Making the transition from breaststroke to freestyle
Breaststroke provides useful mental images and drills that’ve helped many beginning swimmers/triathletes who are more comfortable with breaststroke start make the transition to a solid freestyle pull. Most beginner swimmers who can manage the breaststroke are a lot closer to freestyle than they think. The pull in breaststroke and freestyle are nearly identical.
I’ve asked newer swimmers to try doing the breaststroke with the same pull they do in freestyle (usually a straight arm windmill pull). They can’t. Somewhere here, it clicks that doing freestyle with a breaststroke pull is the way to go.
Ignoring legs/kick for the moment, I have them glide, then pull breastroke with one arm only. (Similar to several sculling drills). At some point, I get them to rotate their bodies slightly to the pull side so they can breathe as they pull.
This is a start, and one of several likely helpful breast-to-free drills. There’s no one magic formula or trick, and different images and metaphors will help make things click for different swimmers. It’s just that this one has helped so many okay-breaststrokers struggling-freestylers to make that transition, so I wanted to share it.
In my own training I do breaststroke very mindfully in the pull, thinking about freestyle, and I don’t swim it competition style anymore, since some of the motion is used to pull the head and upper body up out of the water (instead of forward the way you want in freestyle). I pull back as much as possible and stay much flatter in the water than I would doing a competition breaststroke.
I also do breaststroke pulling (with or without pull buoy). Really helps isolate pull mechanics since you WILL NOT go anywhere if you aren’t doing it right!
One last point. Most swimmers steadily exhale while underwater doing breaststroke, but “hold” their breath during freestyle, only exhaling toward the end of the stroke and finishing the exhale while their head is out of water, then inhaling. In breast and in free, anytime your face is in the water, exhale!