From Screw to Can-Do
A screw kick is a baffling and frustrating trait for many breaststroke swimmers which can put them off the stroke completely.
Operating the legs symmetrically just falls naturally to some, but for others it can feel completely unobtainable.
While on the surface, it might seem like it’s just one foot is out of sync with the other on the propulsion phase, the most common causes of the screw kick are a lack of balance and a poorly executed recovery phase.
Before attempting to correct it, do your best to work out where your kick is going wrong. If you’re not sure, ask someone to watch your stroke and give feedback.
Good Technique - Kick Recovery
- From a streamlined position, bring your heels towards your bum.
- Concentrate on not dropping your hips or moving your knees towards your body.
- Instead, your knees should move down slightly below the hip line and out so they are just outside the width of your hips at the beginning of the propulsion phase.
- If your heels are breaking the surface of the water, you can afford to lower your knees a bit more but remember that breaststroke kick comes from the knees, not the hips!
Good Technique - Kick Propulsion
- From the end of your recovery position, turn your feet out and sweep them out and backwards in a circular shape while keeping them flexed.
- Remember to use your core and don’t let your hips drop. You should be kicking backwards, not down.
- Your heels should finish together with your legs out-stretched and streamlined with the body.
So now you know how it SHOULD work, what are the best drills for practicing the technique so it becomes second nature?
Step 1: Isolate The Kick
- Start off by concentrating solely on the kick. Hold the side of the pool and kick a nice, long, relaxed breaststroke kick.
- Concentrate on the technique points above and how your hips, knees and feet are moving.
- If you’re struggling to keep both feet flexed during propulsion, ask a friend to hold them in place for you initially.
- After you’ve become used to the movement, swim a few lengths holding a kickboard out in front of you.
- Concentrate on keeping your shoulders and hips stable and not letting your hips drop.
Step 2: On Your Back
- Performing a breaststroke kick on your back is a good way to practice because you can either watch the kick underwater or use a float to sit up and watch it from out of the water.
- Forget your arms if you’re on your back – just concentrate on the movement of your legs and keep your arms by your side.
- Your knees should only brush the surface of the water but you shouldn’t let your hips drop.
- An extension to this drill is putting your hands by the side of your body and making sure your heels touch your hands at the start of each propulsive phase.
Step 3: Pullbuoy
- You can use a pullbuoy to concentrate on a narrower kick. Put the pullbuoy between your thighs and swim a full breaststroke without letting the float slip.
- Don’t swim this drill for hours; just enough time to practice keeping your knees narrower and focusing on the movement of your heels towards your bum in recovery.
- This is not an easy drill – if you’re really struggling, try the first two drills first.
- Head to Advanced Breaststroke Tips where you can watch videos which isolate the different aspects of the stroke, including kicking.
- Not sure how to use a kick board or pullbuoy? Check out our advice on Swimming Tools and Equipment.
- A firm core will help you keep your hips up during a breaststroke kick - why not try some of Fran Halsall's Core Exercises?
- If you're trying to improve your front crawl in general, take a look at our tips for Simplifying Your Breaststroke.