eVOLution of the Backstroke Breakout: Tennessee Trying More Tricks to Maintain Speed

  32 Braden Keith | February 06th, 2014 | College, News, SEC

Some top-secret video from a Tennessee Volunteers practice has leaked out.

Earlier in the season, SwimSwam’s Amanda Smith was watching swimming videos, and noticed the peculiar top-arm breakout that the Tennessee Volunteers have been using. Read more about those here.

At the time, we were teased a little bit by Tennessee Associate coach Tyler Fenwick with a “wait until you see our backstroke breakouts.”

Well, now we can all see them, thanks to some more sleuth work from Amanda. This video, posted on the Coach’s Eye website, shows a Tennessee swimmer demonstrating their unorthodox breakout. Many, many coaches believe that kicking on one’s side is faster, but Tennessee has taken it to the extreme with swimmers actually surfacing on their sides before their breakout stroke.

This time around, Fenwick says that “we’re just trying to ride that line and snap into the breakout,” emphasizing the smooth penetration of the water’s surface, followed by a more pronounced rotation than normal on the first stroke.

“It’s allowed our swimmers to carry speed through the breakout more effectively,” he said of early results.

We haven’t been able to obtain any race footage of the Volunteers have been using it in the meets to see if it’s given them a visible advantage over their opponents, but Fenwick says they’ve been using it all year, and it’s something we’ll be watching for in two weeks at the SEC Championships in Athens, Georgia.

For what it’s worth, Tennessee’s women’s backstroke group has quietly been developed into a very deep and very impressive group. For example, Lauren Solernou topped defending NCAA runner-up Sinead Russell in the teams’ dual meets last weekend.

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32 Comments on "eVOLution of the Backstroke Breakout: Tennessee Trying More Tricks to Maintain Speed"

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This not a new concept – Bill Boomer & Milt Nelms worked on this in the early 2000 with Natalie Coughlin .

It makes sense – holding your body for as long as possible in a longer streamlined position making the most of the underwater phase .

The top arm exit works.

Christian Hanselmann
From what I understand, the idea of the top-arm pulling is not about propulsion. It is more about keeping a streamlined position through the exit so that when the swimmers surface they can initiate propulsion with the bottom arm. As coaches, we have the tendency to think that the fastest way to move through the water is creating as much propulsion as possible. Perhaps the concept of drag has gotten left behind somewhat. Drag is a limiting factor to any propulsion created by the swimmer. Naturally, during a race it is not prudent to do something a swimmer is uncomfortable with. But anything that might be better is worth taking a look at. Misty Hyman’s coach said that dolphin kicking… Read more »

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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