As the college season reaches another exciting conclusion, the swimming world will begin to shift their attention towards the upcoming long course season. Many age group swimmers and coaches have already started to prepare for the summer’s main events in a season that is sure to showcase plenty of new talent. There are a few differences between racing long course and short course events and most practice strategies will begin to reflect those changes in a number of ways. Although each stroke is unique, there are a number of drills that can help you prepare to race long course breaststroke.
The short axis strokes (butterfly and breaststroke) experience arguably the largest shift between short course and long course seasons. Short, explosive movements are replaced with longer and more fluid ones during this transition. The breaststroke is particularly interesting because there is a very clear opportunity to lengthen the stroke cycle during each “glide”. The hallmark of great long course 200 breaststrokers has long been the ability to carry enough speed to stretch out the stroke to an extremely low stroke count. This is possible due to a powerful and well-timed kick as the swimmer reaches their line. There are a number of drills that help you develop both a stronger kick and a lower stroke count.
First, try adding an extra kick to each stroke cycle to help simulate a longer glide. There are two simple drills that accomplish this and choosing one over another is primarily just preference. The first drill is called “3-2-1” which alludes to the amount of kicks you do for each arm pull in the lap. The first stroke would be one pull and three kicks in your line, then one stroke and two kicks, ending with one final cycle that simulates an excellent long course stroke. The second drill is called “double kick” and is, once again, exactly how it sounds. To train this drill, you add a second breast kick to each cycle and emphasize a tight line as you squeeze every bit of power out of your kicks. These drills will help the swimmer become more comfortable with a longer distance per stroke.
When preparing to race long course it is also critical to establish a stroke rate that is carried throughout the swim, from the start to the final touch at the wall. The Tempo Trainer Pro was designed specifically for this exercise and is the most cost-effective way to practice swimming at race pace. Set the Tempo Trainer to the desired stroke rate and the underwater metronome will allow the swimmer to repeat this pace into muscle memory. The Tempo Trainer Pro is inexpensive, convenient, and removes the guess work from pacing a successful long course performance.