How to Make Breaststroke Your Best Stroke


Of the four competitive strokes, breaststroke is the most unique. Unlike the other three, it is swum entirely underwater and requires swimmers to break their streamline over and over again to propel themselves forward. By focusing on preserving the streamline through all the phases of the stroke, breaststroke can easily go from being your worst stroke to your best.


Why swim more than you have to? The easiest way to preserve your streamline is during your push-off. Hold your streamline until you begin to lose momentum, then initiate your fly kick and pullout, making sure to keep your body position the same throughout. Hold this final glide until your momentum slows again, then move into your breakout.

How to train it: Double your pullouts off of each wall, and focus on keeping your eyes locked on the bottom of the pool. Prove to yourself that it works by trying a few pullouts wherein you lift or lower your head halfway through the glide and compare results!


A lot of efficiency is lost during the breakout when swimmers recover their arms underwater without thinking about preserving their streamline. Rather than dragging your bent arms through the water beside your torso, sneak your arms underneath your chest by crossing your forearms and pushing your hands forwards into your streamline. Adam Peaty (GBR) was seen doing this during the 2016 Rio Olympics, and we all know how it worked out for him!

How to train it: Do it on deck! Stand in your tallest streamline, pull your arms down to your sides and mime a fly kick, then initiate a breaststroke kick as you “hug” yourself while stretching your arms back up to streamline. Then, go do it in the pool.


Believe it or not, breaststroke kick can be made more efficient. Preserve your streamline by keeping your knees aligned behind your hips; the angle between your torso and thighs should be no less than 120 degrees. Think about bringing your heels up to your buttocks with your ankles flexed and toes outwards, then push back and down to propel your body forwards. This kick is much more narrow, reducing drag and allowing swimmers to maintain a more streamlined position in the water.

How to train it: You’re going to get up close and personal with the wall, that’s how! Get in the water, place your chest and legs against the pool wall and rest your hands on the deck. Practice bring your heels up to your hips without poking your knees into the wall, and kick! To challenge yourself, try to kick hard enough to get your chest out of the water, then finish with a push-up.


Finally, your pull can be a major player in a more efficient breaststroke. A common mistake swimmers make is taking their outsweep wider than their shoulders and pulling their hands underneath their chin before recovering into streamline. Preserving streamline means keeping all motions within the line of the body, so it would serve you better to outsweep to shoulder width, keep the elbows high, and pull the hands down only until they are perpendicular to the pool bottom before recovering into streamline.

How to train it: Sculling. Lots of sculling. Put on your snorkel, stretch your arms out in front of you, and take a look at how wide you sweep your hands outwards. Make sure that you have your arms rotated so that your elbows are at the surface and your fingers are angled downward, then switch to full breaststroke pulls. Palms should face outward during outsweep, towards you during during the pull, and at the bottom during recovery.

There you have it: four simple ways to make breaststroke your best stroke, all by preserving your streamline in every move you make. If any aspect of your stroke feels too wide, it probably is. Breaststroke is all about being as narrow and flat as possible to ensure that all movements produce forward momentum, so think “streamline” all the time.

From Sarah MacDonald

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Great tips for your swimming stroke.

 There are very few contentious issues in swimming and most of them can be solved by scientifically looking at the evidence. One of the minor issues in swimming is whether to swim with closed fingers or hand-image-4open fingers. Since humans do not have gills or fins, it is important that we learn how to best use our bodies to get the most out of our strokes. The question about what to do with our fingers and hands makes for an interesting debate and for interesting results. What is the best way to hold the hands?

Paddles or Not?

Your hands are very important in the pool. The difference between open and closed fingers may not seem like that big of a deal, but when races come down to split second finishes, any little advantage can make a big difference. When the fingers are closed, the hand acts like a kayak paddle and when the fingers are open, water can move between the fingers. So, what is the most beneficial position?

Resistance is Key

hand-image-2If you prefer to swim with your fingers closed, you are actually moving against the water. Your hands are a form of resistance and the drag includes all of your arm, from the shoulder to the fingers. When you think about physics, resistance slows objects down. So closing your fingers and using your hand like a kayak paddle does not increase speed. It might seem you would swim faster because a closed hand should be able to move more water, but you have to work harder to go faster with closed fingers. When you want to move water, you need surface area. With closed fingers, the surface area of the hand extends the length and width of the hand.

Build Surface Area

When you swim with your fingers open, you actually get more surface area. With the fingers open, the surface area actually includes the space between the fingers. So your surface area is wider, but not taller. When it comes to smart swimming, the most powerful hands are not muscularly engaged and purposefully spread. They are relaxed and open naturally. When you swim this way, see if you can notice the water moving between your fingers. You probably cannot and that is just fine. The larger surface area can move more water, but it does it with less resistance.

Stay Balanced

Another benefit to swimming with relaxed hands and open fingers is better balance. We may not think of balance in a swimming pool, but with good balance, your body will move more smoothly through the water. Balance helps with all aspects of swimming, from the stroke to the breath. The more balanced the body is, the better it moves and theless friction and resistance it creates.

Research Proves the Case

When researchers looked the debate and the actually hand-imagebiology of hand positioning in swimming, they realized that when the fingers were open to a natural level, the fingers acted like webbed hands and added more than 50% force to their strokes. With open fingers, swimmers were able to stay horizontal and actually get higher in the water with more of the body out of the water – thus reducing drag and resistance. When swimmers are higher in the water, they do not have to work as hard to swim fast. It is also better for people to swim with their toes spread slightly, too. If you think of the size of swim fins, it makes sense that a “wider” foot will move the body more efficiently.

Test It Out Yourself

So, the best way to swim is with the fingers naturally open. If you want to see proof, watch footage of Michael Phelps in the water. His hands are open and relaxed. His fingers are spread. If you need to see if it really does work, test yourself. Time yourself with your hands in both positions and see what lets you swim the fastest.

Which comes first? Technique or speed.

Swimming Technique or Speed: Which is More Important?

Okay, so you are new to swimming. You got your new swimmers and a flash pair of goggles and now you’re ready to dive straight in and go flat out. But before everything else, ask yourself these questions: Do you have a program? Do you have the right drills? More importantly, do you know the basics?

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You need to understand swimming is not simply a competitive sport. It is actually a sequence of highly coordinated set of movements. Altogether, these movements create speed, power and high performance. In my opinion, good swimming technique will develop in two stages: technique improvement and fitness improvement.

Poor Swimming Technique Can Slow You Down

Through extensive research and observation, I have found out that while you can be able to do these stages at the same time, focusing on one stage at a time makes the next stage easier. For example, you are trying to do 10 x 50-metre laps on the minute. You start off thrashing your way down the pool and get to the other end with 10 seconds to go. Then off you go again and thrash your way back. Sure, you will get fit and go faster but only at a certain point. Why? Poor swimming technique hinders speed.

What can you at this point? If you were to back off the speed and do 10 50-metre laps instead within a minute and 30 seconds. This will help you focus more on your swimming technique and be able to reduce your time down to a minute eventually without feeling as puffed as you initially were.

Try observing swimming competition participants. They may look like they are simply thrashing up the pool but actually, they are using their technique to swim within a short amount of time. Their drills may still focus on stretching and increasing stroke reach. Keep in mind that as you go faster, things shorten up. Its like typing the sentence The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog on the keyboard. If you start slowly, your accuracy will be excellent. As you go faster, your fingers may start making mistakes. The same goes with swimming. If you are not in control of your body movements, the purpose of training becomes vague.

The approach I have discussed have worked for 90 percent of the people I have coached. Their technique was great and after some time, their speed picks up and times drop. I would love to get feedback and discuss this topic with you if you have any thoughts.

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