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Kettlebell Elite Swimmer - Kettlebell training for breaststroke

YorkieStrength

Level 2 Valued Member
Hi guys,

I have been working with a 15 year old elite swimmer. I see him once a week for 45 mins. I have worked with him for 12 months so far and we have made good progress in his kettlebell training and his swimming times.

We have mostly been using kettlebells, working on good technique for S&S and we are currently using 35lb for one arm swings and 50lb for two arm swings and 35lb for get ups. We will be introducing some wave loading for the get ups soon. We have ironed out problems with hip hinge, foot stability and we are currently learning good form for the kettlebell clean and kettlebell single arm military press.

He has improved his freestyle and backstroke to good effect with the most improvement in his butterfly. However, his breaststroke has held at the same time and not improved like the rest of his strokes.

My question is, does anyone have any advice or training tips for his kettlebell practice to help him improve his 'breast stroke' times in particular.

Any help is much appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Sam (BC, Canada)
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Breast stroke kicking requires a lot of hip mobility. Try to see what he looks like doing what I call the water polo kick, otherwise known as the "egg beater" kick.

Also check on technique - I've seen a lot of variations of the old-fashioned "frog" kick. A good Google is something like "breast stroke kick vs frog kick" and read up on that.

And for all things swimmie, check on ankle mobility.

Steve "ex swimming teacher" Freides
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 6 Valued Member
Like Steve said, hip strength and mobility is huge.

Since you're not a swimming coach, try to stay away from giving him swimming advice.

For your ears only - don't relate this to him because he's a teen and all it will do is cause anxiety, but breaststroke is its own beast and, perhaps not surprisingly, breaststrokers are often a slightly different bunch. It's not uncommon to find breaststroke specialists that are awesome at breaststroke and not awesome at anything else - other stroke specialists (back, fly, free) tend to be at least solid in at least one other stroke. Why does that matter? Well, (dryland) things that improve back, fly, and free might not have as much impact on breaststroke.

That said, goblet squats, swings etc. should be a good strengthener for just about anyone. And anything that could make a stronger more explosive start or turn is going to help every swimmer.
 

Steve W.

Level 7 Valued Member
I have been working with a 15 year old elite swimmer. I see him once a week for 45 mins. I have worked with him for 12 months so far and we have made good progress in his kettlebell training and his swimming times.
Not trying to be a jerk, but "we" might apply to his KB training, but not his swimming times. He, and his swimming coaches, are improving his swimming. KB training might serve as GPP to support his swim training, but it isn't swim training. As Dan John points out, the role of the strength coach may be relatively clear, but the impact of the strength coach is a lot fuzzier, especially for a 15 year-old doing intensive sport-specific training in a highly technical sport.

IMO, his progress in one stroke over another is much more within the purview of his swimming coaches than his KB trainer.

The good news is, don't worry about it!

Just focus on the best generalized base of strength and movement skill you can, and not doing anything potentially injurious or obviously contrary to the needs of his sport.
Since you're not a swimming coach, try to stay away from giving him swimming advice.

For your ears only - don't relate this to him because he's a teen and all it will do is cause anxiety, but breaststroke is its own beast and, perhaps not surprisingly, breaststrokers are often a slightly different bunch. It's not uncommon to find breaststroke specialists that are awesome at breaststroke and not awesome at anything else - other stroke specialists (back, fly, free) tend to be at least solid in at least one other stroke. Why does that matter? Well, (dryland) things that improve back, fly, and free might not have as much impact on breaststroke.

That said, goblet squats, swings etc. should be a good strengthener for just about anyone. And anything that could make a stronger more explosive start or turn is going to help every swimmer.
+1
 
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YorkieStrength

Level 2 Valued Member
th
Breast stroke kicking requires a lot of hip mobility. Try to see what he looks like doing what I call the water polo kick, otherwise known as the "egg beater" kick.

Also check on technique - I've seen a lot of variations of the old-fashioned "frog" kick. A good Google is something like "breast stroke kick vs frog kick" and read up on that.

And for all things swimmie, check on ankle mobility.

Steve "ex swimming teacher" Freides
Thank you Steve
 

YorkieStrength

Level 2 Valued Member
Not trying to be a jerk, but "we" might apply to his KB training, but not his swimming times. He, and his swimming coaches, are improving his swimming. KB training might serve as GPP to support his swim training, but it isn't swim training. As Dan John points out, the role of the strength coach may be relatively clear, but the impact of the strength coach is a lot fuzzier, especially for a 15 year-old doing intensive sport-specific training in a highly technical sport.

IMO, his progress in one stroke over another is much more within the purview of his swimming coaches than his KB trainer.

The good news is, don't worry about it!

Just focus on the best generalized base of strength and movement skill you can, and not doing anything potentially injurious or obviously contrary to the needs of his sport.

+1
Thanks Boris, previously breast stroke was his strongest stroke and since we started training his other strokes have improved so much they have surpassed his breaststroke. He has not got worse at breaststroke but has not improved his time from last year.
 

YorkieStrength

Level 2 Valued Member
T
Thanks Boris, previously breast stroke was his strongest stroke and since we started training his other strokes have improved so much they have surpassed his breaststroke. He has not got worse at breaststroke but has not improved his time from last year.
Thanks Steve that’s what I thought also!
 

Gerry K

Level 5 Valued Member
I’m a “swammer” myself, father of three swimmers, and a lifelong enthusiast of the sport of competitive swimming. The link between strength on land and strength in the pool is obscure, to say the least—assuming one exists.

If you watched any swimming at the Tokyo Olympics, you saw in the finals (men and women) a mixture of muscular adults who logged many hours in gyms and scrawny teenagers who’d done no “dry land” beyond push-ups, crunches and some running.

Gold medalist Katie Ledecky is now in the former category yet she also won a gold medal in London as a 15 y/o in 2012 when she was in the latter category.

Beyond a minimal level of strength, water doesn’t respond to the application of more force. You don’t need to be especially strong to swim well. It’s a sport that relies on technique, conditioning (in the water) and desire (attitude).

On top of that, most swim coaches, when asked about improving breaststroke, shrug their shoulders and say, “You can either do the stroke or you can’t. It’s a matter of natural aptitude.”

That said, I think your appropriate goals are improving your swimmer’s general athleticism and avoiding injury. That’s a winning prescription for the strength coach.
 

Gerry K

Level 5 Valued Member
Like Steve said, hip strength and mobility is huge.

Since you're not a swimming coach, try to stay away from giving him swimming advice.

For your ears only - don't relate this to him because he's a teen and all it will do is cause anxiety, but breaststroke is its own beast and, perhaps not surprisingly, breaststrokers are often a slightly different bunch. It's not uncommon to find breaststroke specialists that are awesome at breaststroke and not awesome at anything else - other stroke specialists (back, fly, free) tend to be at least solid in at least one other stroke. Why does that matter? Well, (dryland) things that improve back, fly, and free might not have as much impact on breaststroke.

That said, goblet squats, swings etc. should be a good strengthener for just about anyone. And anything that could make a stronger more explosive start or turn is going to help every swimmer.
Your point about breaststrokers is so apt. At the recent Tokyo Olympics, American Michael Andrew became the first breaststroker in history, male or female, to also reach a final in one of the other three competitive strokes (in his case, freestyle). It’s a very specialized stroke.
 

SteveR

Level 5 Valued Member
From my personal non-competitive experiment of me only, my upper body breast strokability seems to mimic and benefit from overhead presses (drive arms forward) and pull ups (pull arms back down to sides). One man's experience only.
 
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