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Breaststroke: Overview and Swimming Technique

The breaststroke is swum with the body facing down. The arms perform semicircular movements, and the legs perform a frog kick.

Breaststroke is, without a doubt, the most popular swimming stroke. In fact, for many people, it is the only stroke that they use regularly.

This can be explained by the fact that this style allows you to swim with your head above the water and therefore breathe freely and keep your eyes open. This can be helpful for beginners and more casual swimmers.

A young woman swimming breaststroke in an outdoor pool.
The breaststroke is one of the most popular swimming strokes.

Experienced swimmers, as well as competition swimmers, however, dip their head underwater during the glide phase, which improves their position in the water and reduces drag.

In terms of speed, breaststroke is the slowest swimming stroke. This is due to the fact that during the leg recovery, the thighs are pulled forward into the water against the swimming direction, which creates a lot of drag.

Breaststroke Swimming Technique

In the next section, we will describe the swimming technique of breaststroke.

Body Movement

A breaststroke swimmer in the middle of the arm recovery.

In breaststroke, the body position changes continuously during the stroke cycle. It moves from a horizontal position during the glide phase to an inclined position during the arm pull.

Assume that the starting position is at the end of the glide phase when the body is horizontal and streamlined, the arms extended forward, and the legs straight and held together.

Now, when the arms pull backward in the water, the body moves to an inclined position, with the torso assuming a 45-degree position above the water at the end of the arm pull while the hips and legs remain in the water.

The body returns to a horizontal position when the arms are extended forward during the arm recovery and subsequent glide phase.

The head remains in alignment with the body. During the horizontal glide phase, the head is in a neutral position, facing down.

During the arm pulling phase, the head remains in a neutral position.

After the arm pulling phase, when the body is inclined at 45 degrees, the face is directed downwards and slightly forward, the eyes are fixed at a point about 3-6 feet ahead.

A common mistake is to look towards the end of the lane instead of looking down and slightly forward.

A young man swimming breaststroke in an outdoor pool.
This breaststroke swimmer could improve his head position a little bit.

More detailed information about body movement in breaststroke can be found here.

Arm Movement

A breaststroke swimmer in the underwater glide phase.

In breaststroke, the arms perform synchronous semicircular movements.

Let us assume again that the starting position is at the end of the glide phase when the body is horizontal, and the arms are extended forward.

When the arms begin to pull, they first move outwards, backward and downwards until the arms are bent 90 degrees, the elbows are at shoulder level, and the upper arms and hands are in line and pointing downwards.

In the second phase of the arm pull, the arms move further back. The upper arms move to the sides of the body, while the hands move towards each other under the chest.

At the same time, the upper body rises out of the water until it is inclined at 45 degrees.

When the hands meet under the chest, the arms are extended forward in a line to return to the starting position. At the same time, the body returns to a horizontal position.

More detailed information about arm movement in breaststroke can be found here.

Leg Movement — Breaststroke Kick

A breaststroke swimmer at the beginning of the propulsive phase of the kick.

The breaststroke uses a frog kick/whip kick.

Let us assume, again, that the swimmer is in the starting position, i.e., he lies horizontally in the water. The arms are extended forward, and the legs are extended and held together.

The legs remain more or less extended during the pull phase of the arms.

At the end of the arm pull phase, the knees bend, and the feet begin to move towards the buttocks.

As the arms recover forward, the feet move farther towards the buttocks until they are close to the buttocks.

Now, the knees move apart, and the feet begin to move outwards and backward. This is also the beginning of the propulsive phase of the kick.

The feet move further outwards and backward, and then inwards and backward so that the legs come together. We are still in the propulsive phase of the kick.

At the end of the kick, the legs are extended and together again, and now a short glide phase takes place before the stroke cycle starts all over again.

More detailed information about the breaststroke kick can be found here.

Breathing

A breaststroke swimmer breathing in during the arm recovery.

Breathing in breaststroke is relatively straightforward.

Inhalation begins as soon as the head is above water at the end of the arm pull.

Exhalation begins as soon as the head is submerged in the water again during the arm recovery forward.

Exhalation should continue as long as the head is underwater so that the lungs are empty just before the head emerges.

This is the breathing pattern used by fitness and competitive swimmers. On the other hand, more casual swimmers can keep their heads above water at all times and breathe freely.

More detailed information about breathing in breaststroke can be found here.

Learning to Swim Breaststroke

A female breaststroke swimmer breathing in during the arm recovery.

As explained above, breaststroke is suitable for beginners because you can keep your head above water, which allows you to breathe freely and swim without goggles.

That is why, at least in European countries, breaststroke is often the first swimming stroke that is taught.

In this article, we explain our method for learning breaststroke. Our method is divided into the following steps:

1) In the first step, the arm movements, leg movements, and breathing exercises are practiced individually on land.

2) In the second step, the arm and leg movements are practiced separately in the water, with pull buoys and swimming noodles providing additional buoyancy.

3) In the third step, the arm and leg movements are practiced simultaneously in the water, with the help of pull buoys and swimming noodles, like in the previous step.

4) The last step, which consists of swimming without any aids, is done when the student has gained enough confidence in his swimming skills.

Start learning breaststroke here.

Related Pages

You may also be interested in the following articles that cover the breaststroke’s swimming technique:

Freestyle Stroke: Overview and Swimming Technique
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