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Spot the Difference: Breaststroke Prep

Lead Instructor Trainer Rie Sakamoto uses the Arc Barrel to demonstrate Breaststroke Prep.

Question: Which picture shows the correct position?

Photo A Photo B
Photo A Photo B

Answer: Photo A

In Photo A, Rie is reaching her fingertips to her toes, while stabilizing the scapulae on the back. Her palms are facing in, and her torso is extended to one long line. She is not extending her lumbar spine, rather her cervical spine is a continuing line of the thoracic spine. She is not lifting her legs off the mat, and is maintaining an appropriate gaze.

In Photo B, Rie is not extending her torso in one long line, and her cervical spine is not continuing the line of the thoracic spine. Her chin is jammed into her chest, and her gaze is causing unnecessary flexion of the cervical spine. Her shoulders are rounding forward, and she is not maintaining scapular stabilization.

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  1. Laura Fitch | Aug 12, 2016

    Hi Noriko,

    Thanks so much for your question! I asked Stefania Michas, Merrithew Master Instructor Trainer and Senior Program Director, Education, to weigh in. Here's what she had to say:

    "The legs care be adducted or abducted hip-distance apart. In all cases, adjustments to starting positions should be made to ensure that all facets including optimal alignment, tension reduction, movement patterning, muscle activation sequencing, as well as all the elements of the exercise essence are performed effectively.  

    To ensure the cervical spine is a continuing line of the thoracic spine and not overextending, try using tactile cues (place your hands on the client's mid-back) to enforce the essence of the exercises, thoracic extension. Remind your clients that increasing the ROM in this particular exercise is not the goal and maintaining a tension free, neutral lumbar is key. Also, try cueing them to reach the top of their heads forward as opposed to lifting their gaze to decrease the ROM." 

  2. Noriko | Aug 11, 2016

    Thanks for the post!  I have one question and one comment.

    Question: The legs--should they be hip width or together (if possible)?

    Comment: In my group class, I still see people flip the head up (instead of tucking the chin).  I think they want to lift their upper body higher and measure the accomplishment by their eye level :-(  If you can give me a best way to approach them--I do not want to discourage them for trying hard--I greatly appreciate!!!

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