How to Improve Breaststroke

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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Learning how to improve your breaststroke isn’t easy. It is one of the first ones ever taught to kids and inexperienced swimmers, so many people think that it is an easy stroke to learn. However, as you have realized by now, that isn’t the case. 

Like any other swim, the breaststroke requires a perfect blend of strength, power, and timing. If something in your stroke isn’t quite right, you may not do nearly as well as you want. 

Keep reading to learn more about the difficulties of the breaststroke, as well as how to improve the movements and get better. 


Why is Breaststroke so Hard?

Though technically, this isn’t one of the hardest strokes to learn, a lot of people seem to find that they struggled with this swim a lot more than with others. 

The common denominator seems to be the kick. While some people can pick up a flutter kick or dolphin kick easily, the frog-like kick of the breaststroke takes a lot of strength. 

Most of the breaststroke is done above water. It is one of the reasons it is widely taught. 

You can go as fast or slow as you want and keep your head relatively up out of the water. However, this means that we aren’t reducing drag, which means that every stroke we perform involves fighting against the water. 

These reasons can make it hard to learn and to do in practice. However, just like with any other stroke or skill, all you need is some practice before you start seeing a vast improvement. 


How Can You Get Better at Breaststroke?

Getting better at the breaststroke first involves learning how to diagnose where you are having an issue. Maybe you already know that your kick is weak or that you aren’t able to get the arm movement right, and that’s great! 

However, if you aren’t sure where you are going wrong, that’s pretty normal and understandable as well. If this is the case, see if you can get someone to watch you who has a little experience with the stroke. 

If that isn’t possible, try to record yourself. Then, you can go back and watch your swim to see where you are faltering. You should be able to see areas where your movements are weak or where you seem to be struggling. 

Still can’t figure it out? Don’t worry. The next step would be to compare your swim to a professional swimmer. If you can, compare them side-by-side and slow down so you are able to understand where your stroke is lacking. 

Once you figure that out, the next step is to practice. Build up your strength and muscle memory by practicing a variety of drills and continuing to work on your stroke as a whole. 

If you find you don’t have a lot of strength and are getting tired easily, perhaps look at doing some strength training out of the water as well. 


What’s Preventing You From Improving the Breaststroke?

If you are practicing and doing drills but still can’t see an improvement in your breaststroke.



A lot of the time, people overlook their turns when trying to figure out where to improve. Your turns on the wall provide a lot of momentum and are a great way to shave off a few seconds. 

While it is just a quick turn on the wall, ensuring you have the right timing and movement can help you improve your stroke. 

The best way to start a turn at the wall is to try to go to the wall while also remaining as flat as possible. This is also what you want to do when leaving the wall, as it allows you to get the speed you want. 

The strokes following leaving the wall are ones you want to be almost perfect as well, as they will allow you to make the most of the momentum you just built up. 


Dropping elbows

When doing the breaststroke, you may notice that you drop your elbows during the arm movements, specifically in the pull phase. This reduces the amount of water you can pull with your stroke by a significant amount. 

Instead of dropping your elbows, try to instead bend them and then pull straight back. Then you will find that your arms do a much better job at pulling water. 

If you are having problems learning how to keep your elbows in the correct place, there is a drill known as the Front Scull that is dedicated to teaching you this exact movement. 


Too fast

Many people with professional coaches have learned that their timing is a big problem. Too often, a swimmer will be very fast in the first lap and find all of their laps slowing down significantly after that. 

They have learned that by reducing the speed in your first lap by a second or two, you can get consistent swim times and improve your timing overall. 

While it may seem counterintuitive, slowing down just a couple of seconds in that first lap can improve your times. 

This is because you are no longer fatigued or like you have pushed yourself too hard in the first swim and can instead focus on consistent and even movements throughout every lap. 


Too wide

Though we compared the leg movement to frog kicks above, that is exactly what you don’t want to do with the breaststroke. You never want your legs to be wider than shoulder-width apart when performing this kick. 

Doing so will reduce your power and increase the resistance against your legs, which will tire you out and make it harder to get the force you need. 

Your feet can go outside of the shoulder-width limit, but your knees should never go further. If you are struggling with this, practice the Streamline on Back (SLOB) drills to better understand the movement. 


Final Thoughts on How to Improve Breaststroke

Though it is often labeled as the easiest stroke, the breaststroke isn’t easy for everyone. Some people find that even the butterfly is easier than this one, depending on where they excel the most. 

The kick of the breaststroke seems to be where most people struggle. However, other problems can cause your stroke to slow down or not be as smooth as you would like. 

Now that you know some tips and tricks, it’s time to get back to practicing!