Stroke Tips - Breaststroke

by Ruth Stavis, Bob Seltzer, and an anonymous NEM
originally published May, 1996

These are the notes that three NEM participants took at a butterfly and breaststroke clinic on December 11, 1995, at Harvard's Blodgett pool. The clinic was organized by NEM Bob Seltzer and conducted by Harvard coach Josh Stern. The "anonymous" source did not want to be accountable for inaccuracies.


Slowest stroke. Recent rule change now allows head to be underwater so streamlining for kick becomes important. Important to set up body position to maintain speed. Coach believes that "wave breast" is the stroke of the future. The upper body sets you up for the kick. There is no pause in the breaststroke. Dropping the knees stops you dead.Move forward in the in-scull, do not drop knees, don't pause. Bring feet up to butt, don't drop knees. Practice: lie on bench & bring feet up.

Arms: Do not bring arms into the chest. Correct motion is simply a scull. Explode forward with hands. Never turn palms up. More speed comes from increasing your speed. Go quickly into the next stroke.

Legs: (Kickers are born, not made.) Kick with the toes out wide. Set up your feet early.

Streamline: Don't look where you're going. Stretch out when kick explodes. Chest will be lowest point of body. Arch shoulders. Angle of the body keeps feet from breaking the surface. Shoulders are out of the water.

Recovery: Not over the water. Extend towards the wall. Hands ideally near the surface; not up and over. Forward to set up the kick. Knees inward during kick.


Always attack the front of the stroke for kick glide. Key to fast breaststroke is not generating more velocity but reducing dead time. Biggest dead spot is when arms and legs recover. Focus should be on explosive in-scull. Don't develop two beat pull. Work explosion from catch through extension. Do not pause when taking breath. Keep quick breath tempo. Pause out front. Breast pull with buoy work on explosion from catch to extension. No dolphin kick on pulls. Keep hands at extension for pause. Last drill keep back/shoulders/head straight while coming forward during no breath. Feel same position, keep explosive in-scull and hand quickness during breath.


New rule permits head to submerge. Get to full extension as fast as possible. Arms touching near earlobes/hands.

Pull: Begin by turning thumbs down for increased reach, chest drop and hip rise. Bring elbows together under chin, palms facing [and think of having cymbals attached to forearms and clapping together]. Extend arms. No pause (Arms only visible at in-scull.)

Kick: Most propulsive part of stroke. Kick throws head and chest forward (not up). Use hamstrings to lift feet to bum (do not drop knees). Turn toes out as feet go up. Explode feet around and together, keeping knees as close together as possible. [Kick lane lines.] Timing: Lift feet as you in-scull. Kick as arms reach extension. Tempo of in-scull and kick stays constant (explosive!). To change pace, increase or decrease length of glide (extension held).