If you plan to compete in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, don’t expect a one-size-fits-all approach to serve you well.
Lilly King, the defending Olympic champion in the 100 breaststroke and a medal favorite in the 200, knows that both races cannot be trained with the same mindset.
“In a typical international final, you will not see the same eight people in the 100 final as the 200 final,” King says. “They are very different events. [I] work on a lot of speed and tempo for the 100 and … longer anaerobic-type workouts for the 200.”
South Africa’s Penny Heyns has been the only woman to win both breaststroke events at the Olympics, doing so in 1996. Three men accomplished this feat, with Italy’s Domenico Fioravanti (2000) and Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima (2004, 2008) collecting gold in both events at one games. American John Hencken also won the double, earning gold in the 200 breaststroke in 1972 and gold in the 100 breaststroke in 1976.
Separate Your Kick and Pull
King has been working to join this elite club since missing out on the 200 breaststroke final at the 2016 Olympics, and says the key to making sure she has an efficient stroke is devoting part of her daily workout to only the arm-pull before focusing on the kick.
“A lot of times at practice, we’ll work on just kicking or just pulling, and then put it together for swimming,” she says. “So, by the time you’ve worked on both kicking and pulling, the timing comes together, and you’re swimming really well.”
YouTube videos have shown King using paddles during breaststroke pull sets, which can help her find the water early in the stroke and develop an easier feel for the water.
Developing Leg Strength
A strong kick is vital for a great breaststroke. King says she devotes a lot of her dryland routine to improving her leg strength.
“Breaststroke is a very leg-heavy race, so doing squats and cleans [are good], anything to focus on having quick and strong legs,” she says, adding that improper form could create major injury.
“I make sure my knees aren’t wobbling in and out because breaststrokers usually have hyper-mobile knees,” King says, “so make sure you are taking care of the little things too.”