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How to Swim the Breaststroke

By Jeff Gordon

The breaststroke is the slowest stroke in competitive swimming, featuring a distinctive frog kick and circular arm motion under the water's surface. This stroke attracts breaststroke sprinters and distance specialists, as well as strong overall swimmers competing in the individual medley event. You need strong core muscles to swim this event powerfully. Former Olympian champion swimmer Mark Gangloff observed in his instructional video that "Many times breaststrokers just very lazily move their legs in the water," it's important that you avoid this, as most of your propulsion comes from a powerful kick, which is often difficult to learn.

Step 1

Gain a feel for the basic body position for the breaststroke. Start off by gliding along the top of the water on your stomach with your arms outstretched ahead of you and your legs straight behind you. Keep your body level at the surface. Keep both shoulders in line and your hips flat in the water.

Step 2

Practice the frog kick by holding on to the edge of the pool and pushing your legs out behind you. Bend your knees like a frog, a little more than hip-width apart, slightly out behind the hip line. Lift your feet up to your bottom, with your soles facing outward. Sweep your feet out and backwards in a circular action. Keep your feet flexed and toes pointed rather than loose. Straighten your legs with your knees touching. Practice this to develop a strong kick before attempting to learn the rest of the stroke.

Step 3

Practice the arm motions once you are comfortable with the kick. Press both hands out and around to draw a tight circle to the front. Keep your hands in front of your shoulders and your elbows in the water. Finish by stretching your arms forward again with your hands close together.

Step 4

Put the motions together, initially keeping your face out of the water. Go through sequence again and again: arm motion, kick, then a full body glide. When you stretch forward into the glide position, keep your arms in a tight streamline by locking your hands together and squeezing your elbows tightly to your ears.

Step 5

Take the final step by learning to inhale. Put your face in the water as you stretch your arms forward. Breathe in as you lift your shoulders and pull through your arm motion, completing the circle. Let your head rise naturally with your shoulders, bringing your chin just above the water surface. Drop your shoulders and put your face down as you sweep your arms and exhale during your full body glide.

Step 6

Add more power to your breaststroke by lifting your chest and shoulders as you pull with your arms, then dive back down into the streamlined position. Develop more downward action on your kick too. These two actions create body undulation and speed. Elite breaststroke swimmers look like dolphins smoothly cutting through the water.

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