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An efficient stroke will significantly reduce wasted energy output through less drag in the water and a cleaner execution of hand and arm entry and recovery. When considering a swimming technique for any stroke, the analysis should follow the format described below, in this order:

  • 1. Leg kick
  • 2. Arm cycle
  • 3. Timing
  • 4. Breathing

The leg kick will control the body position in the water, while the arm cycle will provide the propulsive force. The timing between the two is vital to the efficiency of the given stroke to provide a greater speed through the water with minimum wasted energy.

Finally, breathing technique should be analysed to ensure that when you breathe, your overall technique is not disrupted in any way that would cause a breakdown of efficiency.


Like the butterfly, it is controlled by the efficient timing of the leg kick and arm cycle.

The arm cycle

Reach & Glide

Both hands, thumbs together, reach forward, fully extending the arm at the elbow (the leg kick starts to push back to continue the forward movement). The arms will stay in this position until the kick is completed by the feet touching.

Out Sweep

The hands rotate laterally, cupped to catch the water and press laterally with slight flexion of the arm at the elbow.

In Sweep

The arms flex at the elbow as the press on the water is turned medially towards the chest (the legs flex at the knee and hips to prepare for the kick).


Once at the chest, the hands meet in the centre, elbows flexed close to the chest to reduce drag, and recover together over the water at the beginning, but then dive into the reach and glide.

Article Reference

The information on this page is adapted from Coulson (2000)[1] with the kind permission of Electric Word plc.


  1. COULSON, M. (2000) Here's an overview of the basics of technique for all strokes and specific training needs. Peak Performance, 135, p. 6-8

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2003) Breaststroke [WWW] Available from: [Accessed