5 Best Breaststroke Drills From a Professional Swimmer

breaststroke arms
By Maria Rezhylo
3x World record holder in swimming & swim school owner
Feb. 18, 2023
In this guide, I'll walk you through the breaststroke swimming technique and how to improve stroke efficiency for the best results.

You'll learn:
  1. Breaststroke swimming technique breakdown
  2. Drills that will improve your body position
  3. Mistakes to avoid when swimming breaststroke
  4. And more

If you're looking to improve your breaststroke and break personal records, this guide is for you.

Let's dive in!
Chapter 1

Breaststroke Swimming Technique Explained

How to Swim Breaststroke Like a Pro & Why This Stroke Is Harder Than It Looks

The breaststroke is one of four strokes of competitive swimming. This swimming stroke looks simple and effortless to spectators, making it the most attractive of the four strokes for beginner swimmers.

But not every beginner manages to swim breaststroke perfectly from the get-go. That's right, it's a more complicated stroke than you think!

The key feature of the breaststroke swimming technique is its correct timing of arm and leg movements, allowing swimmers to keep the momentum going. Additionally, the breaststroke kick is something most beginners and even advanced swimmers struggle with: its out-sweep motion is far from natural for the human body.

Before we dive into improving your technique with my breaststroke drills, let's talk about the stroke mechanics & what makes it different from other strokes.

Body Position Matters

For the majority of the stroke cycle, swimmers maintain prolonged, perfectly streamlined body position underwater. Thus, everything that happens underwater matters, and your body position will dictate how efficiently you carry speed after a leg kick.

After pushing off with the out-sweep kick, the swimmer enters a glide phase with arms extended forward, maintaining a streamline position.

At the end of the glide phase, the swimmer's upper body rises above the surface of the water, which is called the recovery phase. That's where the streamlined body position takes a hit, and, as research indicates, that's one of the non-propulsive phases of the stroke.

However, water resistance (drag) can be minimized if the swimmer keeps their lower body in a high, well-streamlined position.

Breaststroke Kick - The Longest Propulsive Phase

Leg kick is the second most powerful and the longest of propulsive phases when you swim breaststroke. Unlike other strokes, in breaststroke, a leg kick is performed in a simultaneous and symmetrical way. Breaststroke kick can be distinguished into 3 separate movement phases: heels are drawn up, feet turn outwards, and heels push back in an out-sweep action.
breaststroke kick technique
To carry the propulsion and speed, you want to get into the glide position by bringing your arms and legs close to each other, forming a streamline position. That will allow you to move forward with maximum efficiency.

Breaststroke Kick Phases

  • 1
    Heels up
    Pulling up the heels is a preparatory, non-propulsive phase. And that's where a leg kick begins: with a smooth bending of the legs at the knees.

    At the same time, hips must maintain a streamlined position. Failing to keep your hips high in the water will increase water resistance.

    In a relaxed way, feet move closer to hips and the surface of the water.

    Ideally, the knees will separate to the sides, approximately the width of the pelvis. It's important to note that the most successful breaststroke swimmers in the world keep their knees as narrow as possible.
  • 2
    Feet turns outwards
    Once the heels move up, closer to the hips. Feet and toes will simultaneously turn outward to the sides. During the kick preparation phase, the swimmer's feet and shins still rest, preparing to produce a strong kick.
  • 3
    Out-sweep wide kick
    After the preparation phase, the swimmer is ready to perform a leg kick - the longest and strongest of the propulsive phases. The breaststroke kick is performed in an out-sweep manner.

Upper Body Role in Breaststroke

We know that the breaststroke kick is one of the most important propulsive forces in the stroke, but what about the arm pull?

For a long time, the swimming community and the leading coaches thought that arm pull was not something they had to focus on. The upper body and its role in the breaststroke was minimized until the latest research discovered that "catching" the wave after the recovery phase and performing a solid arm pull improved the time in competitive breaststroke swimmers.

Thus, it's important to take time to work on your breaststroke pull and leg kick equally.

Arm Stroke Technique & Breaststroke Breathing - All You Need to Know

In a full cycle of the breaststroke pull, we can distinguish three phases: out sweep (catching the water and pulling it back), in sweep (bringing the hands together), and full extension of the arms forward.

During the breaststroke pull, the arms are simultaneously and symmetrically parted to the sides to catch and pull the water.

At the beginning of the pull, palms are rotated outwards to initiate the catch. After catching the water with the palms, the swimmer will proceed to rotate the arms down and pull the water back by bending the arms. In this phase, the breaststroke pull is similar to the butterfly, when elbows are held above the palms at 90 degrees.

As soon as the forearms approach the shoulders at the right ankle, the swimmer accelerates up in sweep-like motion. It's important to note that during this phase, swimmers should maintain a proper lower body position, keeping their hips high in the water. Failing to do so will decrease the speed. In sweep phase ends after the swimmer tucks elbows tight to the torso.

The final part of the arm pull is called recovery. During the recovery phase, the swimmer pushes the chest on the water and drives their hands forward until fully extended. Additionally, swimmers will simultaneously breathe before the recovery is over.

The key to stroke efficiency here is to catch the wave swimmer will create when pressing the chest down on the water. Once arms are fully extended, palms turn outwards to initiate the next stroke.
breaststroke pull technique
Breaststroke pull followed by a kick in slow motion.
Chapter 2

5 Best Breaststroke Drills That You Should Be Doing

Master a Narrow Breaststroke Kick With This Drill

Remember when I mentioned that the best swimmers, like World Record Holder Adam Peaty, have a very narrow breaststroke kick?

Just look at his kick.
breaststroke kick narrow
Adam Peaty's narrow kick.

Why narrow breaststroke kick? The answer is simple.

It takes less time to perform a breaststroke kick when it's narrow.

And that's exactly why Adam Peaty is so GREAT: his fast kick cycle allows him to maintain a proportionally fast arm stroke rate. If you're a sprinter, that might be what you are missing.

It's important to note that not everyone will be able to reach kick THAT narrow. But we can work towards it, right?

Breaststroke kick on the back drill instruction:

  • 1
    Start by pushing off the wall on your back in a very tight, streamlined position.
    Being on your back will give you a sense of how to perform a narrow kick without fighting extra gravity challenges.
  • 2
    Initiate your first kick while keeping your knees together.
  • 3
    If you have difficulty keeping your knees together, put a band on.
  • 4
    If you have difficulty keeping your hips high in the water, put a pull buoy between your thighs.
    That will also help you to get a significantly narrow breaststroke kick by holding a pull buoy between your thighs.
  • 5
    Start kicking and gliding for a prolonged time, as this movement is entirely new to you.
  • 6
    After you get a good grip on how to do it, increase the kick rate.

Watch Me Doing This Breaststroke Drill

Two Kicks & One Arm Pull Drill

This breaststroke drill is an excellent way to maximize distance per stroke and stroke efficiency. Two kicks allow you to figure out how to get the most out of one kick with the proper streamlined body position.

Two kicks & one arm pull drill instruction:

Pro tip: play around with how long you'll glide after each kick. It'll take some trial and error until you figure out your perfect timing. If you swim 100 or 200 breaststroke, you should maximize your travel distance with every stroke you take.

  • 1
    Start by pushing off the wall.
  • 2
    After the first pull, get into the glide position by bringing your hands forward in a streamlined position, simultaneously performing the first kick.
  • 3
    After the first kick, allow yourself to glide for a little in a streamline position. Don't rush.
  • 4
    Initiate the second kick once you feel that your speed is decreasing.
  • 5
    After the second kick, glide a little bit more.
  • 6
    While still carrying speed, break through the surface of the water and perform another arm stroke.

Watch Me Doing This Breaststroke Drill

Three Kicks & One Pull Breaststroke Drill

Among various breaststroke drills, this one is one of the best that teaches you to keep a perfect streamlined body position. Additionally, it's a great hypoxic drill that will help you to improve your breath control.

Three kicks & one pull drill instruction:

  • 1
    Start by pushing off the wall.
  • 2
    After the first pull, get into the glide position by bringing your hands forward in a streamlined position, simultaneously performing the first kick.
    The key difference from the previous drill: put one palm over another, straight elbows attached tightly to your head, behind your ears. Essentially, you are trying to get into an actual streamline.
  • 3
    Glide, and do another strong kick. Repeat until you get three kicks in.
  • 4
    Keep going through the same cycle until you reach another end of the pool.

Watch Me Doing This Breaststroke Drill

Freestyle Kick & Breaststroke Pull Drill

Breaststroke pull is one of the most complicated stroke phases, where most swimmers lose all their speed. This drill is perfect for fixing. Continuous flutter kick will give you a good sense of keeping the momentum going, even when your upper body is out of the water.

Propulsion from the flutter kick will give an extra push to drive your upper body forward aggressively, ultimately creating a stronger wave to catch with the next pull.

Freestyle Kick & Breaststroke Pull Drill instruction:

To make it easier, I recommend starting with the fins and dropping them off when you are more familiar with this drill.

  • 1
    Start by pushing off the wall.
  • 2
    Start flutter kick a little earlier than you reach the surface of the water.
    I prefer to do it this way because it lets me get the kick's rhythm before breaking the water's surface.
  • 3
    Initiate your first pull while simultaneously doing a flutter kick.
    Listen to me: DO NOT STOP KICKING.
    Keep the freestyle kick strong and consistent.
  • 4
    Allow your freestyle kick to carry you through the recovery by relaxing your upper body muscles.
    Arm movements should be effortless, and all the power should come from your kick.
  • 5
    Keep your hips high in the water.
    I know it's hard to keep your lower body nice and high in the water, and the art of it will come with time and practice. Improving technique is a long journey, especially for breaststroke.

    Pro tip: if you struggle with lower body position, add a pull buoy for extra support.
  • 6
    Increase stroke rate after some time.
    As with any new breaststroke drill, you shouldn't rush through the movements. Instead, focus on the little details of a drill.

    Once comfortable with it, increase your hand speed while keeping a great form.

Watch Me Doing This Breaststroke Drill

Two Strokes Of Butterfly Followed By Two Breaststroke Pulls

I mentioned earlier that certain phases of the breaststroke pull have a direct similarity with the butterfly. Let me show you my example.
breaststroke drills
This is me swimming butterfly
arm stroke drills
This is me swimming breaststroke
If you look closely, you can see that in breaststroke, arms perform the same movements as in butterfly until a certain point. The only difference is the length of the pull and, obviously, the recovery pattern.

Many people like to do a breaststroke pull and dolphin kick drill. And while it's an EXCELLENT drill, the following one is the mix of both words. It combines a butterfly kick, breaststroke pull, and two additional butterfly strokes.

The butterfly pull in this sequence gives a sense of a good water catch that should be transitioned to a regular breaststroke pull. And, of course, the butterfly kick gives you a stronger momentum to drive your shoulders forward and press your chest on the water harder. Ultimately, it creates a tremendous wave to catch with a significantly more efficient breaststroke pull.

Let me show you how to do this drill!

Butterfly And Breaststroke Combo Drill instruction:

To make this drill easier, I recommend starting with the fins.

  • 1
    Start by pushing off the wall.
  • 2
    Do two strokes of butterfly.
  • 3
    Follow the butterfly with two breaststroke strokes.
    Keep the dolphin kick, and allow it to carry your arms forward aggressively.

    Pro tip: if your hips are sinking, add a pull buoy.
  • 4
    Repeat the sequence.

Watch Me Doing This Breaststroke Drill

Bonus: Maximize Your Breaststroke Pullout With This Drill

All the basic breaststroke drills that covered focused on the swimming part of the stroke. Now, let's focus on another important phase of your breaststroke swimming -- pullouts.

Pullouts are an incredible asset when swimming breaststroke. It can make or break your entire race. And if you primarily compete in the short course yard or meters, I would focus on perfecting my pullouts more than actual swimming. That's how important it is.

How do you make your pullouts stand out? You perfect your butterfly kick and make your arms pull stronger while maintaining a good body alignment.

Let's focus on making you travel further in the water with this drill.

Powerful Pullouts: Drill That Will Make You Travel Further With Every Pullout

For this drill, we will add some additional resistance.

You'll need: paddles, a parachute, a sponge, or drag socks. This drill can also be performed with the power bucket.

  • 1
    Push off the wall in a nice and streamlined position.
    Keep your spine straight and your head completely neutral.
  • 2
    After a short glide, pick up the speed and propulsion you're carrying from the wall with a strong butterfly kick.
  • 3
    Continue moving through the water by getting a good pull-down with your arms.
  • 4
    Simultaneously, continue to carry the speed with a strong kick and recover your arms forward until fully extended.
    Arm movements should be effortless, and all the power should come from your kick.
  • 5
    Don't break through the surface of the water.
    Continue going through the cycle of breaststroke pullouts until you get to another side of the pool OR run out of air.
Throughout this drill, you'll notice that it's extremely hard to go through the usual sequence of a pullout due to additional resistance.

And that's good.

Watch Me Doing This Breaststroke Drill

Resistance Training And Its Importance In Breaststroke

Added resistance like parachutes, power buckets, drag socks, sponges, and paddles helps us develop a swimming-specific power. In addition, swimming regular breaststroke after removing the resistance can enhance your feel for the water.

So, add resistance.

Add resistance when you swim regular breaststroke.

Breaststroke drills got too easy? Add resistance.

I promise it'll only improve your overall swimming.


Of all four strokes, breaststroke was and still is my favorite. In fact, it used to be my prime stroke throughout my professional and college swimming career.

As a competitive athlete, I always searched for quality content on how to swim breaststroke faster. And it was a struggle.

I hope my breaststroke guide helped you or, at least, made you a little bit excited to try out something new at the pool.

I want to hear from you! What drill are you going to try first? Have I missed any quality breaststroke drills? Let me know in the comments below!
drills for breaststroke