What Are the Steps to the Breaststroke?

Take a breath when your hands are in front of your body.

Take a breath when your hands are in front of your body.

Pulling, kicking, gliding, breathing ... these are just some of the techniques you'll use when swimming the breaststroke. Even if you're an expert multi-tasker, remembering when to take your head out of the water and when to turn your feet out, for example, can be tricky. Learn each step of the breaststroke carefully so you can start swimming like a pro.

Swimming the Breaststroke

Step 1

Dive into the pool with your legs pressed tightly together and your arms outstretched, one hand on top of the other, in a tight line.

Step 2

Sweep your arms out to the sides in a wide arc once you've held the streamlined position for two to three seconds. Keep your hands cupped and palms facing away from each other, and pull all the way down past your hips. Just after you begin the pulling motion, you may complete one dolphin kick. Keep your legs pressed tightly together and kick down with a forceful motion that starts in your hips and travels down your legs and to your feet. The dolphin kick is optional but will boost your speed.

Step 3

Pull your arms under your body and out in front of you in a streamlined position, while simultaneously completing a kick. Bend your knees and point your feet outward, away from your body, as you bring your legs toward your buttocks. Don't let your knees sink too low, as this will cause drag. Quickly sweep your legs out simultaneously in a circular motion and bring them back together to the initial, straight-leg position.

Step 4

Glide for one to two seconds with your arms straight in front of you and your legs straight behind you.

Step 5

Take your first full stroke. Pull your hands in underneath you and towards your chest, with your hands closed and palms facing your body. Push your hands out in front of you but do not lift them out of the water. Simultaneously use your chest to pull your head out of the water. Make sure not to use your neck alone to lift your head, as this may strain your neck.

Step 6

Take a quick breath and return your head to the water as your arms push out into a streamlined position.

Step 7

Perform another breaststroke kick as your head is returning to the water, followed by a one- to two-second glide.

Step 8

Repeat steps 5 through 7 until you reach the other side of the pool. As you push your arms out in front of you, strike the wall during your pull or streamline. Use your fingertips or palms, hitting the wall with both hands at the same time.

Swimming the Breastsroke: Turns

Step 1

Pull your legs underneath your body and rotate your body sideways.

Step 2

Push your nondominant hand in front of you, toward the other side of the pool.

Step 3

Lift your dominant hand out of the water and over your head, allowing it to land on top of your nondominant hand in a streamline position.

Step 4

Push off the wall hard with both legs, gliding underwater. Extend your arms in front of you in a streamline position.

Step 5

Repeat steps 2 through 8 of the previous section until you reach the other end of the pool.


  • Always warm up and cool down before and after swimming, respectively. Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after swimming the breaststroke to stay hydrated.


  • Always swim with at least one other person in the pool area for safety. If you become exhausted, find that you are in pain, or start to hyperventilate, immediately exit the pool and rest.

About the Author

Natasha Hochlowski holds a dual B.S. in chemistry and writing from Loyola University Maryland. She has been writing professionally since 2007, frequently contributing to "The Journal of Young Investigators," and has worked as a technical writer/editor for several major pharmaceutical companies.

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