The breaststroke is separated into four phases:

  1. the pull phase starts with hand separation and ends with the hand touch at the end of the inward scull;
  2. the deadspace phase occurs at the end of the pull phase and ends at the beginning of the kick;
  3. the kick phase begins when the feet are turned out and ends when they are together and the legs are extended; and
  4. the glide phase occurs from the end of the kick and ceases at the start of the next pull.

The slowest speed of the center of gravity occurred in the deadspace phase. It is in the best interests of the swimmer to minimize the time spent in that phase.

The angle of the trunk contributes to a large proportion of frontal resistance. Mike Barrowman had the lowest trunk angle of the four swimmers studied. The three less efficient swimmers had their hips lowest when their shoulders were highest. This could be caused by an action-reaction effect where the hips sank as the shoulders rose. However, Barrowman's hips were lowest at the start of the pull and his hips moved upward while the shoulders also moved upward for the breath. That resulted in the low body angle and contributed significantly to his exceptional streamlining. [Some coaches erroneously teach their swimmers to raise their shoulders out of the water while tucking their elbows hard underneath. That increases resistance, and while looking somewhat spectacular, is very inefficient. It is better to emphasize streamlining at every stage of the stroke.]

Barrowman's arm movement was continuous from the pull through to the glide. The quick arm recovery which started over the water surface but buried as he lunged forward, allowed him to incur greater benefit from the kick since his body was in a very streamlined position. The speed also restricted the time available for the body to slow down during the deadspace phase.

Mike Barrowman also spent the greatest amount of time in the glide phase, with the streamlined body position minimizing any drag effects.

In terms of timing, Barrowman had the largest time period in the pull (it was both lengthy and effective) and glide phases, the smallest time in the kick and deadspace phases, and the fastest stroking time. In effect, he stroked big and fast, minimized resistance by maximizing streamlining, and produced a continuous action.

[The wave action that flowed down his body was not exaggerated. It was sufficient enough to produce some propulsion. For the wave to be effective it has to be faster than the speed of the swimmer. If the actions contributing to the wave are too big, they will actually slow the speed with which it travels down the body and eventually becomes a hindrance rather than a help. The wave action occurs as a natural result of good mechanics within the bounds of respecting the advantages of streamlining.]

Return to Table of Contents for ICAR 1990-91 Report.