- Turning direction can affect this technique’s effectiveness.
- As a result, individualization is critical, considering turn direction, breathing preference, and race distance.
Maybe the highest profile swimmer to utilize the top arm breakout is Park Tae Hwan, shown here in the 400m finals at Beijing. Perhaps most interestingly is how uses BOTH the top arm and bottom arm breakout in the race. He starts with the top arm, but midway through switches to a bottom arm breakout. The first shots are taken at the 50m turn where he turns with the right arm on top and breathes right (see more at Sun Yang 1500 Swimming Stroke Analysis London 2012).
- Tumble turn
- Rotate onto right side (left arm on top)
- Turn flat on stomach
- Turn right and breathe
Ian Thorpe Turn:
Grant Hackett Turn: (yes that’s Hackett, not Thorpe, in the full body suit)
- Turn right, breathe right
- Turn left, breathe left
- Turn right, breathe left
- Turn left, breathe right
For each of the three swimmers shown above, it’s possible a top arm (left arm) breakout would distort breath timing, as each breathes right immediately after the wall. However, comparing to Park in the first photo set, there is far more rotating that takes place underwater.
If you don’t test, it’s just a guess. We all must respect the hard data upon which the Tennessee staff is basing their strategies. But it would also be a mistake to assume identical outcomes with different set of bodies, as there are multiple permutations of turn direction, breathing patterns, and stroke asymmetries (learn more about turns:
In sum, greater acceptance of the top arm breakout is unlikely to spark the same revolution as the underwater dolphin or the undulating breaststroke. Change can be hard, especially at the higher levels where breathing patterns are habitually ingrained with thousands of turns. But with individual optimization, this technique may have the potential to save precious seconds at all distances. Also, being able to breathe immediately off a turn, may have an advantage for decreasing inspiratory muscle fatigue. Nonetheless, individualization for the person and and race (Read more about inspiration and swimming: Individual Breathing Patterns are King!:Breathing in Swimming: Breathing: During Sprinting: Friday Interview: Dr. Mitch Lomax).
- Smith, A. Volunteers Pioneers Top Arm Breakout. Swim Swam. 9 Oct. 2013. http://swimswam.com/volunteers-pioneers-top-arm-breakout/.