The breaststroke kick is the kick used by breaststroke swimmers. While at a first glance its technique may look simple, there are a few subtleties to take into account for the kick to be executed with maximum efficiency.
The following video shows an underwater view of Kosuke Katijama during a 100m breaststroke race. One can clearly see the leg movements executed during the kick:
Breaststroke Kick Phases
The breaststroke kick can be broken down into the following phases:
- Initial Position – Glide
- Leg lift and back into Glide
We will describe those phases in more detail below.
Initial Position – Glide
We consider that the initial position is the glide position. Your arms are extended forward. Your legs are also extended, close together and your toes are pointed. Your head is in a neutral position and you are looking downwards.
The leg recovery starts at the end of the propulsive phase of the arm stroke (insweep). At that moment, your head and shoulders are above water and your hips are slightly down so that your body is inclined. Your legs are extended and kept together with toes pointed.
At the beginning of the recovery, your knees flex and your feet move towards your buttocks. It’s a movement where the lower leg folds onto the upper leg. While this happens your feet flex towards the tibia (dorsiflexion). Your knees should be kept close together without touching each other.
Towards the middle of the recovery, your hips flex too and your feet continue to move forward until they are close to the buttocks.
During the catch your feet move into a position where they are ready to push against the water. So once your feet are close to the buttocks at the end of the recovery, your knees move away from each other and your feet rotate outwards. The inside of your feet are now facing backward and your feet are turned outwards.
Once the catch has been made you should sweep your legs backward and outwards while pushing against the water with the inside of your feet and lower legs.
You continue to extend your legs backward but now sweep them inwards. At the same time, your feet which were rotated outwards rotate inward. At the end of the insweep your legs will be pressed together. Your feet should nearly be in contact.
Leg Lift and Back into Glide
Once your legs have been brought together at the end of the insweep, they will move upward due to inertia. Your feet which were in dorsiflexion will now move in plantar flexion (toes pointed). You are now back into the glide position, in which you remain for a short moment.
A new stroke cycle begins at the end of the glide when your arms move outwards again.
Additional Swimming Tips
As mentioned above, during the leg recovery, at first your legs only flex at the knees. Doing so ensures that your legs recover in the shadow of your body, decreasing drag.
Then, once your head and shoulders have risen above water and your body is in an oblique position, you can also flex at your hips to bring your feet towards the buttocks. Because your body is an inclined position you don’t need to flex your hips that much to keep your feet below the water surface.
Learning the Breaststroke Kick
If want to learn this swimming technique, it might be useful to rehearse the breaststroke kick at home first. This will make it easier to remember the correct movements later when you are at the swimming pool. Our article to learn the breaststroke kick gives you a few dryland exercises for this purpose that you can practice at home.