Breaststroke Swimming Strokes

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

We may earn commissions for purchases made through links on our site. Learn more on our about us page.

Breaststrokes may look easy on the surface, but many people find themselves struggling in one of the phases. 

However, it is difficult to identify which phase you are unable to perform correctly without actually knowing what the phases are. So what are the breaststroke swimming strokes, and why are they important? The breaststroke contains four different stroke phases. 

This allows the swim to be broken down into four movements so that you can understand each movement and why it is important. In addition, by breaking down these phases, you can better understand where you may be struggling. 

Keep reading to learn about the four phases of the breaststroke, which one is the most important, and why you may be lacking. 


What are the Breaststroke Stroke Phases?

Out sweep

During the out sweep, your feet should remain stretched out but pressed together. At the beginning of the stroke, your hands should begin to spread out. You will keep your head in the water.

The hands will continue to stretch out with the elbows remaining straight until they are close to the shoulder line. 

Again, you will want to keep your hips at the surface with your chest and shoulders a little lower in the water. Make sure your palms are pressed outward. 


In sweep

As the out sweep is ending, you will begin to move towards performing the in-a sweep. This is where your hands are swept down and a little backward to attempt to “grab” the water. 

As the movement continues, your hips will start to sink, and your head and chest will start to rise. 

This is the ideal time to begin your exhale. However, you will also want to be aware of your elbows to ensure they aren’t moving too near the ribcage, as that can ruin your timing. 

You should have a knee bend for your legs with the feet close behind the hips. Your hips will also have a slight bend, and your toes should be pointed toward the sides of the pool. 


Breathing phase

This should always be the quickest of the phases. You should inhale as your head is pushed out of the water. 

For optimal body positioning, it is recommended that you only look about 5 feet in front of your hands. This is because looking up causes the hips to sink lower than they should at this time. 

For the breaststroke, you do want to breathe with every cycle. For most swimming strokes, you only breathe every two or three cycles, but for the breaststroke, breathing for every cycle is a good idea. 



Also known as the lunge or extension phase, this phase is where you move so you are set up to begin the out sweep again. 

Again, you will face some resistance and need a powerful kick for this portion. Again, your hands create the resistance, as they are close together, with fingers facing the pool’s far end. 

Your feet should be set to kick back. Your knees must never stretch out further than hip length. Make sure to properly complete the kick so you don’t lose the propulsion that this kick will provide. 


What is the Most Important Phase in Breaststroke?

In terms of propulsion, the in-sweep is the most important. Unfortunately, the phase is also the hardest to perform quickly, as the drag is very high and reduces maximum speed by a fair amount. 

This stroke is also what allows you to get your head fully out of the water to take a breath during the next stroke or the breathing phase. Without the proper propulsion, your head does not come out of the water enough to give you the time to take a breath. 


How Can I Diagnose the Phase that I’m Lacking?

Recording yourself during swimming is the easiest way to see what you are lacking. It allows you to watch your movements and determine areas where you may be faltering or not performing a move correctly. 

You can even compare your recording to that of a professional swimmer completing the same stroke so you can see where your moves are faltering. 

While you are swimming, it can be hard to determine where something isn’t going right. There is a lot to focus on at once, and it is easy to miss a weak stroke or a wonky leg kick. 

However, there are some key areas where you can see if you are struggling in a certain phase. 

For example, as we noted above, if you find your breathing phase isn’t allowing you to get up out of the water enough to catch a full breath, it isn’t because you are doing the breathing phase wrong, but more often the case that it is because you’re in sweep stroke is weak. 

This is often the case. If you are struggling in one area even though you feel you are doing something wrong, look at the stroke before it as well. If that one isn’t being performed correctly, it doesn’t matter how well you are doing with your current stroke, and you will struggle. 

Once you identify where you are lacking, you can then practice drills to strengthen that movement. There are drills for every part of the breaststroke and any other stroke. 

They even include drills to help strengthen the muscles in that area if needed, so no matter where you are lacking or why there are drills to help you out. 


Final Thoughts on Breaststroke Swimming Strokes

These four breaststroke phases are each important to get the whole stroke down properly. However, out of those four strokes, the one that is essential to get correct is the sweep. 

Without this done well, you not only lose a large amount of propulsion, but you also end up not being able to correctly get above the water to take a breath. 

If you are lacking in a phase, learning where you are struggling can allow you to pick the necessary swim strokes to begin improving your breaststroke.