At first glance, breaststroke may seem easy: It’s just “frog” stroke, right? Wrong!
Breaststroke is one of the most technically challenging strokes, and while many swimmers can make it from one end of the pool to the other, their technique typically is not quite right!
Check out the 5 most common breaststroke mistakes we see from swimmers of all levels (yes, even advanced swimmers!) and how to fix them, plus a swim workout to help you improve your technique!
Timing is one of those breaststroke fundamentals that many swimmers often get wrong. Your breaststroke should start with the pull (when you’ll take a breath), then the kick and finally the glide in streamline position. It can help to actually think “pull,” “kick” and “glide” while you’re swimming!
Most swimmers get the order of pull, kick and glide correct, but where many people mess up is the pause. Many swimmers pause during their breath instead of when they’re gliding.
Think about it: In breaststroke, we want to minimize the amount of time we are out of streamline — so taking a pause during the breath (when the body is creating the most drag) is a bad move. Instead, we want to spend as much time as we can gliding. Your pull and breath should be a quick, continuous motion that gets you into the “glide” for a short, 2-second pause.
Try the 2 Kick, 1 Pull drill to work on timing!
2. Wide Kick
The kick is what separates mediocre breaststrokers from the greats. You might think that the bigger your breaststroke kick, the better. Wrong! You might be able to pull more water with a wider kick, but you’ll also reduce your overall power and increase resistance as your legs move past shoulder width.
Ideally, your knees won’t go wider than your shoulders. When you keep your legs within your bodyline, you displace less water and create less resistance for yourself. Your feet will likely extend past shoulder width, but that’s ok.
Related: Analyzing Adam Peaty’s Breaststroke
Try the SLOB (streamline on back) drill to work on your kick! Make sure your knees stay under the surface throughout the drill.
3. Large Stroke Amplitude
Breaststroke has a bit of undulation to it, but not too much. Many swimmers overdo it, which results in extra drag.
When you lift up to breathe, your hips sink. If you lift up too high, your hips are going to sink lower than they need to, which makes it hard to lunge forward quickly. You want to keep your body as tight as possible to avoid losing proper body position for too long.
This also applies to your recovery, too. When you finish your pull and push your hands forward, your hands should be right at the surface of the water. What happens if your hands are too high? You guessed it: your hips sink!
Work on your stroke amplitude with the SLOF (streamline kick on front) drill! Keep your streamline tight and stay right on the surface of the water. When you need a breath, time it as you would in full breaststroke, but don’t take a pull.
4. Dropping Elbows
If you’ve seen any of our tips for improving freestyle, you know how much we love Early Vertical Forearm (EVF). Well, EVF applies to breaststroke too!
Lots of swimmers drop their elbows on their breaststroke pull, which significantly reduces the amount of water they’re able to pull with each stroke. Instead, initiate your pull by bending at the elbows and keeping your hands in line with your forearms. Pull straight back and boom: Your arms have just become massive paddles!
Related: What is Early Vertical Forearm?
If you’re a beginner, try the Front Scull drill to work on EVF. The movement is similar to frosting a giant cake! We recommend doing this while treading water at first. As you get comfortable, you can try floating on your stomach while sculling.
If you’re more advanced, try adding resistance with a parachute, bungee cord or a power tower. The extra resistance allows you to slow down and really focus on initiating a high elbow catch.
5. Swimming Too Slowly
While freestyle is perfectly ok to swim at a slow, leisurely pace, you don’t want to do that with breaststroke. It’s much harder to slow down a short axis stroke like breaststroke without losing your stroke mechanics.
It’s better to focus on training at race pace for your breaststroke events to make sure you can maintain proper timing and technique. Plus, swimming at a higher intensity will give you a better aerobic workout! Stick to backstroke and freestyle for your cool down.
Work on breaststroke speed with the Freestyle Kick & Breaststroke Pull drill. We recommend wearing fins for this one!
Bonus Mistake: Not Following a Plan
Whether your goal is to improve technique, lose weight or get faster, heading to the pool without a plan — or sitting on the couch and just reading articles — isn’t an efficient use of your valuable time.
Related: The 5 Most Common Freestyle Mistakes
The right swim plan will help you to progress, avoiding plateaus and keeping you moving toward your goals faster. The MySwimPro app has a variety of training plans for swimmers of all levels — from beginners who can only swim a few hundred yards to advanced athletes looking to train for marathon open water swims. Download the app for free on iPhone or Android!
Breaststroke Technique Workout: Countdown Drill
Give this set a try to improve your breaststroke efficiency and distance per stroke!
8 x 25s Breaststroke – Reduce stroke count by 25 (5, 4, 3, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Start by swimming a 25 (or one length of your pool) and counting the number of strokes you take. If you choose to do a pull-out, make sure you maintain it throughout the whole set!
If you took 5 strokes, make a mental note of that. On your second 25, you’ll take 4 strokes. Repeat for the next 2 25s, until you hit just 2 strokes for the 4th 25. For the next 4 25s, you’ll go back up the ladder!
As the stroke count gets smaller, you’ll be forced to focus on your timing, glide and pull out. If you give it a try, let us know what you think!