How to Swim the Breaststroke

The breaststroke is without a doubt one of the most popular swimming strokes. In fact, many recreational swimmers are perfectly happy using this swim stroke all the time. Because it is so popular, we consider it as one of the basic swimming strokes.

The breaststroke is the one of the most popular strokes.

The breaststroke is swum in a prone position. Both arms move synchronously and execute short, half-circular movements underwater. The legs also move synchronously and execute a whip kick. Here's a swimmer who demonstrates this technique:

One thing this swimmer could do to improve his technique would be to keep his head more in line with his trunk (he should look more downwards rather than towards the end of the pool).

How To Swim Breaststroke: Overview

Let's now have a brief overview of the different phases that occur during one breaststroke cycle:

  1. In the initial position, you are in a horizontal position on your stomach. Your arms are close together and extended forward, palms facing downwards. Your head is in line with your trunk, and you look straight down. Your legs are pressed together and your toes are pointed.
  2. Now the active phase of the arms starts. Your palms rotate outwards, your arms separate, and your body forms an Y-like shape.
  3. When your arms are outside of your shoulders, your elbows flex, and your hands continue to move backwards but also downwards. Your knees start to flex and your feet start to recover towards the buttocks.
  4. Once your hands have moved past behind your shoulders they move towards each other rather than backwards, until they meet under the chest.
  5. As your hands move towards each other your head and shoulders rise above water, and your feet continue to move towards the buttocks.
  6. Your upper body is at it's highest point when your hands have met below your chest and your feet are at your buttocks.
  7. Now the propulsive phase of the legs starts. Your feet kick backwards and apart while your arms extend forward under water. Your chest and your head drop in the water again.
  8. Once your legs are completely extended they are brought together. You then glide for a short moment in that position.
  9. You start a new breaststroke cycle once the momentum of the glide fades.
Young man swimming the breast stroke When swum swiftly breaststroke can burn quite a few calories.

Detailed Swimming Technique

The following articles describe the breaststroke technique in more detail:

Head and Body Positions: This article describes how you should position your head and body while swimming breaststroke. This is important if you want to develop an efficient swim stroke but also if you want to avoid neck injuries.

Breaststroke Arm Movements: This article describes the arm movements in more detail. A slow-motion video of correct arm movements is shown and various arm speeds are discussed.

The Breaststroke Kick: This article covers the breaststroke's whip kick. The different phases of the kick are explained and illustrated with a slow-motion video. Additional tips to learn the breaststroke kick are given.

Breaststroke Swimming and Breathing: This article explains how and when to breathe while swimming breaststroke. It covers both the style where the head is submerged each stroke cycle and the style where the head is kept above water at all times.

Breaststroke Swimming Lessons

The Learn Swimming Breaststroke article gives an overview of our swimming lessons to learn the breaststroke. The following topics are covered:

  • In the beginning, the arm movements, leg movements and breathing exercises are practiced individually on dry land.
  • After this, the different movements are practiced individually in the water, using pull buoys and water noodles to provide additional buoyancy.
  • Subsequently all movements of the swim stroke are practiced at the same time in the water, again using swim noodles and pull buoys.
  • Finally once you feel confident enough you graduate to swimming breaststroke without swimming aids.

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