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Even More on Mechanics


There are five categories and I am going to elaborate on #4 Momentum as it could be the most important to understand. The others are talked about in the Coaches Guide.

  1. Back of the hand mechanics with “arm and hand” as one-paddle.
  2. The catch and finish of each stroke.
  3. Body position and reducing drag
  4. Momentum
  5. Timing and rhythm during the breathing and stroke.



Momentum, Momentum, Momentum

“When an external force acts upon a body, it changes its momentum; however, when no external force acts, the momentum of the body does not change, a fact which is incorporated in the principle of ‘the conservation of momentum’. Therefore, momentum has come to be known as the force of motion that a moving body acquires in continuing its motion by virtue of inertia.” If you can understand this concept then you will be a very happy swimmer.

Maintaining a proper streamline and being able to time your breakout into your swimming is key to fast swimming. If you ever do anything underwater and feel yourself slow down then you have lost momentum. Momentum will be different for each athlete based on body type, flexibility and skill level. What and how you do your underwater mechanics and how you breakout into your swimming all effects momentum.

Streamlined position:

The hands should be crossed hand over hand, some people teach a crossover grab. The biceps should be pressed upon the ears with the shoulders and chest stretched out as much as possible. The head will not be tucked chin to chest but in the same position it would be in as if you were walking. The midsection and hips will be in line with the thighs and feet following directly behind. The legs must be in the same plane as the hips thus reducing drag. This is the basic streamline (spike). Hands, Head, Hips and Heels in line. Once this has been achieved you may begin your breakout by starting your first stroke. Judging the depth of the water is essential for a good breakout by maintaining momentum.

SEE ALSO Part 2: Planning Your Practices

Breaststroke underwater pull:

Upon entry to the water or after achieving a spike off of the wall, the body must be in a streamlined position. The key to the underwater pull will be to keep the head in the spike position. The body will go the direction that the head is tilted thus creating or eliminating drag and distance to be traveled. The hands will separate slightly, no wider than the shoulders. This is where the pull begins. The catch of the pull is very important for efficiency and power. The pull begins and ends along the line of the body, keeping the back of the hand facing forward and the “arm and hand” as one-paddle. When finishing the underwater pull by pointing the fingers to the toes the hands are recovered under the body as tight and close as possible thus decreasing drag.

As of fall 2005 you are now allowed one fly kick down with the recovery of the fly kick (up), starting the recovery phase of the breast kick. You may begin your one fly kick down at the start of the underwater pull and should complete it with the finish of the arms of the underwater pull. Doing the fly kick before or after the arm phase of the pullout will not help maintain and utilize momentum and needs to be completed during the arm phase. During the recovery stage of the pull the kick is initiated and controlled behind the hips in a streamlined position. Don’t bring the knees up under the stomach or out wider than the hips. The arms are straightened out into a tight spike while the kick is being completed. The swimmer must take a breath during the onset of the second pull and begin swimming. Each stage of the underwater pullout is initiated before the loss of momentum. If a swimmer slows down in the water before starting the next phase of the pullout then they have waited too long.

SEE ALSO Open Water Swim Training - Focus & Requirements



A swimmer can blow a race by not breathing enough or too much at the beginning of a race. This is a fact that the spectator or parent would never know and the finger is usually directed at training when a swimmer doesn’t succeed because of this very simple but an often made mistake. The biggest momentum killer for all strokes is the transition from the underwater swimming to the actual swimming on top of the water. Swimmers and coaches do not spend enough time on this aspect of swimming. This is major especially when a swimmer comes off a wall in an un-streamlined position, not kicking, then deciding to breakout of the water too deep and deciding to breath first thing.

Sound familiar?

Use each wall in practice to break your bad habits. The fastest part of swimming is underwater when done correctly. Why do you think the 15 meter rule, and original rules of breaststroke were made?


A slow down in timing with improper body position will kill momentum. Keeping the head back, controlling the breathing and maintaining the speed of the kick will help maintain momentum. Increasing stroke count through (each lap) your swims will help maintain momentum.


Momentum is lost when a swimmer loses control of body position. Speed is in the kick. Swimmers must remember to never let the time between the finish of a kick and start of the next kick get slower. The time between the finish and start of the kick can tell the story of timing. A constant pace must be maintained at this part of the swim whether it is faster for sprints or slightly slower for other swims. You must control the timing of the kick while maintaining proper mechanics of the pull.

SEE ALSO A Variety of Video Explanations


Breathing, head position, finish of stroke while maintaining a constant kick will all affect momentum. Learning how to maintain these mechanics during the race will greatly affect the finish of the race and momentum.


Momentum is lost when the speed of the kick slows. A non-kick, slow kick or bad timing will only make all the other mechanics worse. Timing is key to proper mechanics and momentum.

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