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Breaststroke is one of the four main swimming strokes. Having a good breaststroke technique is key if you want to improve your efficiency in the pool. In this article, we will explore how you can achieve good technique and tips you can take to improve.
What is Breaststroke Swimming?
The stroke is popular among casual swimmers as it is relatively easy to do, gives you the option to keep your head above water and can be extremely efficient if done with good technique. Your breaststroke technique can be improved by following a few simple principles:
How to swim breaststroke
In breaststroke, your arms move in a small semi-circle movement in front of the body. Your hands should be slightly cupped to ensure that you cut through the water and your elbows should stay high, generating power.
From full extension, your arms pull out and back then down through the water before extending to the top of the stroke again. At the longest point in the stroke, your legs and arms should be fully extended for a moment before the stroke begins again.
You can bob your head up out of the water at the bottom of the stroke, for a quick breath, before shooting your arms out to extension – to improve your efficiency, keep your face partly submerged throughout the stroke and make the breathing phase as short as possible.
Maintaining a good position in the water is pivotal. Keep your body as horizontal as possible, with your legs skimming the top of the water to lessen drag and improve efficiency.
What is the correct breaststroke technique?
It can be tempting to try to perform the stroke as quickly as possible but achieving good rhythm rather than rushing your strokes, is key to success.
The nature of breaststroke means that there is a ‘stop’ phase of the stroke as the body elevates out of the water when you need to breathe, and a ‘go’ phase when your body is in the water, your arms cutting through the water in front of you whilst your legs propel the stroke from behind. The transition between the two phases of your stroke should be as smooth as possible.
In breaststroke, between 60-80% of the force comes from your legs, not your arms so it is important to keep your legs in motion whilst your arms perform their stop-go phases. Focus on keeping your legs in a streamlined motion, without kicking too wide before scooping inwards. As we discuss later in the article, elite athletes within the world of swimming have a relatively narrow but extremely powerful kick which propels them through the water.
Taking Breaststroke Technique Tips from the Best
Adam Peaty is the current male world record holder for 100m breaststroke whilst Tatjana Schoenmaker holds the female world record at the same distance but what makes their technique so good? Whilst it is impossible to emulate their training routine, we can all take something from their breaststroke technique.
Peaty times each stroke with perfection. His position within the water is high and he finishes each stroke in a fully extended position with his arms and legs outstretched. By momentarily elongating your body in the water at the end of each stroke, you will be able to generate more energy when you pull your arms through the water on your next stroke.
Generating the maximum force through the water is as much about arm and body position as it is about the power you use. Keeping your elbows high as your arms cut through the water is essential if you want your stroke to be fully effective.
Schoenmaker is renowned for her ‘late breathing’ which means that she pops up out of the water momentarily and forcefully after her arm pull is completed. Her head almost jolts out of the water at the end of each stroke which means that she shortens the least efficient portion of her stroke, minimising drag. This also means that Shoenmaker travels a significant distance with each stroke.
Peaty has a narrow kick circle when performing the breaststroke. Whilst professional swimmers do vary, the narrow kick is yet another way that Peaty keeps his body streamlined in the water.
Team USA athlete, Lydia Jacoby is known for having a ferocious kick which makes her a force to be reckoned with in the pool. As we mentioned earlier in the article, up to 80% of the force generated in breaststroke comes from the kick. As this YouTube video shows, the final of the 100m breaststroke final in the Tokyo 2020 games featured Jacoby’s ferocious kick alongside highly rated Lilly King and current world record holder Tatjana Shoenmaker. What you notice from watching the clip is that, despite having phenomenal power, none of the swimmers generate a big splash above the water, showing how ruthlessly efficient their strokes are.
No matter how good you are, unless you are an Olympic swimmer, there is always room for improvement. This helpful video from Team USA swimmer, Breeja Larson gives you a 3-part drill to master the breaststroke kick as well as combatting some common mistakes that swimmers make when performing the stroke. By incorporating a fraction of what these elite swimmers do in the pool, you can turbocharge your breaststroke technique to be the best it can be!
Breaststroke is a technically demanding swimming stroke. Mastering good breaststroke technique takes time but by taking onboard some of the advice in this article, you are sure to improve and become a better swimmer.
Learning how to stay streamlined in the water is the main way that you can improve the efficiency and speed of your stroke, helping you cut through the water with ease. We hope that the tips we have shared in this article help you hone your breaststroke technique, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned swimmer.
Learn More Swimming Strokes
If you would like to learn about other styles you can read our guide to find out the fastest stroke and the main 4 Swimming Strokes