Learn How To Swim Breaststroke


Learning how to swim breaststroke with these simple drills!

Breaststroke is the slowest and oldest of all the four swimming strokes. It is the most inefficient stroke of all and requires little energy to keep moving.

However inefficient is breaststroke, it is the stroke that utilizes the least energy, and the best used for survival swimming.

Propulsion from the arms and legs is one consecutive action that takes place under the water. Breaststroke kick is essential for the motion and propulsion of the whole stroke.

The main reason the stroke being slow and inefficient is mainly due to the large frontal resistance area created as the heels draw up towards the seat.

The breathing technique itself inclines the body, which in turn increases the resistance.

Swimming instructors will usually start swimming lessons teaching breaststroke first, usually during adult swimming lessons followed by freestyle swimming.

The head and face will clear the water; these will give the swimmer a more excellent perception of their whereabouts and their buoyancy.

There are many variations in overall techniques for breaststroke swimming.

People swim breaststroke mainly for survival skills ranging from slow recreational swim to high competitive styles.

Breaststroke Swimming History

Unlike any other swimming strokes, breaststroke have undergone mutation like no others.

Good Body Position Matters

The body should be near the surface streamlined with an inclination from the head to the feet so that the leg kick recovery takes place under the water.

You should always keep your head movement to a minimum with shoulders remaining level throughout the whole stroke.

As the propulsive phase of one part takes place, the opposite end of the body remains streamlined.

Breaststroke Kicking

Kicking in breaststroke is most important, it is crucial. more efficient than any other stroke’s kick.

Experienced and successful breaststrokers have a unique degree of flexibility which allows their legs and feet to hold, grab more water while kicking.

People with a history of knee injuries can substitute dolphin kick (butterfly stroke) when they experienced pain when executing breaststroke kicks.

There are three phases in the breaststroke kick mainly the recovery, the catch, and the propulsive phase.

These phases are commonly used to describe the arm movements of the stroke, however, it also serves well to describe this unique kicking action.

Leg action is the one in charge of moving the body forward. The essential teaching aspect of breaststroke legs is that the leg action is a sequence of actions that come together to make one sweeping leg kicking action.

There are two kinds of kicking actions for breaststroke, mainly the whip kick and the wedge kick.

There are ongoing debates on each of these types of kicks and which are helping us perform better in water.

So as a swimming teacher, you should be well versed in both types of kicks. The leg action provides the largest propulsion in the stroke, and students will favor a wedge kick or a whip kick depending on which comes more natural to them.

Over 80 percent of the propulsion will come from the leg kick. The leg kicking action as a whole should be simultaneous and flowing action. 

  • Knee bend as the heels drawn towards the butt. This is the first phase of the kick also known as the recovery stage, you have to pay extra attention to minimize the resistance.
    • Hide your legs between hips and torso – this helps to minimize the angle you create between your upper leg and torso and streamlined your body.
  • Toes turn out ready for the heels and soles of the feet to drive the water backward.
  • Legs sweeps forcefully outwards and downwards in a flowing circular path, accelerating as they kick. 
  • Legs return together and straight, providing a streamlined position. 

Breaststroke Arm Action

The arms and hands pull around and downwards to enable our head come out of the water surface to breathe. Elbows must be tucked in; this will help our body come out naturally.

After breathing, hands will go back to a forward stretch position and prepare for gliding. 

Many changes have been made throughout the years to breaststroke. The amount of propulsion generated from the arm pull has developed over the years, and it has thus become more competitive. 

Of the four competitive strokes, the arm action of breaststroke provides the smallest propulsions. 


  • There are only three phases for the breaststroke arm movement like the sweep-out, sweep-in, and the recovery phase.
  • The arm action begins with arms fully extended out in front, fingers, and hands together.
  • Hands pitch outwards and downwards to an angle like 45 degrees. From the look on the side, it may look like drawing a heart shape as well at the start of the catch phase. 
  • Arms pull outwards and downwards until they are approximately shoulder-width apart. 
  • Elbow begins to bend, and shoulders roll inwards at the end of the catch phase.

Propulsive Phase:

  • Arms sweep downwards and inwards. The hands will pull to their deepest point. 
  • Elbows will bend to 90 degrees and remain high. 
  • At the end of the down sweep, the hands sweep inward and slightly upwards. 
  • Elbow tuck into the sides of the chest as the hands pull inwards towards the chest and the chin. 


  • Hands recover by stretching forwards in a streamlined position
  • Hands may recover in three ways – on, over or under the water surface, depending on the style of the breaststroke that the instructor is teaching. 


  • The breathing in action occurs when the arms pull down, and the head rises above the surface. Breathing out occurs when the arms recover out in front. 
  • The breaststroke stroke will naturally give you a body lift, this initiates an ideal breathing position for inhalation to take place.
  • Breathing in will take place during the in-sweep as the body allows the head to lift clear of the water.
  • There are two kinds of breathing we can use, such as explosives or trickle breathing. 
  • Exhalation takes place when the head returns back into the water as the arms stretch forward to begin their recovery phase. 


We can conclude the timing of the breaststroke in four words: pulling, breathing, kicking, and gliding or kick, glide, pull, breathe. You have to maintain a streamlined body position sequence and these are essential to maximizing the propulsive phases of the stroke. 

When you are doing pull of your arms at the propulsive phase, the legs will be streamlined. When you are doing your kicking of the legs at the propulsive phase, the arms will be streamlined. Full body extensions are essential before the start of each stroke.

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