The fastest part of your swim is the first underwater following the dive. The next fastest part is your underwater following the turn. How good your breakouts are determines how much of that speed you can carry into the swim. The breakout is the final piece of the underwater—the moment when you transition from kicking to swimming. Good “underwaters” are a huge part of swimming fast and they develop throughout the year. Let’s analyze the breakout so you can begin to take advantage of your underwater speed.
The breakout demands power and strength to make a smooth transition from kicking to swimming. Whether you breakout on your back or stomach, the majority of this power originates from the core. Throughout the season, build up your core strength to refine this part of the race. A good exercise for this is the streamline crunch. It places your body in the same position as in the water (with arms extended in a streamline) and forces your abdomen to contract with additional resistance. With feet flat on the floor and knees bent, crunch upward while maintaining a tight streamline.
Thoracic mobility is also an integral part of good breakouts. The breakout requires good rotation in a freestyle or backstroke breakout, and good flexion and extension in a butterfly breakout. Your trunk (body from neck to pelvis) must have a high range of motion during the first two strokes of a breakout to accelerate into the swim. This mobility is also critical in the underwater segment because dolphin kicking uses a rolling motion in the abdomen to propel the body forward. The Dowel Lying Thoracic Mobility exercise is a great one to increase your range of motion.
Finally, breakouts are all about timing. Your speed and power are only as useful as the timing of your first stroke. With practice, you will find the sweet spot between getting stuck too deep under the water, and breaking out too late already on the surface. It is important to practice your breakouts at race speed so you know how to time your first stroke in a race setting. Start by practicing the breakout technique at any speed, and then with each attempt become more aggressive with your first two strokes.
Good underwaters become great with the help of a solid breakout. When executed correctly, breakouts save you energy by maintaining the speed carried underwater into the swim. Bring a little extra focus to your breakouts in practice to perfect another race detail for the next competition!
BridgeAthletic works with elite professional, collegiate, and club swimming programs to provide a turnkey solution for dryland training. Led by Nick Folker, the top swimming strength and conditioning coach in the world, our team builds stroke-specific, custom-optimized dryland programs for each of our clients. The individualized workouts are delivered directly to athletes via our state of the art technology platform and mobile applications. Check Nick and BridgeAthletic out as recently featured in SwimSwam.
Nick Folker is the Co-Founder and Director of Elite Performance at BridgeAthletic. Nick’s roster of athletes includes 35 Olympians winning 22 Olympic Medals, 7 team NCAA Championships and over 170 individual and relay NCAA championships. Megan Fischer-Colbrie works as the Sports Science Editor at BridgeAthletic. Megan was a four-year varsity swimmer at Stanford, where she recently graduated with a degree in Human Biology.
The Championship Series by BridgeAthletic is designed to empower athletes with tips from the pros that will help them reach peak performance come race day. We will be covering competition-focused topics such as nutrition, recovery, stretching, and mental preparation.