Breaststroke Kick – Swimming Technique and Tips

The breaststroke kick is the kick used by the breaststroke swimmers.

While at 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.

Breaststroke Kick Video

The following underwater video features a race with Kosuke Katijama, where you can clearly see the leg’s kicking movements:

Kosuke Kitajima Breaststroke 2/4 [100m Underwater Camera 2008]
Kosuke Kitajima in a 100m breaststroke race at the All Japan Swimming Championships, in April 2008.

Breaststroke Kick Phases

The breaststroke kick can be broken down into the following phases:

  • Initial position – glide
  • Recovery
  • Catch
  • Outsweep
  • Insweep
  • Leg lift and back into glide

We will describe those phases in more detail below.

Initial Position – Glide

For this explanation, you start in the glide position:

  • Your arms are extended forward.
  • Your legs are also extended, held together, and your feet are pointed.
  • Your head is in a neutral position, and you are looking downwards.
Breaststroke Kick - Initial Position - Glide
Initial Position – Glide


The leg recovery starts at the end of the propulsive phase of the arm stroke (insweep).

Breaststroke Kick - Beginning of leg recovery
Beginning of the leg recovery

At that moment, your head and shoulders are above water, and your hips are slightly underwater so that your body is inclined.

Your legs are straight and kept together, with feet pointed.

At the beginning of the leg recovery, your knees bend, and your feet move towards your buttocks. It’s a movement where the lower leg folds onto the upper leg.

At the same time, your feet bend towards the tibia (dorsiflexion).

Your knees should be kept close together without touching each other.

Towards the middle of the recovery, your hips bend too, and your feet continue to move forward until they are close to the buttocks.

Breaststroke Kick - End of leg recovery
End of the leg recovery


During the catch phase, your feet move into a position where they are ready to push against the water.

Breaststroke Kick - Catch

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.

Breaststroke Kick - Outsweep


You continue to extend your legs backward but now sweep them inwards.

Breaststroke Kick - Insweep

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.

Breaststroke Kick - Glide
Back into Glide

Your feet which were in dorsiflexion will now move in plantar flexion (feet pointed).

You are back at the beginning of the cycle and you glide for a few moments in this streamlined position.

Additional Swimming Tips

As mentioned above, during the leg recovery, at first you only bend your 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 torso is in an inclined position, you can also bend your hips to bring your feet towards the buttocks.

Because your body is an inclined position, you don’t need to bend your hips that much to keep your feet below the water surface.

Learning the Breaststroke Kick

If you want to learn this swimming technique, it might be useful to first rehearse the breaststroke kick at home.

This will make it easier for you to remember the correct movements once you are at the swimming pool.

Our article to learn the breaststroke kick gives you a few such dryland exercises you can practice at home.

Related Pages

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

2 thoughts on “Breaststroke Kick – Swimming Technique and Tips”

  1. Avatar

    I just posted a comment, but I forgot to include a question, so I am posting my comment again.

    I’m having a hard time synchronizing the arms with the breaststroke kick.

    During what phase of the arms do I start the kick or bring my heels up? Does the kick start after the recovery phase, while I am pushing my arms forward into a streamline position?

    Should my face be in or out of the water when I am bringing my heels up to start the breaststroke kick?

    Thanks for your help.

    1. Christophe

      Hi Larry,

      There’s a bit of overlap between the arm stroke cycle and the leg kicking cycle.

      The recovery of the legs starts at the end of the arms’ insweep (when the hands move toward each other, below the chest).

      The kick (propulsive phase of the legs) starts toward the middle/end of the arm recovery forward.

      It takes some practice to coordinate the arm/leg movements.

      You can see a slow-motion underwater video of breaststroke here:

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