Muscles Used During Breaststroke

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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The breaststroke isn’t the most effective or even the fastest out of all the professional swims. It is often marked as one of the slowest. So many people wonder about the point of using it, especially in non-professional settings. 

Due to the inefficiency of the breaststroke, a lot more muscles and a lot more energy are burned from doing this stroke. For non-professional swimmers, it is a great idea to use, as you get to tone and builds quite a few muscles simultaneously, just doing one stroke. 

Keep reading to learn more about the muscles used during the breaststroke and some of the more common injuries that swimmers may face. 


What Muscles Do You Use the Most with Breaststroke?

As with all swimming strokes, the breaststroke works many of the muscles throughout the body. Despite being on the lower end of the more professional strokes, it works and tones a lot of the muscles throughout your body. 

These muscles include: 


  • Back muscles
  • Chest muscles
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Brachialis
  • Brachioradialis 
  • Shoulder muscles
  • Butt muscles
  • Thigh muscles
  • Calf muscles


Those that do the breaststroke work a lot of the lower body muscles and have some of the most powerful swimming kicks out there due to their leg strength. 

This can be surprising to learn as the breaststroke is one of the slowest strokes in a competition, thanks to its lack of efficiency. 

However, that lack of efficiency can also lead to a lot of extra movement and energy expenditure, which makes it an excellent muscle and cardio workout. 


Does Swimming Breaststroke Build Muscle?

Swimming the breaststroke provides both more muscle as well as more toned muscle. It also helps decrease body fat, making your muscles stand out more and look defined. It is a great exercise for anyone that wants to lose weight because it is low-impact. 

The best part is that it doesn’t work just one set of muscles. The breaststroke works out more of your whole body’s muscles than any other stroke. So from your lower legs to your arms, many of your muscles will get worked out from swimming.

It is a highly recommended swim for beginners because it is easy to learn. You can also go at any pace, so you don’t have to perform the exercise very quickly to get the benefits. 


What Muscles Do People Injure the Most with Breaststroke?

Most of the time, swimming injuries occur in two main places. This is the legs and the arms. This is because these are the two parts of the body that face the most fatigue and repetitive motions during a swim.

Learning the most common kinds of injuries from swimming may help you learn how to reduce injuries and practice the exercises you need to build up those muscles. 



Like with most swim strokes, the shoulders are a hotspot for injury. There are various injuries that can occur at the shoulder, such as:


  • Rotator Cuff Impingement. This is when the rotator cuff gets a lot of pressure on it from the shoulder blade or the scapula as the arm is lifted. 


  • Biceps tendinitis. This is when the tendon of the bicep experiences swelling that can be painful. 


  • Instability of the shoulder. This is where the shoulder joint and the surrounding structures don’t work properly to keep the bone in the right place within the socket. Many swimmers will often experience fatigue in the muscles around this area. 




  • Knee injuries. This can include an injury to ligaments or tendons. This is often called the breaststroker’s knee due to how common the injury is from that particular swim stroke. 


  • Hip pain. Often caused by swelling of the tendons in the hip. 


  • Back issues. This often encompasses injuries such as disk problems in the lower back or spondylolysis (an injury between the spine and pelvis areas). The latter is often found in those that use the dolphin kick. 


To help strengthen these muscles and reduce the chance of injuries, you can always build them up outside of swimming through various forms of exercise. 

For example, exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and rotation pulls, can help work out and strengthen the shoulders while not straining them too much. 

For the leg muscles, lunges and squats are never a bad idea. They work the thigh, hamstring, and calf muscles all at once so you can get the most out of your exercise.

To further prevent these injuries, it is best to use a good stroke technique and to focus on rehabilitation efforts when an injury does occur. 

If these injuries persist, it may be time to practice learning a different stroke for a while. Or, you can consult with a medical professional to discuss strengthening exercises and prevention strategies. 

Some people suggest practicing core strengthening and cross-training exercises as well, especially before the swim season starts and early on. 

This can help keep your core strong and allow you to do most of the swimming correctly without any problem or over-extending of the arms or legs. 

While it might seem counterintuitive to work the muscles where injuries occur, there is a good reason for this. Stronger muscles can handle the fatigue more and don’t give out nearly as quickly as weaker muscles do. 

Weaker muscles are usually the first to give up and face injury, so it is important to work the muscles that the breaststroke needs to perform correctly so that they can handle the stress of the repetitive motions. 


Final Thoughts on Muscles Used During Breaststroke 

The breaststroke is highly recommended for beginners due to its ease of use and power. It is not the most efficient or fastest of the professional strokes, but it is perfect for beginners or those just looking for a little exercise. 

This is because it allows you to burn through your fat and tone your muscles. 

Though there are some injuries that are possible from swimming too much, gentle muscle-building exercises can make a difference and help you get the strength you need to perform the breaststroke correctly.