Breaststroke Drills

If you are looking for drills then here is the place. We have included some drills that we feel are the most crucial to your development. If you are just starting out and learning the stroke then head over to our how to teach breaststroke page here. This will have the progression on how to learn the stroke. For those that can swim the stroke reasonably well then lets get into it!

1 Arm Stroke, Multiple Kicks

This breaststroke drill can be done as a single drill or broken up into a series of drills. It can also be a major part of your breaststroke workouts. The purpose of this drill is to build up the legs as they will be doing most of the work. In order to explain this drill we will describe it as a 100m workout.

  • 1. In order to complete this drill you will swim one 25m lap of normal breaststroke.
  • 2. During the next 25m complete 1 full breaststroke cycle i.e. 1 arm stroke and 1 kick. Then while in a streamlined position under water complete another kick. This is essentially 1 arm stroke and 2 kicks
  • 3. For the next 25m you are going to do the exactly same sequence but instead of 2 kicks you will perform 3 kicks. In the video below you can see that it is performed by completing 1 normal arm stroke and kick and then completing the next series of kicks under water.
  • 4. For the last 25m you will perform 1 arm stroke and 4 kicks. This can be tough as you may be tired and you now need to hold your breath for longer.
    This drill gets you into a streamlined position after each stroke. This is important as it helps get your hips up and reduces resistance. It also trains your kick as your legs are doing most of the work. Often in a 100m race your legs are the first to fatigue but here you are training them to do more work in the last 25m of the race.

Coaching Points:

  • Make sure you are in a streamlined position when you are performing your kicks.
  • Don’t rush your kicks. Ensure they are long and powerful.
  • If you find it too hard to hold your breath then just keep it at 2 or 3 kicks rather than 4.

1 Kick, Multiple Arms

This drill is the reverse of the 1 arm, multiple kick drill. It is used for the purpose of training your arms to do more work the longer you swim the stroke. We will explain this drill as a 100m workout like we did above.

  • 1. Swim 25m of normal breaststroke
  • 2. During the next 25m complete 1 full cycle and then perform another arm stroke. This means you perform 2 arm strokes per 1 leg kick. Feel free to perform a dolphin kick when you complete the extra arm stroke.
  • 3. For the next 25m you will perform 3 arm strokes per 1 leg kick
  • 4. The last 25m will be 4 arm strokes per 1 leg kick

If you work on the above 2 drills you will be training both the arms and the legs to be strong during the latter part of your races.

Coaching Points

  • As you push your arms forward to complete each arm stroke, push your hips up.
  • Don’t rush your arm strokes, ensure you finish each one off completely.

Breaststroke Under The Ropes

This is a crucial drill and I encourage everyone to complete this if possible. Whichever technique you use it is important to extend out fully and keep your hips nice and high throughout each stroke. If you don’t get your head down for each stroke it makes it very difficult to stop your hips and legs from dropping. Once this happens your resistance against the water increases dramatically and it slows you down. This drill teaches you to get your head down after each stroke and also push your hips up. Here is how to do it:

  • 1. You are going to begin in the middle of a lane and complete 1 full stroke across the lane
  • 2. As you push forward in the stroke you should be under the lane rope.
  • 3. As you complete your kick push your hips up so that they lightly touch the lane rope
  •  4. Continue this across the pool so that for each stroke you swim under a lane rope.

Coaching Points

  • If your head hit the lane rope then it isn’t getting low enough. Ensure you extend out fully in a streamline position after each stroke.
  • Try to swim normally. It is common to try and over-glide. Be confident that each stroke you will be in the middle of a particular lane.

Breaststroke On Your Back

Now this sounds strange I know but it can actually be effective. This is not an overly stressful drill but it can be very useful. You can use this drill for 2 main reasons; 1. To give a beginner a better feeling for the water and an understanding of how they propel themselves forward and 2. For swimmers that raise their knees too far towards their chest it gets them to bend from the knees rather than the hips. To complete this drill:

  • 1. Push off on your back with your hands in a streamlined position
  • 2. Begin the out-sweep with the hands (ensure the palms are facing outwards)
  • 3. Once you have completed the out-sweep the hands and arms begin to leave the water
  • 4. Initiate the kicking action. Ensure that you bend from the knees. If you are bending from the hips your knees will break the surface of the water. Try to ensure this doesn’t happen.
  • 5. Complete the arm stroke and kick and return to a streamlined position

Coaching Points

  • It is common to have an over exaggerated out-sweep. Even though you are on your back, try to keep the shape of the arm stroke the same
  • You knees MUST not break the surface of the water.

1 On Top, 1 Under

A common drill that allows you extend after each stroke and keeps you on top of the water. To complete this drill:

  • 1. Swim 1 normal breaststroke cycle, 1 arm stroke, 1 breath and 1 kick.
  • 2. Your next stroke will be underwater with no breath (only just under the water)
  • 3. Return to a normal stroke
  • 4. Repeat another stroke underwater
  • 5. Repeat

Coaching Points

  • This will not work if after your normal cycle your head has broken the surface. Ensure that you complete your stroke and that you are just below the surface of the water.
  • It is OK if you break the surface of the water in the stroke with no breath, but you must begin the stroke from an underwater position.

Breaststroke Arms, Butterfly Kick

This is a great drill that helps you with your body position and speed. The drill is exactly what it says; swim normal breaststroke but with a butterfly kick instead of a breaststroke kick. Try and do this quickly but still extend fully to finish the stroke.

Coaching Points

  • If struggling for timing, think about kicking down as your hands are moving forward
  • Remember to kick down AND up. This will help bring your hips up
  • Speed is important.

The above drills should really help you in the development of your breaststroke technique as well as the speed and conditioning for a race. No matter what you level of ability it is always important to continue to do drills. Drills do not all have to be slow and easy. They can be part of your normal fitness training. Because learning the breaststroke kick can be difficult for some, we have included some kick drills that will help correct some common problems. You can find the kick drills here.


USA Swimming –

American Coaches Swimming Association –

AUSTSWIM Teach Swimming Australia –

9 Responses to “Breaststroke Drills”

  1. Akmele says:

    Breaststroke under the lane ropes. That is interesting one. I will give this a try. Thanks for the tip

    • John says:

      I learned it from one of my coaches Alwyn Barrow and it helped me really extend and lengthen my stroke. Let ,e know how you go when you give it a go

  2. Simon D says:

    With you I arm multiple kick drill I am having trouble staying under the water when I do 3 and 4 kicks. I keep wanting to come up for air. Any tips on how I can stay down longer?


    • John says:

      It can sometimes be difficult Simon. The more you do it the easier it will become. One thing I can say though is to not hold your breath for long periods of time. You may need to hold your breath for a short time while you are doing the three and four kicks underwater but don’t hold it all the way. You need to make sure all your air is out when you lift your head. A common problem is to hold the breath then when lifting the head you breath out and then in. This doesn’t allow lots of time to breath in. So ensure that you control your breathing and all of you air is out so that when your mouth is out of the water you only need to focus on breathing air in. Keep at it.


  3. Cynthia says:

    Love the timing drill. I notice that the main difference between my stroke and the pros is the timing. I tend to kick too early. Thanks for the tips

    • John says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      Timing is a really important and often over looked part of the stroke. Because the stroke generates so much resistance timing is so important. Glad the drill has helped you. Good luck with your swimming.


  4. Tia says:

    The “Breaststroke Arms, Butterfly Kick” drill is amazing. I only could keep up the tempo with narrow arm sweep, should I work on a wider arm sweep?
    Thanks for your tips!

  5. Geoff says:

    Tia, In my view you need to get the hands just wide of the shoulders to get an ‘anchor point’ from which to lever forwards. The trick is to, effectively, take your time to get to that ‘Y’ position and gradually accelerate the whole way through the pull including the strike of the recovery. Hope that makes sense.

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