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The breaststroke is a swimming
Aquatic locomotion
Swimming is biologically propelled motion through a liquid medium. Swimming has evolved a number of times in a range of organisms ranging from arthropods to fish to molluscs.-Evolution of swimming:...

 style in which the swimmer is on his or her chest
The chest is a part of the anatomy of humans and various other animals. It is sometimes referred to as the thorax or the bosom.-Chest anatomy - Humans and other hominids:...

 and the torso
Trunk or torso is an anatomical term for the central part of the many animal bodies from which extend the neck and limbs. The trunk includes the thorax and abdomen.-Major organs:...

 does not rotate. It is the most popular recreational style due to its stability and the ability to keep the head out of the water a large portion of the time. In most swimming classes, beginners learn either the breaststroke or the front crawl
Front crawl
The front crawl, forward crawl, or freestyle is a swimming stroke usually regarded as the fastest of the four front primary strokes. As such, the front crawl stroke is nearly universally used during a freestyle swimming competition, hence the synonymously used term "freestyle". It is one of two...

 first. But in competitive swimming, the breaststroke is regarded as one of the most difficult strokes, requiring comparable endurance and leg strength to other strokes. The stroke itself is the slowest of any stroke.

Speed and ergonomics

Breaststroke is the slowest of the four official styles in competitive swimming
Swimming (sport)
Swimming is a sport governed by the Fédération Internationale de Natation .-History: Competitive swimming in Europe began around 1800 BCE, mostly in the form of the freestyle. In 1873 Steve Bowyer introduced the trudgen to Western swimming competitions, after copying the front crawl used by Native...

. The fastest breaststroke swimmers can swim about 1.57 metres per second. Although it is the slowest of the four competitive strokes, it is commonly agreed that it is by far the most difficult to do correctly. It is mandatory to know if you are aspiring to be a lifeguard. It is also often the hardest to teach to rising swimmers after butterfly due to the importance of timing and the coordination required to move the legs properly.

In the breaststroke, the swimmer leans on the chest, arms breaking the surface of the water slightly, legs always underwater and the head underwater for the second half of the stroke. The kick is sometimes referred to as a "frog kick
Frog kick
The frog kick is a swimming action sometimes used by scuba divers when they are swimming near a soft silty seabed or lakebed which they do not want to stir up damaging the visibility. It is like the swimming action of a frog or the leg part of the breaststroke...

" because of the resemblance to the movement of a frog's hind legs. However, when done correctly it is more of a "whip kick" due to the whip-like motion that moves starting at the core down through the legs.

The body is often at a steep angle to the forward movement. This slows down the swimmer more than any other style. Professional breaststrokers use abdominal muscles and hips to add extra power to the kick, although most do not perfect this technique until the collegiate level. This much faster form of breaststroke is referred to as "wave-action" breaststroke and fully incorporates the whip-kick.

A special feature of competitive breaststroke is the underwater pullout. From the streamline
Streamline (swimming)
Used most typically in competitive swimming, the streamline position is the position a swimmer takes underwater after pushing off a pool wall. To streamline, a swimmer must tuck the head into the collar bone, pointing both arms straight ahead in a tight line. The underside of both arms should be...

 position, one uses the arms to pull all the way down past the hips. As the arms are pulling down, one downward dolphin kick is allowed (as of the 2005 season), though still optional. if more than one "dolphin kick" is done it will result in a disqualification. This is followed by the recovery of the arms to the streamline position once more with a breaststroke kick. The pullout at the start and after the turns contributes significantly to the swimming times. At turns you can do an open turn which is probably the easiest but you will need to touch with two hands or else it will result in a disqualification. Therefore one way to improve the swimming times is to focus on the start and the turns.


The history of breaststroke goes back to the Stone Age, as for example pictures in the Cave of Swimmers
Cave of Swimmers
The Cave of Swimmers is a cave with ancient rock art in the mountainous Gilf Kebir plateau of the Libyan Desert section of the Sahara. It is located in the New Valley Governorate of southwest Egypt, near the border with Libya.-History:...

 near Wadi Sora in the southwestern part of Egypt near Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

. The leg action of the breaststroke may have originated by imitating the swimming action of frog
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura , formerly referred to as Salientia . Most frogs are characterized by a short body, webbed digits , protruding eyes and the absence of a tail...

s. Depictions of a variant of breaststroke are found in Babylonian bas-reliefs and Assyrian wall drawings.

In 1538 Nicolas Wynman, a German professor of languages and poetry, wrote the first swimming book, Colymbetes. His goal was not to promote exercise, but rather to reduce the dangers of drowning. Nevertheless, the book contained a good, methodical approach to learning breaststroke.

In 1696, the French author and poet Melchisédech Thévenot
Melchisédech Thévenot
Melchisédech Thévenot was a French author, scientist, traveler, cartographer, orientalist, inventor, and diplomat...

 wrote The Art of Swimming, describing a breaststroke very similar to the modern breaststroke. The book (Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 became one of its readers) popularized this technique.

In the pre-Olympic era, competitive swimming in Europe started around 1800, mostly using breaststroke. A watershed event was a swimming competition in 1844 in London, notable for the participation of some Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

s. While the British raced using breaststroke, the Native Americans swam a variant of the front crawl
Front crawl
The front crawl, forward crawl, or freestyle is a swimming stroke usually regarded as the fastest of the four front primary strokes. As such, the front crawl stroke is nearly universally used during a freestyle swimming competition, hence the synonymously used term "freestyle". It is one of two...

. The British continued to swim only breaststroke until 1873.

Captain Matthew Webb
Matthew Webb
Captain Matthew Webb was the first recorded person to swim the English Channel without the use of artificial aids. On 25 August 1875 he swam from Dover to Calais in less than 22 hours.-Early life and career:...

 was the first man to swim the English channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 (between England and France), in 1875. He used breaststroke, swimming 21.26 miles (34.21 km) in 21 hours and 45 minutes.

The 1904 Summer Olympics
1904 Summer Olympics
The 1904 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the III Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States from 1 July 1904, to November 23, 1904, at what is now known as Francis Field on the campus of Washington University...

 in St. Louis were the first Olympics featuring a separate breaststroke competition, over a distance of 440 yards (402 m). These games differentiated breaststroke, backstroke, and freestyle.

1928 was the start of the scientific study of swimming by David Armbruster
David Armbruster
David Armbruster is a former member of the Ohio House of Representatives and the founder of Armbruster florists in Middletown, Ohio.-References:...

, coach at the University of Iowa
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa is a public state-supported research university located in Iowa City, Iowa, United States. It is the oldest public university in the state. The university is organized into eleven colleges granting undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees...

, who filmed swimmers from underwater. One breaststroke problem Armbruster researched was that the swimmer was slowed down significantly while bringing the arms forward underwater. In 1934 Armbruster refined a method to bring the arms forward over water in breaststroke. While this "butterfly" technique was difficult, it brought a great improvement in speed. One year later, in 1935, Jack Sieg
Jack Sieg
Jack Sieg was an American swimmer who developed the Butterfly stroke in 1935. He competed for the University of Iowa and first used the stroke in a breaststroke leg of a medley relay.-References:...

, a swimmer also from the University of Iowa developed a technique involving swimming on his side and beating his legs in unison similar to a fish tail, and modified the technique afterward to swim it face down. Armbruster and Sieg combined these techniques into a variant of the breaststroke called butterfly
Butterfly stroke
The butterfly is a swimming stroke swum on the breast, with both arms moving simultaneously. The butterfly kick was developed separately, and is also known as the "dolphin kick"...

, with the two kicks per cycle being called dolphin fishtail kick. Using this technique Sieg swam 100 yards (91 m) in 1:00.2. However, even though this technique was much faster than regular breaststroke, the dolphin fishtail kick violated the rules. Butterfly arms with a breaststroke kick were used by a few swimmers in the 1936 Summer Olympics
1936 Summer Olympics
The 1936 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XI Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was held in 1936 in Berlin, Germany. Berlin won the bid to host the Games over Barcelona, Spain on April 26, 1931, at the 29th IOC Session in Barcelona...

 in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 for the breaststroke competitions. In 1938, almost every breaststroke swimmer was using this butterfly style, yet this stroke was considered a variant of the breaststroke until 1952, when it was accepted as a separate style with its own set of rules.

In the early 1950s, another modification was developed for breaststroke. Breaking the water surface increases the friction, reducing speed; swimming underwater increases speed. This led to a controversy at the 1956 Summer Olympics
1956 Summer Olympics
The 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVI Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in Melbourne, Australia, in 1956, with the exception of the equestrian events, which could not be held in Australia due to quarantine regulations...

 in Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre is the hub of the greater metropolitan area and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater...

, and six swimmers were disqualified, as they repeatedly swam long distances underwater. However, a Japanese swimmer, Masaru Furukawa
Masaru Furukawa
is a Japanese swimmer and Olympic champion. He competed at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, where he received a gold medal in the 200 m breaststroke.-World records:...

, circumvented the rule by not surfacing at all after the start, but swimming as much of the length underwater as possible before breaking the surface. He swam all but 5 m underwater for the first three 50 m lengths, and also swam half underwater for the last length, winning the gold medal. The adoption of this technique led to many swimmers suffering from oxygen starvation and even to some swimmers passing out during the race, so a new rule was introduced by the FINA
Fina may refer to:*Fina, a character in the Skies of Arcadia video game*FINA, the International Swimming Federation*FINA, the North American Forum on Integration...

, limiting the distance that can be swum underwater after the start and after every turn, and requiring the head to break the surface every cycle.

Since then, the development of breaststroke has gone hand-in-hand with the FINA rules. In about the mid 1960s, the rules changed to prevent the arm stroke from going beyond the hip line, except during the first stroke after the start and after each turn. In about the mid 1980s, swimmers were allowed to break the water with parts of the body other than the head. This led to a variant of the stroke in which the arms are brought together as usual under the body after the pull but then are thrown forward over the water from under the chin until the arms are completely extended. There was a controversy at the 2004 Summer Olympics
2004 Summer Olympics
The 2004 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, was a premier international multi-sport event held in Athens, Greece from August 13 to August 29, 2004 with the motto Welcome Home. 10,625 athletes competed, some 600 more than expected, accompanied by 5,501 team...

 at Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 after Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima
Kosuke Kitajima
is a Japanese multiple Olympic gold medalist breaststroke swimmer. He won gold medals for the men's 100 m and 200 m breaststroke at both the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Olympics.-Major achievements:...

 won the gold medal in the 100 m breaststroke race over American Brendan Hansen
Brendan Hansen
Brendan Joseph Hansen is an American breaststroke swimmer and four-time Olympic medalist...

, the world-record-holder. Video from underwater cameras showed Kitajima using a dolphin kick at the start and at some of the turns. Officials claimed that these kicks were not visible from above the surface of the water, so the result stood. In July 2005, FINA changed the rules to allow one dolphin kick at the start and at each turn, this change taking effect on 21 September 2005. The breaststroke starts with the swimmer lying in the water face down, arms extended straight forward and legs extended straight to the back.

Arm movement

There are three steps to the arm movement: outsweep, insweep, and recovery. The movement starts with the outsweep. From the initial position, the hands sink a little bit down and the palms face inward, and the hands rotate outward and move apart. During the outsweep the arms stay almost straight and parallel to the surface. The outsweep is followed by the insweep, where the hands point down and push the water backwards. The elbows stay in the horizontal plane through the shoulders. The hands push back until approximately the vertical plane through the shoulders. At the end of the insweep the hands come together with facing palms in front of the chest and the elbows are at the side at the body. In the recovery phase the hands are moved forward again into the initial position under water. The entire arm stroke starts slowly, increases speed to the peak arm movement speed in the insweep phase, and slows down again during recovery. The goal is to produce maximum thrust during the insweep phase, and minimum drag during the recovery phase.

As a variant, it is possible to recover the arms over water. This reduces drag, but requires more power. Some competitive swimmers use this variant in competition.

Another variant is the underwater pull-down, similar to the push phase of a butterfly stroke. This stroke continues the insweep phase and pushes the hands all the way to the back to the sides of the hip. This greatly increases the push from one stroke, but also makes recovery more difficult. This style is well suited for underwater swimming. However, FINA allows this stroke only for the first stroke after the start and each turn. In late 2005, FINA has also introduced a new rule which allows you to perform a single downward kick after the push off the wall.

Leg movement

The leg movement, colloquially known as the "frog kick" or "whip kick", consists of two phases: bringing the feet into position for the thrust phase and the insweep phase. From the initial position with the legs stretched out backward, the feet are moved together towards the posterior, while the knees stay together. The knees should not sink too low, as this increases the drag. Then the feet point outward in preparation for the thrust phase. In the thrust phase, the legs are moved elliptically back to the initial position. During this movement, the knees are kept together. The legs move slower while bringing the legs into position for the thrust phase, and move very fast during the thrust phase. Again, the goal is produce maximum thrust during the in sweep phase, and minimum drag during the recovery phase. In the recovery phase the lower leg and the feet are in the wake of the upper leg, and the feet are pointed to the rear. In the thrust phase all three parts create their own wake, and the flat end of the feet acts like a hydrofoil aligned to give maximum forward thrust. The resulting drag coefficient
Drag coefficient
In fluid dynamics, the drag coefficient is a dimensionless quantity that is used to quantify the drag or resistance of an object in a fluid environment such as air or water. It is used in the drag equation, where a lower drag coefficient indicates the object will have less aerodynamic or...

 (or more precisely the frontal area) is thus doubled in the thrust phase.
A fit adult creates a wake. Drag due to a wake is Newton drag
Aerodynamics is a branch of dynamics concerned with studying the motion of air, particularly when it interacts with a moving object. Aerodynamics is a subfield of fluid dynamics and gas dynamics, with much theory shared between them. Aerodynamics is often used synonymously with gas dynamics, with...

 and increases with the square of the velocity. For example if the relative speed between the water and the leg is twice as high on the thrust phase than on the recovery phase, the thrust is four times as high as the drag. Assuming the legs are recovered with a relative speed between leg and body which amounts to the same as the relative speed between water and body, the legs must be kicked back with five times the mean velocity of the swimmer. This limits the top speed. Both effects together, velocity and frontal area, yield a thrust to drag ratio of 8 for the legs.

As a variant, some swimmers move the knees apart during the preparation phase and keep them apart until almost the end of the thrust phase. Moving both knee and foot outwards like a real frog avoids the extreme rotation in the lower leg.

All other variants fail to increase the frontal area, yet swimmers using them still generate some thrust by the velocity variation and do not drown.
Another variant of the breaststroke kick is the scissor kick, however, this kick violates the rules of the FINA
Fina may refer to:*Fina, a character in the Skies of Arcadia video game*FINA, the International Swimming Federation*FINA, the North American Forum on Integration...

 as it is no longer symmetrical. Swimming teachers put a great effort into steering the students away from the scissor kick. In the scissor kick, one leg moves as described above, but the other leg does not form an elliptical movement but merely an up-down movement similar to the flutter kick of front crawl
Front crawl
The front crawl, forward crawl, or freestyle is a swimming stroke usually regarded as the fastest of the four front primary strokes. As such, the front crawl stroke is nearly universally used during a freestyle swimming competition, hence the synonymously used term "freestyle". It is one of two...

. Some swimming teachers believe that learning the front crawl first gives a higher risk of an incorrect scissor kick when learning breaststroke afterwards.

Breaststroke can also be swum with the dolphin kick in butterfly, but this also violates the FINA rules. One kick is allowed, however, at the start and at the turn, providing that it is part of the body's natural movement.

The harmonic movements of the dolphin kick and flutter kick are in contrast to the breaststroke whip kick, which really deserves the name kick. Scissor kick and frog kick are intermediate. Humans have strong muscles in the legs and would need swim fins (like a frog) to bring all their power into the water and stand with the sole of the feet on the water. Rather the leg grabs almost as much water as the foot and a small amount of water is accelerated to high kinetic energy
Kinetic energy
The kinetic energy of an object is the energy which it possesses due to its motion.It is defined as the work needed to accelerate a body of a given mass from rest to its stated velocity. Having gained this energy during its acceleration, the body maintains this kinetic energy unless its speed changes...

, but not much impulse is transferred. The toes are bent, the feet point 45° outwards, the sole points backwards, to mimic a hydrofoil
A hydrofoil is a foil which operates in water. They are similar in appearance and purpose to airfoils.Hydrofoils can be artificial, such as the rudder or keel on a boat, the diving planes on a submarine, a surfboard fin, or occur naturally, as with fish fins, the flippers of aquatic mammals, the...

. While closing in a V shape to the rear a small “lifting” force can be felt. Unlike in the other kicks, the joints are moved into extrema. Before the kick the knee is maximally bent and the upper leg is rotating along its axis to its extreme outer position and the lower leg is twisted to extreme, at the end of the kick the ankles are maximally turned to the inside so that the soles clap together to achieve a nozzle effect like in a jelly fish. Therefore training involves getting flexible in addition to fitness and precision. The sudden sideway stress on knee at the kick can lead to uncomfortable noise and feeling for the beginner and to wear for the senior.


The easiest way to breathe
Breathing is the process that moves air in and out of the lungs. Aerobic organisms require oxygen to release energy via respiration, in the form of the metabolism of energy-rich molecules such as glucose. Breathing is only one process that delivers oxygen to where it is needed in the body and...

 during breaststroke is to let the head follow the spine. When your elbows have reached the line of your eye and have begun to rise, your head starts to lift. If you use your high elbows as a hinge for the inward sweep of your hands and forearms, you'll create the leverage you need to use your abdominal muscles to bring your hips forward. When your hips move forward, your chest, shoulders and upper back will automatically lift up. Breathing is usually done during the beginning of the insweep phase of the arms, and the swimmer breathes in ideally through the mouth. The swimmer breathes out through mouth and nose during the recovery and gliding phase. Breaststroke can be swum faster if submerged completely, but FINA requires the head to break the surface once per cycle except for the first cycle after the start and each turn. Thus, competitive swimmers usually make one underwater pull-out, pushing the hands all the way to the back after the start and each turn.

Recreational swimmers often keep their head above water at all times when they swim breaststroke.

Body movement

The movement starts in the initial position with the body completely straight, body movement is coordinated such that the legs are ready for the thrust phase while the arms are halfway through the insweep, and the head is out of the water for breathing. In this position the body has also the largest angle to the horizontal. The arms are recovered during the thrust phase of the legs. After the stroke the body is kept in the initial position for some time to utilize the gliding phase. Depending on the distance and fitness the duration of this gliding phase varies. Usually the gliding phase is shorter during sprints than during long distance swimming. The gliding phase is also longer during the underwater stroke after the start and each turn. However, the gliding phase is usually the longest phase in one entire cycle of breaststroke.


Breaststroke uses the regular start for swimming. Some swimmers use a variant called the frog start, where the legs are pulled forward sharply before being extended again quickly during the airborne phase of the start. After the start a gliding phase follows under water, followed by one underwater pulldown and dolphin kick, then one whip kick as the hands are recovered back to a streamline. This is known as the pull-out. The head must break the surface before the arms reach their widest point on the first stroke after the pull-out. The downward butterfly kick was legalized by FINA, WWF and the NCAA in 2005, and remains optional. The downward fly kick is now allowed in MCSL.

Turn and finish

For competitive swimming it is important that the wall at the end of the lane is always touched by both hands (known as a "Two-Hand Touch") at the same time due to FINA regulations.

The turn is initiated by touching the wall during the gliding or during the recovery phase of the arms, depending on how the wall can be touched faster. After touching the wall, the legs are pulled underneath of the body. The body turns sideways while one hand is moved forward (i.e. towards the head) along the side of the body. When the body is almost completely turned, the other hand will be swung straight up through the air such that both hands meet at the front at the same time. At that time the body should also be almost in the horizontal and partially or totally submerged. After the body is completely submerged, the body is pushed off the wall with both legs. Doing this under water will reduce the drag. After a gliding phase, an underwater pull-out is done, followed by another gliding phase and then regular swimming. The head must break the surface during the second stroke.

As a variant, some swimmers experiment with a flip over turn similar to front crawl.

The finish is similar to the touching of the wall during a turn.


The three main styles of breaststroke seen today are the conventional (flat), undulating, and wave-style. The undulating style is usually swum by extremely flexible swimmers, (e.g. Amanda Beard
Amanda Beard
Amanda Ray Beard is an American swimmer and a seven-time Olympic medalist . She is a former world record holder in the 200-meter breaststroke ....

), and few people have the flexibility to accomplish it. The wave-style breaststroke, swum and made famous by Mike Barrowman
Mike Barrowman
Michael Ray Barrowman is an American former swimmer, one of the pioneers of the "Wave-Style" Breaststroke technique. Prior to attending University of Michigan, he trained with Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club and Curl-Burke Swim Club in Maryland.He placed 4th in the 1988 Summer Olympics in the...

 when he created a world record using it, is now commonly swum by Olympians, though Australian swimmers, most prominently Leisel Jones
Leisel Jones
Leisel Marie Jones OAM is an Australian Olympic gold medalist swimmer. A participant in the 2000 Summer Olympics – at just 15 years old – and 2004 Summer Olympics, she was part of gold medal winning Australian team in the women's 4 × 100 metre medley relay at the Athens Games in 2004 and a gold...

, generally seem to shun it. Olympian Ed Moses
Ed Moses (swimmer)
Glenn Edward Moses, Jr. is an Olympic and former World Record holding breaststroke swimmer from the United States. He swam for the USA at the 2000 Olympics, where he won a gold and silver medal....

 still swims a more flat- style, despite the rapidly increasing popularity of the wave-style.

The wave-style breaststroke starts in a streamlined position, with shoulders shrugged to decrease drag in the water. While the conventional style is strongest at the outsweep, the wave-style puts much emphasis on the insweep, thus making the head rise later than in the conventional style. The wave-style pull is a circular motion with the hands accelerating to maximum speed and recovering in front of the chin, elbows staying at the surface and in front of the shoulders at all times. The high elbows creates the leverage for the powerful torso and abdominal muscles to assist in the stroke. During the insweep, the swimmer accelerates his/her hands and hollows his/her back and lifts him/herself out of the water to breathe. To visualize, some say that the hands anchor themselves in the water while the hips thrust forward.

The hollowed back and accelerating hands would lift the head out of the water. The head stays in a natural position, looking down and forward, and the swimmer inhales at this point. The feet retract to the butt without moving the thigh, thus reducing resistance. The swimmer is at his/her highest point at this point.

Then the swimmer shrugs his shoulders and literally throws his arms and shoulders forward, lunging cat-like back into the water (though the emphasis is to go forward, not down). As the swimmer sinks, he/she arches his/her back, and kicks. The timing is very important in order for the kick to transfer all of its force via the arched back, but the optimum time is when the arms are 3/4 fully extended. Then the swimmer kicks and presses on his/her chest, undulating a little underwater, and squeezing the gluteus maximus to prevent the legs and feet from rising out of the water. The swimmer has now returned to the streamlined position, and the cycle starts again.

Incidentally, the wave motion should not be overly emphasized and the swimmer should only rise until the water reaches his biceps, instead of pushing his entire torso out of the water, wasting a great deal of energy.


There are 8 common distances jumped in competitive breaststroke swimming, 4 in yards and 4 in meters. 25 yard pools are common throughout the United States and are routinely used in age group, high school and college competitions during the winter months.

25 yard pool distances
  • 25 yd
    A yard is a unit of length in several different systems including English units, Imperial units and United States customary units. It is equal to 3 feet or 36 inches...

     Breaststroke (surbanian (town/rec. teams children 10 and under, USA Swimmming children 8 and under)
  • 50 yd Breaststroke (usually age group swimming for children 12 and under)
  • 100 yd Breaststroke
  • 200 yd Breaststroke

25 meter or 50 meter pool distances
  • 25 m Breaststroke (age group and club swimming for children 10 and under, 25 meter pool only)
  • 50 m Breaststroke
  • 100 m Breaststroke
  • 200 m Breaststroke

Breaststroke is also part of the medley
Medley swimming
Medley is a combination of four different swimming styles into one race. This race is either swum by one swimmer as individual medley or by four swimmers as a medley relay...

over the following distances:
  • 100 yd Individual Medley
  • 200 yd Individual Medley
  • 400 yd Individual Medley
  • 4 × 100 yd Medley Relay

  • 100 m Individual Medley (short 25 m pool only)
  • 200 m Individual Medley
  • 400 m Individual Medley
  • 4 × 100 m Medley Relay

Occasionally other distances are swum on an ad hoc, unofficial basis (such as 400 yd Breaststroke in some college dual meets).

These are the official FINA rules. They apply to swimmers during official swimming competitions.

SW 7.1 From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and after each turn, the body shall be kept on the breast. It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time. Throughout the race the stroke cycle must be one arm stroke and one leg kick in that order.

SW 7.2 All movements of the arms shall be simultaneous and in the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.

SW 7.3 The hands shall be pushed forward together from the breast on, under, or over the water. The elbows shall be under water except for the final stroke before the turn, during the turn and for the final stroke at the finish. The hands shall be brought back on or under the surface of the water. The hands shall not be brought back beyond the hip line, except during the first stroke after the start and each turn.

SW 7.4 During each complete cycle, some part of the swimmer's head shall break the surface of the water. After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs. The head must break the surface of the water before the hands turn inward at the widest part of the second stroke. A single downward dolphin kick followed by a breaststroke kick is permitted while wholly submerged. Following which, all movements of the legs shall be simultaneous and in the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.

SW 7.5 The feet must be turned outwards during the propulsive part of the kick. A scissors, flutter or downward dolphin kick is not permitted except as in SW 7.4. Breaking the surface of the water with the feet is allowed unless followed by a downward dolphin kick.

SW 7.6 At each turn and at the finish of the race, the touch shall be made with both hands simultaneously at, above, or below the water level. The head may be submerged after the last arm pull prior to the touch, provided it breaks the surface of the water at some point during the last complete or incomplete cycle preceding the touch.




External links

  • Swim.ee: Detailed discussion of swimming techniques and speeds