Swimming Breast Stroke


Breast stroke is one of the more unique swimming strokes. It can be a very leisurely stroke but it can also be a very high intensity stroke. Swimming breast stroke requires both timing and rhythm to swim the stroke both properly and effectively. Breast stroke is also a good stroke for beginning swimmers and those that aren’t comfortable with being underwater since the stroke involves having the head above water for part of the stroke.

Breast Stroke Kick

Breast stroke is powered by the kick. The body moves forward primarily from the kick as part of the stroke. To do the kick, the toes are flexed, the knees bend up so the heels are brought to the upper thighs, the feet turn out, and the legs are pushed back together. The feet really help to propel the body forward and play an important role in forward momentum with the stroke. It is important to not bring the knees up during the stroke as this ruins the hydrodynamics of the body.

Breast Stroke Pull

For the arm stroke, the hands scull out until they are in front of the shoulders then scoop down bringing the elbows close to the chest. At this point, the hands shoot forward once again and the stroke begins again. It is illegal in the breast stroke for the hands to move past the elbows, unless a pullout is being performed. Timing is essential to properly do the stroke. As the arms are scooping water and the elbows reach the chest, the head comes up to breathe. As the arms move forward, the head once again goes underwater.

Pull Outs

It is hard for many beginning swimmers to understand pullouts. Pullouts occur right after the swimmer pushes off the wall. At this point, the arms pull straight down underneath the body until the hands are by the hips. When the hands reach the hips, one dolphin kick is performed followed by one breast stroke kick. This creates a lot of forward momentum once the swimmer reaches the surface and is very helpful when swimming fast.


Breast stroke is a beneficial stroke for many because it can be performed at slow, leisurely speeds but it also is a stroke in which a lot of power is generated. Swimming breast stroke provides a hip strengthening workout as the legs are constantly kicking out and around. In addition, the pull is very good for forearm and shoulder strength. In some cases, breast stroke kicking can irritate the knees but it can also strengthen the knees as well.

Breast Stroke Sets

Breast stroke practice sets are varied. The set can be broken down into parts to work on specific areas. For example, 10 x 100 yards kick is very beneficial to strengthen the breast stroke kick and develop a more powerful kick. Another valuable set is 6 x 50 yards swim focusing on fast tempo within the stroke. A final breast stroke set that is used to strengthen the arms and upper body is 4 x 400 yards pull, making each 400 faster than the one before. Breast stroke doesn’t need to be swum only in a set, the stroke is just as beneficial if done in warm up or warm down to prepare the body for the rest of the workout or help slow the heart rate after a difficult practice.

About this Author

Whitney Hooley is beginning her career as a writer. She has a bachelor’s degree in religion and psychology as well as a master’s degree in kinesiology. Hooley is also an ACSM-certified personal trainer and a former NCAA Division I swim coach.