Swimming has evolved drastically since the start of competitive swimming in the early 1800s. Besides the advancement in suit, cap, and goggle technology, changes to the swimming rule book have impacted how different swimmers train for different events. The stroke that has evolved the most over the years and continues to change is breaststroke. You may have heard some call it the “froggy stroke”, but the correct name for the third stroke in the individual medley event is “breaststroke”. Breaststroke is the usually the slowest stroke out of the four strokes in competitive swimming. The reason why breaststroke is typically the slowest stroke is because it requires the use of completely different muscle groups within the body. Not only is it a “short-axis” stroke like butterfly, but it also requires an outward kick (unlike any other stroke).
Improving the technique of any stroke should always be the goal no matter what level and individual swimmer is at. When improving technique of a stroke, the main goal is usually to become more efficient in the water, which leads to significant time drops. Improving breaststroke swimming technique is no different. The important thing to understand about breaststroke technique is that not only are you becoming more efficient in the water, but you are also preventing any potential injuries. Swimming is a low impact sport with a relatively low amount of injuries, but one of the most common types injuries are breaststroker knees caused by the overuse of incorrect breaststroke technique. For this reason, teaching correct breaststroke technique as early as possible is extremely helpful. In order to improve and eventually master breaststroke technique, a swimmer must practice different drills often (if not daily). I will talk about five basic and efficient breaststroke drills that swimmers can do to practice correct breaststroke technique.
Drill One- Swim Breaststroke Arms/Freestyle Kick
For this drill, you will be swimming normal breaststroke arms, but with a freestyle (flutter) kick as opposed to a breaststroke kick. Keep a tight core for a consistent freestyle kick. Your arms should only go as far as shoulder width apart when taking strokes. Make sure your head stays as still as possible. The main goal of this drill is to focus on your arm and head movement for breaststroke. If this drill is too hard, you can also use a buoy to help your legs stay afloat.
Drill Two- Breaststroke Kick on Back
For this drill, you will be on your back in a streamline position (looking up at the ceiling). Using a breaststroke kick and maintaining the streamline, kick across the pool. The main goal is of the drill is to stretch out the quads and loosen up the knees without worrying about speed of buoyancy. This drill gives swimmers a chance to strictly focus on the lower part of breaststroke (legs).
Drill Three- 2 Up/1 Down
For this drill, you will be swimming normal breaststroke, but after every two normal strokes you tale, you will do one underwater stroke. This allows you to practice a normal practice with some water resistance in every third stroke. Building strong shoulders and arm muscles is essential to achieving correct breaststroke technique and taking a few strokes underwater is a great way to practice.
Drill Four- Double Pullout
One of the most important aspects of breaststroke is the pullout after every wall. The fastest breaststrokers around the world have all mastered their pullout to the point where some even call it the fifth stroke. A great way to practice breaststroke pull outs is to do double the pullouts after each wall. The second pullout is usually a lot harder than the first because each pullout takes so much energy. Try to maintain the same technique for both pullouts. This drill not only trains resistance, but also lung capacity, which is important in swimming in general.
Drill Five- Butterfly Arms/ Breaststroke Legs
This drill is my personal favorite, but also might be the hardest on this list. It requires the upper body to do butterfly strokes and the lower body to do a breaststroke kick. Since both butterfly and breaststroke are “short-axis” strokes, the combination in this drill allows swimmers to strictly work on muscle groups that will all help for breaststroke. You should feel your core tightened every time you attempt to take a stroke. The main goal of this drill is to try to maintain a perfect balance between the two strokes in order to help with head placement body position.
There are a lot of more advanced drills that swimmers can do to improve breaststroke technique, but I believe it is best to focus on arms and legs separately before attempting to put them together. It is important to take the time to not rush through these drills because quality is more valuable than quantity when it comes to potentially injury prevention. Just like any other skill, the most important thing is to continue to practice and perfection will follow.
Need help from a professional swim coach? Hire a Sunsational Swim Coach to come to your home or community pool and help you refine your swimming technique!
Mariano Adame’s bio:
Swim instructor in San Diego, CA
I was a competitive swimmer for the majority of my life. I swam up to the collegiate division one level at West Virginia University where I received my bachelor’s degree in Public Health and my minor in Forensic Science. I specialized in the 100 and 200-meter butterfly events. Swimming played a major role in shaping me into the person I was and continue to be. Swimming can benefit people in many different ways including exercise, discipline, and most importantly the importance of understanding water safety. As a public health major, I understand that lack of water safety education is a major concern around the world. I hope that I can teach others what I have learned about swimming throughout my life and hopefully make a difference in people’s lives.