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Backstroke Technique: Top Arm Breakout

Backstroke Technique: Top Arm Breakout

Top Arm Breakout:

This is not a totally new concept in terms of swimmers and coaches playing with this skill. There are reports that  Bill Boomer & Milt Nelms worked on this in the early 2000 with Natalie Coughlin. It is really only new in the sense that now it seems to be more relevant. Matt Kredich and the University of Tennessee as well as the University of Michigan are using this Top Arm Breakout Technique with their top NCAA and Olympic Swimmers. Now, this past weekend, two medalists at World Championships in the 50 SCM backstrokes, Junya Koga and Ali DeLoof, both employed this technique during their races. I think its time to take a look at it and see why these teams and championship swimmers have decided to use the Top Arm Breakout.

What is Top Arm Breakout?

The Top Arm Breakout is everything that is beautiful about swimming. Swimming in many ways is the art of increasing propulsion but decreasing drag and this breakout does all of these things. It allows the swimmer to carry uninterrupted speed to the surface without creating too much frontal resistance that negates the power in the back of the stroke.

How it produces power?

First, the kick is done more angled to the side. With gravity taken out of the picture the kick is able to produce a balanced propulsive motion in each direction. Also, the body rotates away from the first stroke. In the more common breakout a swimmer will dip the hip down into the first arm pull. By rotating away from the catch on the first stroke the body creates and natural tension though the core and aides in the amount of power a swimmer can get on the first stroke.

How it reduces drag?

This breakout allows the swimmer to dolphin in a streamline for a longer amount of time. Because timing is crucial with this breakout the swimmer must basically dolphin kick their way all the way to the surface before transitioning to flutter kick. In a common breakout, if the transfer to flutter kick is too early, you can break the rhythm of the dolphin kicks and thus diminish the speed.

Another feature that reduces drag: the first arm is swept so close to the body that it almost uses the rushing water to its benefit by getting swept back quickly to the side. Also, after the initiation of the first arm pull  the swimmer has the arm in a more streamlined position under the head as opposed to over top of the head.

How to do it:

1-    Kick on the side UW in a streamline and count the kicks to the surface. Stop counting when the armpit touches the surface. Timing is crucial so be patient. Too early and you will get caught dragging water with the first arm into the recovery phase.

2-    This time using the same kick count,  dolphin towards the surface and just before the armpit hits the surface take the top arm, and very similar to a freestyle catch, hug your body tight and push it back to your side.

3-    You are ready! You will notice that once you push your 1st arm down to the side that you are actually in pretty great position to swim backstroke. Rotate away from your catch and start the recovery of the the first arm immediately as the catch arm begins to pull.

Flow Swimming offers premiere swimming clinics and coaching.

Mission Statement: Flow Swimming workshops are designed to create athletic, long lasting strokes and mind sets that will set the foundation for faster swimming and more intense training.

Our Core Philosophy: Flow Swimming understands that there is a lot of information out there in the vast world of swimming. We think of swimmers and coaches as athletes with the ability to try new and different things. We want to challenge bodies to move, interact, experience, and think about the water in unique ways. We teach a variety of styles of each stroke because we believe that an athlete will never “mess themselves up”. We think of skills like tools in a toolbox.

Other blog posts from Mark Hill:

Hip Driven Freestyle Drill Progression