The breaststroke is the oldest known swimming stroke used in competition. This stroke relies on symmetrical movements of the arms and legs to propel the body forward. The arm stroke and the kick alternate. So as the arms reach full extension the legs kick. The breaststroke also includes a glide phase. Good body position begins with your arms stretched to the front just below the surface palms down. Position your head between your arms and just below the surface with your face down or slightly forward. Keep your back straight and your body nearly horizontal with your hips and legs just below the surface as you stroke with your arms. Your upper body naturally rises and as your arms recover, your face reenters the water. Breathing at the wrong time can easily disrupt the smooth flow of the breaststroke repeating the phrase “Pull and Breathe, Kick and Glide” can help you remember the breathing and timing for the breaststroke.
From the glide position begin the arm stroke. As your arms and hands pull back, your head and upper body will lift naturally. Near the end of the mid pole, take a breath and start to bend your legs to prepare for the kick without pausing start to recover your arms and drive forward with your upper body. As soon as your arms reach full extension and just before you lower your head into the water. Start the power phase of your kick by pressing backward with your feet. Your upper body and arms are in the glide position before your kick ends. Slowly exhale underwater and then begin your next stroke before you begin to lose forward momentum.
Pull and breathe. Kick and glide. Pull and breathe. Kick and glide.
The arm stroke for the breaststroke is a sweeping and scooping circular motion, sweep out, pull around, sweep out, pull around. The power phase of the arm stroke looks like this: Catch, mid-pull, and finish.
The catch begins with your arms extended forward, turn your palms outward at about a 45-degree angle to the surface of the water, with your elbows slightly bent press your palms out until your hands are spread wider than your shoulders to about 11 and 1:00. During the mid-pull bend your elbows and sweep your hands down and in keep your elbows near the surface as your hands pass under your elbows so that your forearms are almost vertical. During the finish bend your elbows even more as you bring them to your sides, sweep your hands in and up until they're in front of your chest, angled slightly upward and almost touching. Speed up the movement of your hands from the start of the mid-pull to the end of the finish. Notice how the pitch of the palms changes throughout the power phase. During the mid-pull, the palms are pitched, so they are always pushing water toward the feet, helping to propel you forward.
Elbow position is also important for good forward motion throughout the power phase, your elbows stay close to the surface while your hands and forearms moved deeper than your elbows after the catch. The arm recovery is a continuous motion from the end of the power phase. After sweeping your hands together in front of your chest, your elbows should be inside the width of your shoulders with your hands together, palms pitched slightly upward, begin to extend your arms so that your hands move forward. Continue to extend your arms while rotating your wrists until your palms are down. At the end of the recovery, your arms are fully extended palms down and your body is in a streamlined position. Now watch the entire arm stroke sequence: Catch, Mid-Pull, Finish, Recovery, and Glide. When done correctly, the breaststroke kick generates more power than the arm stroke.
Begin in the glide position with your legs straight and toes pointed. Recover your legs by bending your hips and knees. Draw your heels up toward your buttocks, keeping them just under the surface. As you recover separate your knees and heels until your knees are about hip width apart and your heels are outside your knees. When your arms are at the end of their recovery flex your ankles and rotate your feet outward. From this position you are ready to begin the power phase of the kick. Keeping your feet flexed and using a continuous pushing action forcefully press your feet and knees backward until your legs are extended and your feet and ankles touch, extend your ankles and keep your legs straight while in the glide position.
Now watch the kick again to get the most forward motion from this kick. Draw your knees no farther forward than your hips and increase the speed of your feet. As you complete the pushing action for the most effective kick. Keep your feet flexed and accelerate your kick all the way to the very end. Now watch the breaststroke as a whole body position: breathing and timing, arm stroke and kick.