy stroke and ones where I keep my head out follow this same timing. It's uncomfortable for me to swim with my head out, so I'll almost always get at least half my face in the water during the stroke.

Practice, watch the videos, and if you have a lot of problems, there is no substitute for someone actually looking at your stroke, see if there are instructors in your area.

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Since I have the feeling that I fold my legs too soon (same time as legs), I am trying to kick once I am into the glide. Waiting or not for complete arm extension was my dilema. This is my favorite video: youtube.com/watch?v=-O5KNV8UYi4. Would you say the kick is very close to full arm extension or right before lining the whole body? Unlike other videos, arms and legs are not folded at the same time –  SystematicFrank Nov 1 '13 at 7:12
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Competitive and recreational breaststrokes are barely related in this regard, as they use completely different balance and kicks (whip vs. frog).

If you have excellent balance, delaying the set-up and kick can be helpful for efficiency in competitive breaststroke as the recovering or recovered arms will provide less drag during the most propulsive phase of the stroke. Throwing forward also completes the wave and maintains excellent balance. For an excellent example, see the underwater views from the 2012 Olympic Men's 100 Breaststroke final. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1g7oRASpJO0

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