How To Teach Breaststroke
Breaststroke is probably the most difficult of the 4 competitive strokes to teach. Many people would argue that butterfly is more difficult but we would argue from our experience, many beginners find it harder to pick up the kicking action. If you are teaching more experienced swimmers who have perfected the basic technique then head over to the breaststroke drills page where we take your through some more advanced drills.
The progression we will take you through here assumes that the swimmer is comfortable with the water to a standard where they can swim at least some basic front crawl and are comfortable putting their face in the water and breathing bubbles underwater. If they are not yet up to this stage then it is important that you do this first. We often have people come to us for swimming tips and the first thing we ask is “are you comfortable putting your face in the water and blowing bubbles?” The answer is often “No” and that is the main reason why their swimming progression is very slow.
There are many variations to this progression but this is the sequencing we have found to be most effective. Some of this is done in the water and some is done out of the water.
Arms and Breathing
Progression 1: Stand the up in the water with their hands together out in front of them in the water. Explain that the arms are a circular motion. The circle is a medium circle, not too small and not too big. Around about 3-4 inches outside of shoulder width and then complete the circle under the chest and back to the starting position.
Progression 2: Exactly the same as progression 1 but get the swimmers to walk forward as they take each stroke with their arms. This gives them the feeling of how the arms move them forward without having to worry about body position.
Progression 3: We are going to do the same as progression 1 with our arms but include breathing. The swimmer will still be standing but may have to bend over slightly so they can put their face in the water. As the hands move outwards the head begins to rise in order to take a breath.
**A common mistake beginners make is to lift the head during the in-sweep of the stroke. This is an absolute no-no as it stops all power and momentum of the stroke. Begin lifting the head as the hands move outwards in the out-sweep.
Progression 4: Complete progression 3 but walking forward as you did in earlier.
Progression 5: It is time to put the arms and breathing into action. With the body in a streamlined position and on top of the water begin to perform the arm action and breathing. The swimmer can use a normal freestyle kick to help propel them along. If they are struggling to stay on top of the water it is OK to put a floatable noodle underneath their tummy for support.
Once they are comfortable with the arms and breathing they can move on to the kick.
Progression 6: This will be done out of the water. Lie the swimmer down (preferably on something soft) with their legs extended and together. Their toes should be pointed. This progression is broken down into parts or teaching points
1. Bring the feet to the buttocks together
2. Pull toes towards your shins (or flatten your feet so they aren’t pointed to the sky) and turn your feet outwards
3. Keeping your feet flat begin to kick out and back. Tell them that their feet must go outside their knees as some beginners point their knees outwards which makes the kick almost impossible
4. When they are kicking backwards the feet and toes return to their normal position.
It is sometimes a good idea to touch the inside of their feet so that they understand they are actually pushing the water with the inside of the foot rather than the top of their foot like the other strokes. The most common problem is that they will point their toes in the air so it is important that they get this correct before moving on.
Progression 7: Not lying in the water while hanging on to the end of the pool take them through the above progression. They should now get a feeling of the water on the inside of the foot.
**When they were in progression 6 they were unable to flex their hips by bringing their knees to their chest, but now that they are in the water they can. Some flexion of the hips is fine but they must still bring the heels to the buttocks.
Progression 8: Time to kick with a kick board. Holding the back of the kick board with the face in the water begin kicking up the pool. If they are competent enough then there is no need for a kick board as this video below shows.
** If they are bringing the knees to the chest, get them to kick on their back. Tell them that they need to bring their heels to their buttocks and that their knees cannot come out of the water.
**If their knees pointing outwards during the kick, get them to kick on their back and they must kick without letting their knees come apart. This will force the feet to kick outside the knee line. They will not move very fast as it is hard to generate power but it should solve the problem.
Progression 9: Swim the entire stroke slowly. They need to sweep, breath and kick. The hands begin to sweep outwards. They then lift the head to breath and they then kick. The heels should begin raising once the head begins lifting.
Progression 10: Swim with a long glide. One of the major problems beginners have is that they rush the front of the stroke and pause with the hands under the chest. This totally stops the momentum of the stroke. They need to glide at the front. If they struggle to grasp this, make them hold their hands at the front for 3 seconds.
Progression 11: Swim the entire stroke. The progression is finished and you student should be able to swim the entire stroke.
How long this progression takes varies greatly. I students go through this in 30mins and others take weeks. The arms and breathing should be easy for them to grasp and will most likely be done in a 30min session. The kick can take much longer especially if you only see them once a week. Be patient with them and don’t be afraid to try different things. We have included some common problems and how to overcome them but you know your students best. It is a foreign stroke so it can take time. Good luck!