Breaststroke Kick

Breaststroke kick is so different to the other competitive strokes that many people struggle to perform the correct technique. There are some common problems that the majority of people do when learning how to do the kick so we have dedicated this page to how to best correct them. There are only 3 main problems that occur through the learning stage.

Common Problem 1 – Toes pointed towards the sky

Normally the first stroke learnt is freestyle or front crawl, then backstroke. This is a natural progression for a beginner as they are the easiest to learn. The kick in these 2 strokes pushes the water with the top and bottom of the feet. This causes a problem for learning the breaststroke kick. In breaststroke you actually push the water with the inside of the feet and as a result need to pull your toes towards your shins and turn your feet outwards. Becoming uses to freestyle and back stroke kick the beginner often will not do this and when they bring their heels up for the kick their toes are pointed towards the sky.


This is the hardest problem to overcome. Once you have corrected this, the rest will come quickly. In order to correct this you need to get them out of the pool and walk them through it step by step. As they bring their heels up to their buttocks slowly push their feet down so that they are flat at the top. Then ask them to turn their feet outwards. Next ask them to kick around. Touch them on the inside of the foot so they understand where the sensation should be.

After this perform the exact same sequence but in the water. You may need to support them with a floatable device so they can simply focus on the kick. Do this in a stationary position first, then moving forward for each kick. Take your time with this. Once this is mastered the swimmer will begin to progress quickly.

Common Problem 2 – Hips Flexing

Part of the kicking technique is to first bring the heels up to the buttocks. Now the best way to do this is to flex from the knees and bring the heels to the buttocks. One common, incorrect way to do it is to flex from the hips and bring the knees to the chest. This causes lots of resistance and also makes it very difficult to get any propulsion from the kick.


The best way to correct this is kick on your back. As you can see in the video below, put the hands out in a streamlined position on your back and simply kick away. If you bring your knees to your chest your knees will come out of the water, so the goal is to keep the knees under the water. This gives you the sensation of using your hamstrings. If you or your beginner is struggling to stay afloat it is ok to hang on to a kickboard out in front or across the chest. Some people hold the kickboard over the knees but we have found that this can cause the hips to drop. Once you get a feeling for this then try it again on the front. When swimming breaststroke normally there is SOME flexion of the hips but you need to try and minimize this. This drill will really help.

Common Problem 3 – Knees Outside Feet

The final common problem is that during the propulsion part of the kick, they allow the knees to point outwards and they actually become wider than the feet. This stops all power in the kick and you will see the feet and hips sink quickly. The goal in breaststroke kick is to get the feet outside the knees. This allows the feet, lower leg and groins to produce lots of power.


We are again going to get you to kick on your back. Again you can do this with or without a kickboard. There is one major difference with this drill than the one above. You are going to kick with your knees together. At no stage are your knees to come apart and you need to focus on kicking your feet outside the line of your knees. You will move very slowly with this drill but it will give you the sensation you need. Once you are comfortable then move back to kicking on your front and try to kick your feet outside your knees


You can find a full progression on how to teach or learn breaststroke here

Find more breaststroke drills here



GoSwim –


12 Responses to “Breaststroke Kick”

  1. Jonah says:

    I have difficulty getting power out of my kick. My technique seems to be ok but I just don’t get the propulsion that other swimmers in my group get. Would it be my leg strength or could it be something else?

    Any help would be appreciated

    • John says:

      Hi Jonah

      It is hard to say exactly without seeing your kick in action…..but if you think your technique is ok then it could be your body position. Breaststroke generates lots of resistance especially if you don’t get into a streamlined position after each stroke. You need to not only kick you feet together but you need to kick them back and UP. Your ankles should finish near the top of the surface after each kick.

      If you don’t do this then you legs end up pointing downwards and the force your kick generates pushes you up rather than forwards. This has a large impact on the speed at which you can kick. Give this a go and let me know. Alternatively you could take some video and either upload it to youtube and I can view it and give you advice or you could send it to me.

      Thanks for the question and Good Luck


  2. Alice Perth says:

    I have a student who has the problem of flexing the hips and brings the knees to the chest. I have tried to get them to do breaststroke kick on their back like your video says but they simply drop the hips which allows them to bring the knees towards the chest. I am not sure what to do. Any help??

    • John says:

      With this one you may need to get in the water with them. If you have told them to keep their hips on top of the water yet they still drop their hips then I would suggest actually getting in the water with them. Place a hand gently under their hips so that they can’t drop them. Their knees will naturally lift out of the water which they should feel is wrong. You can then guide them in bending from the knees and they should get the sensation. Once they feel wat is correct and what is incorrect they should pick it up quite quickly.

      Let me know how you go Alice

  3. Thang says:

    Dear John,

    I’m learning breaststroke myself. After studying for 2 weeks, currently I can swim about 30 meters without stop but I feel my kick is very weak and I can’t go fast after each kick. When reading this article I think I may have the problem “Knees Outside Feet” but I’m not sure. Please see my video and give me some advice.

    Thank you very much!

    Best regards,

    • John says:

      Hi Thang

      Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. I have been working hard on another project for a while now.

      I have checked out your video and it is amazing that you had only been doing it for 2 weeks.

      There are some timing issues with your stroke but I would worry about that later. The main issue you are having is with your kick. Your knees are pointing outwards rather than inwards. This makes it very difficult to get power in the kick. You need to focus on you feet moving outside the line of your knees. This will help you push all the water with the inside of your lower leg and feet.


  4. Alex says:

    Having couple problems with my kick. The first one is flexibility – I cannot draw my heels close enough to my butt to get my knees completely vertical. I’m doing stretches, regularly sit in the breaststroke pose to stretch my ankles and knees. I can touch the floor with my butt already and sit this way comfortably for a long time but that doesn’t seem to increase my range of motion in the water. Another problem is I don’t grab water with my ankles and knees. When I kick it seems that it goes to nowhere like I’m pushing water backward instead of pushing myself forward. I saw masters swimmers having even worse range of motion in their knees than I have but when they kick they get tremendous propulsion.
    Currently my PB 50 LCM breaststroke is 34.07 and it looks like that’s all I can get out of my body. From videos it’s obvious kick is the limiting factor, so I will be grateful for any help and advices.

    • John says:

      Firstly Alex, 34.07 is a good time so congratulations on that! But also good on you for wanting to go faster.

      I am not 100% sure what you mean by “completely vertical”. When you draw your heels to your butt you want your upper leg to be as horizontal as possible to reduce the amount of resistance. But be clear that they will never be completely horizontal. Some small amount of flexion at the hips is ok. Just ensure there isn’t too much. This is where the flexibility comes into it. Keep working at your stretches. If it helps you can try and flex your lower back to create a small arch. Do this as you are drawing your heels up.

      As for the power with your kick, you need to make sure that you are turning your feet outwards and you are pushing all the water with the inside of the lower leg. It is difficult to say what your problem is without seeing you in action. It could be your timing, technique or strength. Can you feel the water on the inside of your feet? When doing long kicking drills at training, do you get sore in the front of the shin? How many strokes are you taking per 50m and how many kicks does it take you to “kick” 50m in training?

      In training really focus on your kicking. Do some long slow laps and try to get your strokes down to around 8 for 50m. This will seem ridiculous but it can help with the power of your whole stroke. You should always be counting the amount of kicks you take per lap when doing kicking sets. Aiming at reducing this while maintaining speed is important.

      Hope this helps


  5. Raj says:

    I’ve learnt the stroke techniques in breaststroke. But the problem is my coach tells tat my body is too stiff. Also during the glide movement, my legs go down automatically coz of which I have to exert more number of pulls & kicks to cover the distance. I’ve tried innumerous times to stay relaxed and swim relaxed but it is just that my body doesnt cooperate with my mind. I think the tightness lies with my body muscles itself. Could you please suggest some exercises tat i can do everyday so that over a period of time, my body muscles will become relaxed and I can swim like the rest of others.. Thanks.

  6. Arnold says:

    Hi John,

    I have a 10 yo son who has a very nice breast stroke, and swims BB times (US standard). One problem I have observed is that he occasionally kicks too close to the surface of the water and grabs too much air rather than water. It might happen 1-2 times in a 50….this costs seconds because he doesn’t get the normal streamlined distance from the kick…forcing an extra breast stroke in a 50 or so.

    Any idea what he might be doing wrong that causes his feet to rise on those particular kicks?

    • John says:

      Hi Arnold
      It could be a number of things but I would guess it is either a timing issue or he is pushing downward in his recovery. It could be that he is kicking too late on those couple of occasions which will result in his feet being too close to the surface. Or he is pushing his hands down when he stretches out in the recovery. This will bring his feet up too far. It is important to bring the hips and feet up to help reduce resistance and return to a streamlined position so my guess is that it is a slight timing issue. Hard to say for sure though. It is great that he is going along so well. Wish him all the best!

Leave a Reply

© 2012 . All rights reserved.