35 Ways To Improve Your Breaststroke Leg Kick
Originally published on swimnow.co.uk by Alistair Mills
How to Improve Your Breaststroke Leg Kick?
If you’re aspiring to be the next champion swimmer, or maybe just to improve your technique, the big question is… How do you improve your breaststroke leg kick? Well, you could sit and watch tutorials on Youtube and then try to copy the technique in the swimming pool, but that will only get you so far! We’re here to give you some practical exercises that you can start doing right now! We’ve put together 35 exercises, to help you build up your leg strength and take your breaststroke leg kick to the next level, but before we dive into the workouts, let’s take a look at the fastest breaststroker of all-time with his superb technique.Top level swimmers spend hours in the weight room to make their muscles stronger. In this article we’ll be showing you how target the six major muscle groups responsible for building a powerful breaststroke leg kick.
Did you know… the biggest and most powerful muscle in the human body is the gluteus maximus located in the back of the upper leg? The ‘glutes’ comprise of three muscles (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus) which are responsible for extension of the hip joint and initiating the breaststroke leg kick action.
At a basic level, breaststroke leg kick is referred to as frog kick, it’s a wide action that closely resembles that of a frog’s back legs. Professional swimmers aim for more of a ‘whip kick’ which is narrower and delivers more propulsion.
Running right down the back of your leg are your hamstrings, they provide flexion at the knee joint aid the recovery section of the kick by bringing the heels up to the backside. Hamstrings can get tight, so we advise daily stretching to reduce the risk of injury, we’ll go into stretching in more detail later in the article.
Your ‘quads’ run down the front of your upper leg, from your hip at the top, to your knee at the bottom. Strong quads are essential for driving the feet back together towards the end of the kick, as well as providing the power to dive off the starting block and the turns at either end.
You wouldn’t think your stomach muscles are involved that much with breaststroke leg kick, but advanced swimmers engage their abdominal muscles to generate that extra bit of power. The abdominal muscles provide stability and balance, which is essential for maintaining good technique, posture and fast swimming!
Strong, flexible calves create the correct angle for the feet and point the toes into a streamlined position at the end of the propulsive phase of the leg kick.
Four Steps to A Super Breaststroke Leg Kick
Now that you know which muscle groups to target, let’s take a look at our 35 exercises. We’ve broken it down into four workouts, so you can focus on a specific area each day.
Workout #1: Activate Your Glutes
As you know, the glutes are the biggest and strongest muscles in the leg. You would assume then, that anyone who’s serious about improving their breaststroke leg kick would prioritise their glute training, right? Here’s the thing, most swimmers’ glutes are fast asleep allowing other muscles (quads and hamstrings) to take over.
Think of glute activation training like rehabilitation for an injury, you are essentially nursing a weak muscle back to life. Isolation exercises work best for targeting lazy muscles, they stop the more dominant muscles getting too involved.
Here’s our top ten glute activation exercises:
2. Single Leg Glute Bridge
Activating your glutes is all about concentration. Hold the raise for a count of 5 seconds and squeeze your buttocks tightly together to recruit all the muscle fibres, before lowering slowly to start the next repetition.
3. Lying Glute Side Raise
4. Clam Shells (with band)
Alternate between straight leg and bent knee raises to find the sweet spot, you’ll probably find that one exercise hits your target area more effectively than the other. Experiment with the two variations and add a resistance band for an extra squeeze!
5. Glute Kickbacks
6. Glute Kickbacks (with band)
As you kick back, accelerate through the movement until the leg is straight out behind you, then tense both your glute and hamstring together as you squeeze and hold the position. Engage your core muscles by squeezing your obliques as you lift your knee for the next repetition.
7. Single Leg Box Squat
8. Pistol Squat
Drive through your heel not your toes. Finish the movement by standing up tall and pushing your hips forward to squeeze your glutes.
9. Box Step Ups
10. Barbell Step Ups
Foot placement is key. Keep your weight in the back part of your foot and drive through your heel. Control the step down and aim to land softly without making any noise as you return to the floor.
Workout #2: Increase Your Flexibility
The most common flexibility question we here from swimmers at our private swimming lessons is, what type of stretches should i do and how long should I hold each stretch?
In a study published by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the the best time to increase flexibility is post-workout when the muscles are fully warmed up, they say “Help your muscle recover with static stretches held for 15 to 30 seconds. If your looking to open up an area due to tightness or increase the flexibility of a specific muscle you might need to hold the stretch for longer”
Here’s our selection of 9 stretches for leg flexibility:
The best swimmers can get their limbs into positions others can’t. Micheal Phelps is arguably the greatest swimmer of all time, probably more well known for his mastery of the butterfly stroke. He’s notorious for his freakishly double jointed flexibility, which allowed him to generate more propulsion than any other swimmer in history.
11. Butterfly Stretch
12. Single Leg Sit and Reach
To increase your flexibility, stretching must become a daily ritual. We’re not talking about a standard stretch that you hold for ten to fifteen seconds. Evidence suggests 30-60 seconds of focused effort is optimal to increase flexibility.
13. Standing Quad Stretch
14. Lying Quad Stretch
A slight variation in the angle of the exercise can create more leverage and allow for a further stretch. By kneeling or lying down, you can often get into a better position to stretch the muscle further.
15. Standing Hamstring Stretch
16. Samson Stretch
Allow for time to settle into the stretch, especially if you’re working on a tight area. You might feel some resistance as you start the stretch, that’s you’re body’s way of saying hey, take it easy! Lessening the stretch and taking a deep breath will allow the muscle to become more supple before pushing it further.
17. Lying Glute Stretch
18. Seated Glute Stretch
Often, you won’t realise your glutes are tight until you actually try to stretch them out. Test your glute flexibility by sitting in a chair and applying a little pressure to your knee (as shown in image #18).
19. IT Band Roll Outs
Tightness in the gluteus medius can cause issues in the knee joint. Rolling out the muscles and tendons in the outer leg can release some of the tension.
Workout #3: Improve Your Stability
Take a look at the physiques of some of the best swimmers in the world. What do you notice?
Broad shoulders, a narrow waistline, low body fat percentage and heaps of lean muscle.
So that begs the question, how does someone who does cardio all day (by swimming up and down the pool) end up having the physique of a bodybuilder?
Well, the truth is that if your serious about swimming fast you better get serious about lifting weights. Resistance training is a big part of a swimmers regime. In fact, professional swimmers spend almost as much time in the gym as they do in the pool.
The first stage of any strength building programme is to learn the correct techniques through body weight exercises. We’ve hand picked our favourite body weight exercises to develop your breaststroke leg kick power.
21. Side Sumo Walks
You should always start a workout with some dynamic exercise that allows your body to warm up, without too much risk of injury. Avoid explosive actions like jumping, save that for later, stick to smooth transition movements, like side sumo walks.
22. Jump Squats
23. Jump Squats Narrow-Wide
Starts and turns in swimming rely on explosive leg power. Theirs no better exercise than jump squats for building speed off the starting block and around the walls.
24. Frog Jumps / Sumo Jump Squats
Look at the position of the feet during the propulsive phase of the breaststroke leg kick, the toes are turned out, in a similar position as they are in a frog jump.
25. Wall Sit
26. Single Leg Wall Sit
Static holds improve the strength and stability in the supporting muscles around the joints. Hips, knees and ankles can benefit from relatively simple exercises like a wall sit.
Workout #4 Build a Solid Core
A strong core gives a platform from which you can pull and kick at the same time without losing balance. When the body is properly aligned in the water, the core can reduce drag by keeping the hips higher in the water and making you more efficient and streamlined.
Breaststroke is the slowest out of the four competitive swimming strokes, with the top swimmers going at just over 1.5 meters per second. It’s generally considered to be the hardest stroke to master, due to the timing of the stroke and the coordination required.
28. Walking Plank
If you’re looking for the perfect body position in the water you better start training your core! A strong posture can build the foundations of a powerful breaststroke leg kick.
29. Plank Hip Dips
30. Plank Crunch
Functional exercises involve more muscle groups, they test balance and co-ordination more than a static hold. If you feel comfortable in the plank position, try advancing to plank dips and crunches.
31. Ab Crunches
32. Heel Touches
It’s easy to forget about oblique training, but trust me, they have a part to play in breaststroke leg kick. Add twisting exercises to your routine to build up the muscles responsible for a quick leg recovery.
33. Toe Reaches
34. Crab Toe Touches
Add a streamlined position into your exercises to make them more specific to swimming. Toe touches are a prime example of an exercise where you can focus on your hand and wrist overlap.
35. Crow Pose
Think outside the box with your training. Yoga has great health benefits including improved core strength and flexibility. Why not introduce a different dimension to your training with some basic yoga moves?Fill out my online form.