Tutorial #3176

Breaking Down Breast Stroke

5 min - Tutorial


The Breast Stroke is a wonderful exercise that combines a few skills that aren't always trained in a typical class. In this tutorial, Benjamin Degenhardt shares how he progresses into this challenging movement so you can advance your practice. He focuses on pushing the arms overhead as well as back extension so you can begin to build up to the full expression of the exercise.
What You'll Need: Reformer w/Box

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Sep 24, 2017
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Hi everybody. My name is Benjamin and I'm here with Benny to share another video on breaking down and advanced reformer exercise a. This one is the breaststroke, which I think is an extraordinary exercise to include in every session if possible because it combines a few things that otherwise are not often trained in typical polarity sessions, which is to push your arms over your head, which will help you with any more gymnastic skills that you might want to explore. It helps you in everyday life with just reaching your arms over your head against load and weight. It combines another m. It combines that with another extension and back then in our body, which there is not a ton of in plots until we visit the advanced work. So I want to share some ways and forms that we can get into our breaststroke without necessarily doing the full exercise, but we will progress towards it.

One really easy and supportive way to learn what the restaurant is about is to use the box and the foot bar to prepare for the skills. So we're not working with straps on this first variation. You're going to phase down and towards the foot bar to position yourself with your hands as wide as the foot bar and your shoulders right on top of your hands for this one. So that's how you measure where you need to be in space. So chances are most of your bag and chess is now unsupported and off the box, which means that you can really draw your hips down into the box to find some hip extension, maybe your thighs even lift a slight little bit of the Mat. The choreography of breaststroke has, um, a piece of synchronicity built in where we try to extend the legs and arms at the same time. The arms start already bend.

We now bend the legs to give the body some slack in the hamstrings as well as to force the body into deeper hip extension. And then simultaneously you want to extend your arms and legs so that they arrive in a straight position. At the same time, this is exactly what breaststroke with the straps is going to look like, but now the football holds them in place. We add the backbend here by pushing the football away from us, but letting the eyes lead the way as we come forward and up, lifting the chest forward and up and at the end almost pressing the feet and legs a little bit towards the ground to lift your abdominal wall and an arch your lower back a little bit. And then from here you can just bend your elbows to start over again to find your beginning position through a double kick, kick, kick, arms and legs extent at the same time. Ride the spring home by lifting the chest forward and up, you're still pushing the football away from you to open the chest nice and wide and again, plank your legs almost down to get support in the front of your body.

One more aisle you can kick. Stretch it out, flow right through. Lift the chest forward and up. Find that position. Bend the elbow son, come down. So that is the most supported version of the breaststroke that you can perform. Here on the reformer, we're going to step off and introduce the straps.

Now the mechanics are pretty much the same. You want to lower the foot bar down for this one, and by the way, we are working on one spring for both of these variations on this reformer here. Grab onto your straps. This is probably the most difficult piece to figure out. You want to have both straps pass in front of your body so that you can lunge out to push the spring out and then place your hands at the front of the box. Now the way you put yourself on tabs to make sure that the box lands exactly in the middle between your knees and your shoulders so that your shoulders and your knees are evenly off the box. So just step on over crossing the straps, finding the middle of the box, and then positioning yourself.

So we see that as chest as free and his knees are free, which is really giving him support for his hips and lower back, which is what we want to stay. What do we want to keep supported on this box throughout the full range? Some people like to start with their arms fully extended back. I suggest as you introduce your body to this exercise with the straps who start with the elbows bend and fairly close to your chest so that the distance you have to overcome in addition to the leg movement isn't that large. We start the same way as previously we kicked the heels to the seed pressing that's down wise and then simultaneously extending the legs and the arms trying to arrive in the same moment. So just like the football held him in place.

Now the straps pull through his arms. You might find any imbalances in your body really presenting themselves nicely here. Now keep pushing into both straps and let your arms just swim out to the side and back behind the body without the expectations or even lifting your chest up any higher to start to begin again, bend the arms, kick your heel through your seat once, twice and fold arms and legs. Keep your body flat and really just work on building that shoulder mobility to get the arms overhead and next to you ears before you add the back bend in, which we're going to do right now. Kick your heels to your seat twice, one to unfold arms and legs. Now that's spring tension supports you as you bring your arms out to the side, allow your head to live and really swim through that spring.

Let the arms be pulled back behind you, suspend in your backbend to come back in. Let's do that one more time. And none of this happens before I even step in and give him an assist, which then allows him to really open up the entire front of his body in this exercise. And that's the next and last step for us today. So just take a moment here. What is important as you start assisting this exercise as a teacher is to make sure that we're not taking control over this body. So there's two distinct steps and how I assist this.

I'll stand right behind the body so that I don't pull him off of a center. Go ahead and go through the exercise kick twice, stretch out arms and legs and pause. This is where just meet his legs and feet and I start to notice the texture of how hard he pushes up into my hands. He's now responsible to lift the straps up and I just meet the resistance that he gives me as opposed to pushing him down and yanking him into position that he might not be ready to support. Let's do that again. Kick once, kicked twice. I meet his body and then I meet the resistance that he gives me so I'm not exerting too much and it allows him to really open all the way into the front of his hips. Let's do it one more time. Kick, kick or lift yourself all the way up and then as a surprise, we can reverse that by starting with the kick again once, twice, and then stretch your arms and legs back behind you. I meet his body, I meet his resistance as he pulls the arms up and forward, reversing the breaststroke and then coming all the way back, and let's do that one more time. Kick ones, kick twice, stretch and haul yourself up and forward. Really open the chest, widen the collarbones release down, and then with your hands holding the spring intention, step over your straps again, find a good open lunch position so the straps don't pull you off your feet as you release the spring. And that is your breaststroke on the reformer.

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4 people like this.
Thanks, Benjamin, for another lovely tutorial! Really appreciate your detailed cuing, especially how to assist the client get even more of the exercise. Beautiful movement by Benny, too!
This was excellent Benjamin - there is so much clarity and warmth in your teaching that I feel inspired to start practising Breastroke again with a view to teaching. The reminder to meet the resistance and to keep the body in front of us in charge is always welcome. I always love hearing the reasoning behind assists.

Very quick question about the arm/hand position as you return to the start position. Do the wrists stay facing the ground (arms internally rotated) or does the upper arm rotate through the exercise?
Benjamin Degenhardt
Thanks for watching, so glad you enjoyed it — as for your question Megan Macgregor, the way I practice / teach it here the palms face mostly down, slightly out to the side during the stroke, possibly up towards the end. Just follow the movement organically. I make it my goal to return the most efficient way possible, it’s just a quick reset. In another version (not shown here) you could extend the arms all the way back and down to start, palms up, then bring your hands to the front of the box as you kick, then extend everything out. Hope this helps!
Carole F
Light springs?
Benjamin Degenhardt
Hi Carole, the Reformers I typically work with only have one type of resistance. That said, if I have a lighter option I’d definitely use it for the first variation shown. For the actual Breast Stroke, you’ll want a supportive spring. Hope this helps!
1 person likes this.
So helpful. Thank you!
1 person likes this.
1 person likes this.
Great clarity!
1 person likes this.
loved this. great tutorial. thank you. always interesting, educational and sometimes even illuminating how different Pilates programs teach/breakdown each exercise and all the different variations. thanks again PilatesAnytime for these short tutorials. love them all.
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