Breaststroke Arms

The technique for breaststroke arms seems basic and simple and as a result it is often overlooked when we look for improvement in the overall stroke.  However, there are some common mistakes that can have a huge impact...

basic breaststroke arm technique for beginners

The arm pull technique can be broken down into three parts. Those parts being:

Catch - as the hands begin to pull

Propulsion - as the arms pull to generate some movement

Recovery - as the hands and arms return to the catch position

Breaststroke Arms Demonstration

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Step-By-Step Arm Technique


Arm action begins with the arms fully extended out in front, fingers and hands together.  Hands pitch outwards and downwards to an angle of about 45 degrees at the start of the catch phase.  Arms pull outwards and downwards until they are approximately shoulder width apart.  Elbows begin to bend and shoulders roll inwards at the end of the catch phase.

Propulsive phase

The arms sweep downwards and inwards and the hands pull to their deepest point.  Elbows bend to 90 degrees and remain high.

At the end of the down sweep, the hands sweep inwards and slightly upwards.  Elbows tuck into the sides as the hands are pulled inwards towards the chest and the chin.


Hands recover by stretching forwards in a streamlined position and they recover under, on or over the water surface, depending on the style of stroke to be taught.

Now add your arm technique to the rest of the stroke...

The arms have to be coordinated with the leg kick and breathing techniques. Download all the tips and practical drills you will need to make your breaststroke a complete swimming stroke.  

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Do You Make These Common Mistakes?

The arm technique for this stroke usually becomes the dominant force when it should not.  It is very common for swimmers to put more effort into pulling themselves through the water, when it should be the leg kick providing the power and momentum.

In an attempt to haul themselves through the water the arm pull is too big and too wide.  It is not uncommon to pull arms completely to the side, making for a inefficient recovery under the water surface, which will almost certainly result in the swimmer slowing down.  

An easy exercise to practice to help perfect the arm pull technique is to walk slowly through shallow water of about shoulder depth, ensuring the arms pull in small circles and the hands remain in front of the swimmer at all times.  They should also extend forwards and remain there momentarily for the glide phase.

Basic breaststroke arm technique

Isolate and practice your arm technique with these exercises

Download these documents to your computer, tablet or mobile device and put your arm pull technique to the test.  Isolate your arm pull and focus on the key technique tips to learn and fine-tune this important part of breaststroke. 

Walking through shallow water


Arm action using a swim noodle


Arm action from push and glide


Arm action using a pull buoy


Click here for more breaststroke exercises.

All of these documents are PDF format and are compatible with all tablet and mobile devices.  Some computers may need PDF reading software such as Adobe Acrobat.

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