Ready to drop time in your 100 breaststroke? It’s time to put in the work!
Whether you want to drop a full 10 seconds or you’re aiming to drop one second, these tips are just what you need to improve your stroke efficiency and unlock that extra boost of speed. Try the swim workout at the end of this article to put our advice into practice!
1. The Pull Out
In freestyle, backstroke and butterfly, you rely on dolphin kicking to carry extra speed off the wall or off the dive. In breaststroke, you have the pull out.
After pushing off the wall in streamline, you get one full arm pull and one dolphin kick before you have to kick up to the surface and start your breaststroke.
Think of the pull out as a “freebie” – whatever additional momentum or distance you get in the pull out is yours for the taking, and can make a huge difference in your overall race time.
The harder you push off the wall, the faster your momentum. Other than your start, you won’t go any faster in your race than right off the wall, so take advantage of that. Work on maintaining good body position in streamline to reduce drag:
- Head Position: Look straight down. This will help keep your hips in proper position, too.
- Arm Position: After the big pull down, keep your arms tight to your sides. When you bring your hands up to the streamline position, try to keep them close to your torso to reduce drag even further.
- Dolphin Kick: Take a big kick, but not too big. Try to keep the amplitude of your kick no wider than your body.
As you get tired, your pull outs often get shorter and it gets harder to hold your breath and really take advantage of the extra glide. Practice good pull out technique in training so you can hold on toward the end of the 100 and 200 breaststroke races!
2. The Start
Similar to your pull outs and turns, your start is a great opportunity to carry extra momentum into your swimming.
The air surrounding you on the blocks is less dense than water, so you’ll move much faster during your start, and can bring that speed into the first length of your race with a solid streamline and pull out.
If you watch elite breaststroke swimmers, their starts are so strong that they may only take three or four strokes in the first length of a short course race. That’s a testament to their technique! Get more tips for your start >
Whether or not you’re competing, technique is key to improving your efficiency and speed in breaststroke. When you improve your streamline, stroke timing, kick mechanics and distance per stroke, you’ll start seeing the seconds drop!
Streamline is the foundation of everything you do in swimming. It’s always important after a dive or off each wall, but in breaststroke, you spend a fraction of a second in streamline between each stroke as well.
Related: How to Swim Breaststroke with Perfect Technique
Breaststroke creates a lot of resistance, so the more you can maximize that short glide between strokes, the faster you’ll swim.
Breaststroke timing can be challenging to master. When you swim, think “pull, kick, glide.” As you pull, you’ll take your breath. Then, as your hands begin to shoot forward, you’ll complete your kick and glide in streamline for a moment.
It might feel counterintuitive to spend time just gliding in streamline, but trust us…you don’t want to skip the glide! Streamline is more efficient than the breaststroke stroke, so take advantage of it!
Oftentimes we see swimmers doing a wide breaststroke kick, thinking that the wider their legs, the more powerful their kick. That’s not true! When your legs widen beyond your bodyline, you create more drag for yourself and it’s harder to snap your legs back together.
Instead, keep your kick narrow – no wider than your shoulders. Focus on driving your heels to your butt and snapping them back together powerfully.
It’s also important to maintain your bodyline while you kick. To practice your kick mechanics, try doing breaststroke kick in streamline on your back. Try to keep your knees under the surface of the water!
Maximum Distance Per Stroke (MDPS)
Distance per stroke is all about efficiency. Instead of trying to take as many strokes as possible per length, think about taking fewer, more powerful strokes. If you diligently work on technique and build strength, your distance per stroke will increase.
Related: How to Improve Distance Per Stroke
If you watch the best breaststrokers in the world, they don’t take too many strokes per length, especially in short course pools. This is due to a strong pull out and very powerful, efficient strokes.
4. The Swimming Equation
If you’re a swim nerd, try playing with the swimming equation to calculate your potential race time based on your underwater time and overwater time for a given distance. Here’s how it breaks down:
ST = S + (UT + TT) + (CC*SR)
- ST: Swimming Time, in seconds. This is your race time!
- S: Start (Reaction Time + Airtime), in seconds
- UT: Underwater Time, or how long you spend underwater after the start or turn
- TT: Turn Time, or the length of time between when you touch to when you push off again, in seconds
- CC: Cycle Count, or the number of strokes you take
- SR: Stroke Rate, or the number of seconds it takes you to take one stroke
Choose a goal time, or the amount of time you’d like to drop – let’s say one second in the 50 breaststroke. Looking at the equation, where can you shave off extra time? You might be able to shave off .2 seconds in your underwater time and turn time, and can drop the remaining .8 seconds by taking one less stroke per length but maintaining tempo.
Play with the formula to see what’s possible! Learn more about the swimming equation here.
5. Breaststroke Training
Breaststroke is a short axis stroke, and your training for breaststroke will look a bit different than training for a long axis stroke like freestyle or backstroke. Short axis strokes require you to swim lower in the water, which fatigues you much faster.
In training, this means that you should take advantage of breaststroke sets and focus on speed and power to maximize your time.
It’s much easier to swim freestyle or backstroke at an easy pace, because your body will naturally stay higher in the water due to your body position and rotation. That’s not the case in breaststroke. Swimming at a leisurely pace is much tougher. Instead, work on shorter sets at race pace, with technique as a high priority.
Try This Breaststroke Workout
This workout challenges your breaststroke speed. Determine your goal 200 pace prior to starting the main set. In each set of 50s, your goal time will be a variation of your 200 pace, plus or minus a second or two.
In the cool down set, you’ll work on distance per stroke with a “countdown” set. Determine your stroke count for a 25, and subtract one stroke per 25 until you can’t make it anymore. Then, build back up to your starting number!
- Distance: 2,000 yards/meters
- Duration: Approx. 60 minutes
- 1 x 200 Freestyle @ 3:30 Easy
- 4 x 50 Breaststroke Kick @ 1:00 Streamline on back
- 1 x 100 IM @ 2:00
- 4 x 25 Drill @ :40 2 Kicks, 1 Pull
- 4 x 25 Breaststroke @ :30 Descend
- 6 x 50 Breaststroke @ 1:00 200 pace +1 sec
- 100 Freestyle @ 2:00 Easy
- 4 x 50 Breaststroke @ 1:10 200 pace
- 100 Freestyle @ 2:00 Easy
- 2 x 50 Breaststroke @ 1:20 200 pace -1 sec
- 100 Freestyle @ 2:00 Easy
- 1 x 50 Breaststroke @ 1:30 200 pace -2 sec
- 10 x 25 Breaststroke @ :45 Countdown (Example: 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
- 1 x 100 Freestyle @ 1:30 Easy
For more workouts like this, download the MySwimPro app! Improve your breaststroke technique with a personalized Workout of the Day, Training Plans and Technique Videos.
When I swam competitively (in the 60s), we would be disqualified if water went over our head when swimming breaststroke – so we swam very flat in the water. We also could not add the dolphin kick to the pull-out. How do I learn to do the “newer” style of breaststroke — with the chest coming higher out of the water and then going under water with the glide? If I can only accomplish one of those changes in my stroke, which one would be most effective? Are there drills to get more of the glide portion to be underwater? Does the dolphin kick come as the first movement in the glide portion of the pull out, before the pull?