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Breaststroke arm recovery over the water


Hi Gary

As a ‘Masters’ swimmer and coach I have been working on improving/changing my breaststroke style from the older square’ish style to more of an undulating style. It seems to be coming along alright and I wanted to say that I thought that your comments in the Breaststroke Technique email you sent out were very good.

A query – I notice that the top line swimmers are almost lifting their hands out of the water in the recovery action and throwing them forward to the streamline, particularly in the shorter distances. Is this of great help? I seem to be able to maintain it for 50m and maybe out to 100 but have to go for a below the surface recovery over 200m.

The other thing I notice is that by getting up too high out of the water in the pull I seem to drop the feet down to where I am almost kicking at a 45 degree angle to the surface, therefore wasting energy kicking upwards in order to get the upper part of the body out of the water to reduce drag rather than forward and more streamlined.

Any thoughts or comments?

Thanks and…

Kind regards



Hi Mike,

Thank you for your feedback on the breaststroke technique email.

In regards to the top line swimmers almost lifting their hands out of the water in the recovery action and throwing them forward to the streamline, you are correct, there are many who are doing this, especially in the short distance events.  These swimmers can do this as they have a very strong kick and as they kick back, it drives then forward and over the water. It also takes alot of energy and it is unusual to find a swimmer who can hold this technique for more than 50 to 100 metres.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction and you are correct that if you are getting up very high in one part of your stroke (eg hands out of water on breaststroke recovery) another part of your body is going down! And it is usually your hips and legs.  This will lead to what you explained with the kicking angle not necessarily driving you as far forward as possible as it is providing you lift upwards as well.

My preference for a majority of breaststroke swimmers is to recover the hands under the water.  I watch young swimmers trying to emulate the best in the world and most of them struggle if they lift their hands out of the water.  In general older swimmers do not have the power in their kick to maintain the body position and drive forward that the world’s best swimmers do.

Having said that, I have coached and watched many very good swimmers who recover with their hands out of, or partly out of, the water and as they have a strong kick, look really good and swim fast.


The Swimming Expert

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