TOM'S SWIM TIP:
Perfecting the breaststroke pullout.
Sometimes little things can make a big difference, and doing good breaststroke pullouts is one thing that can make or break a breaststroke race. Perfecting the breaststroke pullout is a powerful way a swimmer can maximize momentum, minimize resistance, and get an extra edge in a close race.
There are four distinct parts of a breaststroke start or turn: 1) The dive or push off; 2) The glide; 3) The pull-down; and 4) The recovery. The dive or push off should be explosively powerful and streamline, and it’s important to keep the momentum going with a properly timed glide. My coach used to always tell me to count “one alligator, two alligator, three alligator” during my glide to ensure I wasn’t starting my pullout too soon.
The latest breaststroke pullout rules state that at any time prior to the first breaststroke kick after the start and after each turn, a single butterfly kick is permitted. Out of the four parts of a breaststroke start or turn, the ideal place to do the dolphin kick to maximize return is at the end of the glide, just before the pull-down, although many swimmers prefer to do the kick during the pull-down or at the end of the pull-down. Sports researchers have found out that initiating a dolphin kick after the pull-down doesn’t generate much power and may actually hinder a swimmer’s speed. Doing the dolphin kick and pull-down simultaneously gives a better advantage than doing the kick after the pull-down, but swimmers get the best impact maintaining speed by doing the single dolphin kick at the end of the glide just before the pull-down.
At the end of the pull-down, make sure your arms are tight against your body and continue to hold that position for two or three "alligators." Then explode forward with a powerful whip kick as you bring your arms close to your chest, under your body, and back to in front of your body, setting yourself up for your first stroke on the surface. As you prepare for your first full stroke cycle, make sure your hands are back in a streamline and that your body is “hitting the line” in a hydrodynamic streamline position.
Breaststroke is all about timing, and this applies to pullouts too. There are only a few movements during the breaststroke pullout, and done correctly they can generate a lot of power and speed while minimizing drag. This can help a swimmer hold onto speed generated off a wall or starting block and carry that speed throughout the breakout and into the first stroke. Breaststroke is the most difficult stroke in which to generate momentum, so the faster you start, the better position you’ll be in at the end of your race!