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Breaststroke is a swimming style in which the swimmer is on their chest and the torso does not rotate. It is the most popular recreational style due to the swimmer's head being out of the water a large portion of the time, and that it can be swum comfortably at slow speeds. In most swimming classes, beginners learn either the breaststroke or the front crawl first. However, at the competitive level, swimming breaststroke at speed requires comparable endurance and strength to other strokes. Some people refer to breaststroke as the "frog" stroke, as the arms and legs move somewhat like a frog swimming in the water.

The first time the breaststroke was raced at the Olympics was in 1904. Those Games, based in St. Louis, were remarkable for the fact it was the first time the breaststroke was raced, but it was also the only Olympics that was held in yards. That first breaststroke race was held over a distance of 440 yards.


  • Body position: Keep your body flat and lie facing down in the water with your body kept in line with the water surface.
  • Arm movement:There are three steps in arm movement:
  1. The Catch: With arms out straight and palms facing downwards, press down and out at the same time.
  2. Pull: With elbows elevated above hands, pull hard towards your chest. The pull should have an accelerating hand movement pressing back and downward by the palm and forearms.
  3. Recovery: Join both palms together in a prayer like fashion in front of your chest and push out until your arms are straight again. This position helps reduce drag when pushing against the water.
  • Breathing Technique: Lift your head and neck above water at the end of the pulling movement for a breath. In the recovery phase, exhale bubbles in the water whilst your hands are pushed forward.
  • Leg Action: Starting with your legs straightened, bend your knees to bring your heel towards your bottom and make a circular motion outwards with your feet until they return to the starting position. When your knees are being bent, your feet should be below the water surface and shoulder width apart.
  • Learn to Glide: After executing the breaststroke kick, your body should be in a streamlined position with your arms and legs straightened. Stay in this position for one to two seconds as the forward propulsion by your legs should allow you to “glide” forward. 

Competitions: There are 8 common distances jumped in competitive breaststroke swimming, 4 in yards and 4 in meters. 25-yard pools are common in the United States.

  • 50 yd Breaststroke (age group swimming for children 12 and under)
  • 25 yd Breaststroke (age group and club swimming for children 8 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 8 and under, 25 meter pool only, and not swum in year-around swimming)

  • 50 m Breaststroke(age group and club swimming for children 12 and under)
  • 100 m Breaststroke
  • 200 m Breaststroke

Breaststroke is also part of the medley over the following distances:

  • 100 yd Individual Medley
  • 200 yd Individual Medley
  • 400 yd Individual Medley
  • 4 × 50 yd Medley Relay
  • 4 × 100 yd Medley Relay
  • 100 m Individual Medley (short 25 m pool only)
  • 200 m Individual Medley
  • 400 m Individual Medley
  • 4 × 50 m Medley Relay
  • 4 × 100 m Medley Relay

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

  1. After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs during which the swimmer may be submerged. At any time prior to the first Breaststroke kick after the start and after each turn a single butterfly kick is permitted.
  2. From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and after each turn, the body shall be on the breast. It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time. From the start and throughout the race the stroke cycle must be one arm stroke and one leg kick in that order. All movements of the arms shall be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.
  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.
  4. During each complete cycle, some part of the swimmer's head must break the surface of the water. The head must break the surface of the water before the hands turn inward at the widest part of the second stroke. All movements of the legs shall be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.
  5. The feet must be turned outwards during the propulsive part of the kick. A scissors, flutter or downward butterfly kick is not permitted except as mentioned in rule 1. Breaking the surface of the water with the feet is allowed unless followed by a downward butterfly kick.
  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.



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