Olympic Breaststroke Technique

September 27, 2012 | Gary Mullen

Olympic Breaststroke Technique

Traditionally, the breaststroke is the easiest but slowest stroke in the sport of swimming. But breaststroke form improvements are rapidly occurring, propelling faster times, most notably as when Japanese schoolboy Akihiro Yamaguchi broke the World Record in the 200-meter.

Now, you may not be knocking on the door of any World Records, but Yamaguchi and all other elite breaststroke swimmers use:

  • Timing
  • Acceleration
  • Bodyline

These are the main keys for elite breaststroke swimming. And they are not exclusive to Olympic level swimmers. Start implementing them today, and learn how Olympians make the breaststroke look easy. (First, read up on how to start a training program.)

Olympic Breaststroke Technique


Unlike other strokes, the breaststroke generates propulsion from the legs, so it's essential to time the arms and legs together. Too often, novice breast swimmers plow through the water with their arms blocking the propulsion of their legs. Make sure you're not initiating your kick until you have your arms recovering, in a streamline position.

Think about it: do you want to block your main source of propulsion? Instead, drive your legs as your arms extend in a streamline position for optimal horizontal velocity. A good breaststroke is like a dance; it coordinates all the steps to make movement seem effortless.


The breaststroke is the most unusual style of swimming, but it does have commonalities. One is that the positions that generate the most propulsion are accompanied by high amounts of drag.

Thus, it's important to accelerate through the drag areas while maintaining maximal propulsion. Accelerate the arms as they move away from the body. For the legs, keep the hips straight and accelerate the legs as your heels start the kick.


Learning how to support a straight bodyline is important for every stroke. In breast, novice swimmers typically bend their hips too much, creating an anchor in the water. It's important to use proper timing to allow optimal force production with each motion. Performing this in the correct bodyline is essential for success. Simply put, drag is the name of the game, and if your body is creating high pockets of drag because you are not in a straight bodyline, then drag will make the breaststroke harder than necessary. Don't make the breaststroke harder than necessary.

G. John Mullen
- G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California, where he served as a clinical research assistant investigating adolescent...
G. John Mullen
- G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California, where he served as a clinical research assistant investigating adolescent...
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