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How to swim a perfect breaststroke

Breaststroke is the slowest of the four competitive strokes but uses more muscles than any of the other three strokes. Breaststroke is what’s known as a ‘short-axis stroke’, which means you pivot your body around your mid-point across your waist, while your upper and lower body are moving up and down at opposite times, just like a seesaw. This way, the kinetic energy originates from the hips.



In Breaststroke one side of the body is like a mirror image of the other. Both arms and both legs have a simultaneous action in the same horizontal plane. The leg action can take time to master, especially the mirror image action of the legs and the dorsi-flexion of the feet.

There are two types of leg kick, the wedge and the whip kick. The whip kick is used for competitive swimming, as it is faster. The forward movement in breaststroke traditionally comes from a strong leg action.

Below are our Top Tips for how to swim a perfect breaststroke:




Timing – timing is everything when it comes to swimming. When it comes to breaststroke, many swimmers struggle to get it right. Often, swimmers are great with the order in which to ‘pull’ (and breathe in), ‘kick’ and ‘glide’. But then they tend to pause when they take that breath, instead of during the glide. TIP:  it is best to pause when your body is in streamline position.

Kickingisn’t a bigger breaststroke kick better? No. If you want to do it perfectly, your knees won’t go wider than your shoulders. The wider your kick, the more resistance you create in the water. TIP: keep the power in your kick by keeping your knees under the surface and within shoulder width.

Time your breath before the pulllifting your head up to breathe makes your hips sink. Some swimmers do this a little bit too much, which causes drag which slows you down and makes it hard to quickly lunge forward again. The same goes for your hands if you put them up too high when you push your hands forward to recovery. TIP: keep your streamline tight and try to stay on the surface. Time your breath before the pull.

Your elbowsit happens to a lot of swimmers doing breaststroke: they drop their elbows on their pull. When you do this, it actually reduces the amount of water you would otherwise be able to pull with each stroke. TIP: try to begin your pull by bending at the elbows and keeping your hands and forearms in line with each other. Your arms will turn into giant paddles!

Speed yes, breaststroke is a slower stroke, BUT it is harder to keep your momentum going when you swim it too slow. TIP: timing and technique is everything with this one, so make sure to focus on that while maintaining the perfect speed.

Arms and hands positionsdid you know in a breaststroke race, if your hands go down to your hips, you could be disqualified because it’s against the rules? Your sculling arms (yes, pizza arms!) help you to lift your head up to breathe and to move forward at the same time. But if they are too wide, it will put too much strain onto your shoulders and make it harder to breathe. It will also slow you down, because now you have to push your hands and arms further and against the water from your hips instead of your chest! TIP: keep focused on those sculling arms.

During our classes, if you have any questions about any stroke, please know that coach is here to help!