Fact Checked

In Swimming, what is the Breaststroke?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

The breaststroke is a common swimming technique that involves a quick burst of forward momentum followed by a long, smooth glide through the water. The breaststroke is a common swimming stroke in racing as well as in casual, relaxing swimming, and it is an effective motion when executed correctly. The most important part of the breaststroke is the glide, and it is vital to keep the body as straight and streamlined as possible when gliding so the body can cut through the water effectively.

To begin the breaststroke, one should be face down in the water with the hands beneath the chest. The hands should be pressed against each other as if in prayer. The knees should come inward toward the body. In this position, the body is in the most compact position it will be in during the breaststroke. Next, kick the legs outward and back, thrusting the body forward. The kick should resemble that of a frog's kick. As the body glides, extend the hands and arms forward and make the body as straight as possible to prevent any resistance.

A swimmer wearing goggles and a swim cap.
A swimmer wearing goggles and a swim cap.

Now that the kick is complete, use the momentum built from the kick to raise the head and shoulders above the water. Take a breath, then go back down into the water. Open the palms of the hand outward and thrust backward toward the body in a long, arching motion. This will provide more forward thrust. Allow the body to glide for a moment longer, then repeat the kick motion, then the arm motion. These motions in rapid succession constitutes a breaststroke.

The position of the body during the breaststroke will affect how well the stroke works. When preparing to kick, lower the hips to get in position for greater thrust. When gliding, the body must be as sleek and streamlined as possible, or the stroke will not be as effective. The glide is the longest and most effective part of the stroke, so if any part of the body is not in correct position, the stroke could be diminished.

The Olympic games host breaststroke swimming events for both men and women. While it is one of the slowest of the swimming strokes, it is also one of the most difficult at the racing level because it requires good timing and endurance. Both men and women compete in two events: the 100 meter and the 200 meter swim.

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Discussion Comments


While all swimming is a full body workout, different strokes do focus on different parts of the body. Breaststroke is unique in that a great deal of the power in the stroke comes from the swimmer's thighs.

Done correctly, the breaststroke kick is one of the best leg workouts for swimmers - it is also one of the most difficult to do correctly. It is almost impossible for a new swimmer to develop the technique correctly without the close supervision of a coach, and many new swimmers are disqualified regularly in their competitions because of incorrect technique.

Because of this, I would highly recommend any swimmers new to breaststroke to work with a qualified coach until they have mastered the technique.

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    • A swimmer wearing goggles and a swim cap.
      A swimmer wearing goggles and a swim cap.