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 swimming 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 swim strokes.
The breaststroke is the one of the most popular swim 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:

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 a Y-like shape.

3) When your arms are outside of your shoulders, your elbows flex, and your hands continue to move backward 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 backward, until they meet under the chest.

5) As your hands move towards each other, your head and shoulders rise above the 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 backward 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 breaststroke
When swum swiftly breaststroke can burn quite a few calories.

Breaststroke Technique in Detail

The following articles describe the breaststroke technique in more detail:

Body Position

A breaststroke swimmer in the middle of the arm recovery

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.

Arm Stroke

A breststroke swimmer in the underwater glide phase

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.

Breaststroke Kick

A breaststroke swimmer at the beggining of the propulsive phase of the kick

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.

Breathing Technique

A breaststroke swimmer breathing in during the arm recovery

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 in each stroke cycle and the style where the head is kept above water at all times.

Learning to Swim Breaststroke

A female breaststroke swimmer breathing in during the arm recovery

Learn Swimming Breaststroke gives an overview of our swimming lessons to learn the breaststroke. The following steps are proposed:

In the beginning, the arm movements, leg movements, and breathing exercises are practiced individually on dry land.

After this, the different movements are practiced separately 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.

8 thoughts on “How to Swim the Breaststroke”

  1. To improve the level of their performances, international swimmers should do plyometrics, circuit and weight training. Then they should be able to achieve their goals.

  2. Wow, this really taught me a lot.

    I must say when I go to swim class I will do well on my 2nd day. Yip yeeh hurrah, there not enough words in my mouth to say and to thank you.

    I come back to learn the front crawl stroke.

    Adios amigos en la manana!

  3. Well, I still have some difficulties. You see, I still can’t do this stroke.

    Whenever I try I seem to stay in the same place. I usually move slowly…


    1. Christophe

      Hi Dannisha,

      Without seeing you swim it is difficult to identify the culprit.

      Could a friend shoot a video of you swimming breaststroke and then post it for example on Youtube so we can have a look?

    2. I think you just have to push harder. Extend your body and use all your strength to use your arms to push back and to give your legs support.

  4. Thanks for these lessons.

    At last, I feel as if I am making progress and now feel more comfortable in the water.

    Front crawl is next!

  5. Hi there,

    I have a problem with step five. I know I have to lift my chest and shoulders, I’ve also seen many swimmers do it but when I’m in the water I just can’t.

    Please help

    1. Christophe

      Hi Karen,

      At the beginning of the half-circular recovery of the hands to the chest, you push downward with your palms against the water.

      This helps to raise your torso.

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