Breaststroke as in a type of stroke in swimming.
The third type of stroke in the Medley Relay and second in the Individual Medley Relay. Breaststroke is probably one of the hardest strokes to master, and the slowest of all competitive strokes.
Here comes a lengthy explanation of the stroke. Short of getting in the water, and swimming for 25 hours a week with a coach, there is no other way to get this right.
This varies with the part of the stroke, but generally, facing down, back straight. Looking just in front of the swimmer. Usually during the stroke, the legs tend to sink, but during the recovery, a vital part of the stroke is getting the butt back up in the water with the aid of the kick. This restores the body's level position. Also, during the pull, the shoulders, and the upper body come out of the water, otherwise, the body and the head, is just under the water.
The Stroke and The Pull
Part one: The Stroke
Starts out with the swimmer in a streamline position. The first stroke from a start is the pull-out. This is also called the keyhole pullout. The hands of the swimmer separate to about shoulder width, and push the water down, towards the feet in two big sweeping arches that end at the swimmer's hips. Then, the hands continue pushing down past the hips, as far as possible. The complete motion should look like a keyhole, how about that! The recovery consists of bringing the arms back up into the original position as close to the body as possible in order to minimize drag. Most good swimmers can do this without slowing down much, but usually forward motion is almost completely retarded in this maneuver.
The first stroke begins as the pullout ends, by this time, the swimmer's proximity to the surface of the water is close enough to breach it. The pull itself can be different for every swimmer, is really depends on how wide or narrow the shoulders are, and what the comfort vs. speed factor is. The pull starts right after the glide after the pullout. Hands are side by side, palms facing down. Arms rotate so that the wrists are facing at 45 degrees in relation to the bottom of the pool. The swimmer presses the water down his/her body, while moving the hands in relatively flat arches towards the body, bending at the elbows, pressing the water down towards the bottom of the pool, and back towards the swimmer's legs, raising the upper body out of the water. The middle of the stroke should look like the "TV position" as the coaches call it. Imagine yourself on the floor in front of your television, watching your favorite episode of Invader Zim, resting on your elbows, which are at your sides, a little bit in front of your chest. At this point the upper body should be out of the water leaning forwards.
Breaststroke is the only stroke in which the arms are going against the motion of the water. That is probably why it is the slowest. The rules are clear on this, the elbows must not come out of the water, which means the hands come together, and the recovery is done by pushing them forward as fast as possible, OR another way, more difficult, is to bring the forearms up, out of the water, then sort of throw them forwards, slicing through the water, into the glide position once more. If timed right, the kick should aid in the recovery, canceling out the resistance of the water against the recovering arms.
The idea of the reach, is to be able to push the arms as far forward as possible, with as little resistance as possible. This is where the ablility to become streamline is crucial.
The breath comes at the apex of the stroke, when the swimmer is in the "TV position". usually, this requires to raise the head a little bit, but it must come back down in order to go underwater, as to preserve as much of the streamline as possible during the glide, which can be as long as desired, without loosing too much velocity.
The kick is very hard to time right, but with lots of practice, is easy. Each swimmer's kick comes at a different time in their stroke, depending on the speed and the glide of each swimmer's stroke. The kick can be compared to a frog's, the feet stay together, and come towards the swimmer's butt, as the knees bend, and turn slightly out. Then, the feet separate, turn out, passing the vertical line from the knees, and press back, towards the back end of the pool, with the feet turned out, providing the pressing surface. The kick should be a very quick, snapping motion, providing as much force forward as possible, while slightly raising the swimmer's butt to it's original position, if not higher, helping the shoulders sink below the water level.
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Note: it is very hard to get this right the first time. It takes years of practice to get the stroke down perfect. Even then, it is very rare to see swimmers with perfect strokes. Like mentioned earlier, this is only a brief description of the stroke. There is no way be able swim fast, short of practicing for 20-25 hours a week with a trained professional coach.