New rule changes for breaststroke and butterfly effective March 8th 1998, bring big changes to how we do our turns. The turn for butterfly is exactly the same as breaststroke.
The turn and underwater stroke can account for up to 45% of a 200 short course breaststroke race; often the race is decided by whom does them best. With so much at stake, I make EVERY turn and underwater stroke a practice for improving my race. I often go 14 yards off each wall on my underwater stroke, coming up a body length ahead of the freestyler in the next lane.
There have been two rule changes and a new streamline that changes the way we do the breast turn. First, "Some part of the swimmer's head shall break the surface of the water at least once during each complete cycle of one arm stroke and one leg kick, in that order, except after the start and each turn the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs and one kick while wholly submerged".
This means we now can put our head underwater without being disqualified, and explains what the underwater stroke limits are. Second the new streamline that has the arms behind the head, with the head squeezed in, allows much longer and farther underwater strokes. The new streamline added 2 yards to my underwater stroke. Third, the new rule change eliminates the underlined from the rule book: "At each turn, the touch shall be made with both hands simultaneously at, above, or below the water surface, and the shoulders shall be in line with the water surface." This allows us to dip our shoulders going into each turn, much faster than having to touch with the shoulders level to the water, and allows the possibility of Breast and Fly FLIP turns.
I break down the present "open" breaststroke turn into five parts:
The Push Off
The Underwater Pull-Down
The First Stroke Up
Always look at the wall 3-4 strokes from the end. The mind will amazingly adjust to the distance to the wall. The object is to kick into the wall, never pulling into it. Pulling in causes the hips to sink, just like putting out an anchor. By kicking into the wall you keep your speed up as well as your hips.
Keeping your speed high going into the wall allows you to transfer more speed off the wall. The new rule change allows us to dip our shoulders and touch one hand above the other so long as the hands touch at the same time. "The head may be submerged after the last arm pull prior to the touch, provided it breaks the surface of the water at some point during any part of the last complete or incomplete stroke cycle preceding the touch. Once a touch has been made, the swimmer may turn in any manner desired." This means that we can dive below the waters surface, touch with both hands, and FLIP over like we did in freestyle up until 1962. It will take a very flexible individual to do it; probable some young lady will be first to flip the breast turn. Most of us will continue with the open breast turn, which when done correctly will be faster than ever.
Be sure to quickly bring your heels up to your rear in a tight tuck. As soon as the lower hand touches you quickly bring it back along the body and extend the palm out to assist in pulling your body into the other direction. Because we dipped our shoulder, we now throw our head straight back from our body position. We also bring the other hand up close to the body and then next to the ear where it will come together with the lower hand behind the head as we lunge the body away from the wall we just touched. By now your feet will be planted on the wall, hopefully at about the same angle that you dipped your shoulder.About 45 degrees to the water surface should be good.
The Push Off
You will have your knees bent slightly with your body almost completely on your back at close to a 45% angle. You must "corkscrew" or twist your shoulders past the vertical before your feet leave the wall. The rule reads " The shoulders must be at or past the vertical toward the breast when the swimmer leaves the wall and the form prescribed in .2 must be attained from the beginning of the first arm stroke." As you push off be sure to keep the tightest NEW streamline, narrowing the shoulders as you press the arms behind the head. Keep the body in an absolute straight line, as your body gradually becomes parallel to the water's surface. You should hold the push off for 3 to 3.5 seconds. You cannot swim as fast as you push off, hold it longer for the 200 than the 100 race. Try to hold one depth below the water surface during the push off and the following under water pull-down. Many people go down, then up, traveling a longer distance and risking having to float up to the first full stroke. Have some one watch your push off, if you have any ripple at the waters surface you are too shallow, go deeper until there is no wake.
The Underwater Pull-Down
After about three seconds the pull-down is essentially an explosive butterfly stroke with the hands going back to the legs, as provided for in the rule. There are two refinements to the pull-down, one to scull the hands quickly when past the waist, to provide a little more propulsion. Another is to pull the hands between the legs and hunching the shoulders to make them more narrow at the end of the pull-down. Both refinements last for less than a second.
After the hunching of the shoulders, quickly bring the hands up the body to the streamline position. As the hands pass the chest, bring the heels up to the kick position. When the arms come together in the streamline, begin your kick to the surface. It has been proven the kick should be narrow to reduce water resistance, so it is very important to finish the kick. The heels should crash hard together.
The First Stroke Up
"The head must break the surface of the water before the hands turn inward at the widest point of the second stroke". You can gain or loose one half a second on the first stroke alone! If you come up and immediately throw your head up to breath before the hands come inward, you can loose a second to your competitors. Ideally you pull hard near the water surface and just as the hands reach their widest point, the head will just break the water surface. Then you breathe late into the inward scull. You can GAIN .3 to .5 seconds on your competitors by correctly timing the second stroke. I don't even breathe on this first stroke, concentrating on the pull more and finally breathing on the second stroke.
- Technique and Training