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How To Swim Breaststroke, Correct a Screw Kick, and Common Faults with Correcting Practises

Updated on February 23, 2012

Propulsion in breaststroke is gained mainly from the leg action but also from the arms, and in wave style from the undulating body as well. Large propulsive forces are produced but because of the high degree of resistance caused by the recovery of the legs the stroke has great variations in forward velocity. It is a "stop/start" stroke and because of the leg recovery it is the slowest of the four main strokes.

Body position

The body should be a streamlined as possible (horizontal) during the propulsive phases of both the arm action and the leg action.

Flat style

Hips and shoulders remain close to the surface of the water. Breathing is accomplished by lifting the head. The shoulders and body remain flat during the leg recovery, which causes a lot of resistance. The body moves forward, not up and down.

Wave style

The shoulders lift out of the water during breathing. The hips are lowered during the leg recovery, which gives the body a tapered shape, and they press upwards more at the end of the leg kick. The thighs do not move forward as much during recovery so there is less deceleration. Because of this the body maintains a high forward velocity during and after the kick.

Leg action

There is a recovery, out sweep, catch, in sweep and release.


The lower legs are brought forward in the recovery by flexing at the knees until they are near the bottom. Hip flexion is minimised by inclining the body. Feet travel forward, plantar flexed within the line of the hips. Knees separate but the lower legs should also remain inside the hip line to minimise drag. Recovery should be fast to minimise deceleration. Feet start to sweep out as they near the buttocks.

Out sweep

There is little propulsion from this sweep but it serves to place feet in position to start the propulsive in sweep. The catch occurs midway through the out sweep. Feet are brought close to the buttocks to enable the highest catch possible and then rotate out to the Dorsi flexed position prior to the in sweep. Thighs flex slightly to utilise two sets of muscles for the powerful kick.

In sweep

It begins and the catch and is the propulsive phase of the kick. Leg sweep down, back and in, during which the feet rotate and soles come together at the end. Action accelerates and is fastest at the end of the in sweep in the legs are fully extended. Pressure on the water is released. At the end the feet rotate towards a streamlined position ready for the glide. The legs are not propulsive at this time, they are travelling forward and upwards, therefore it needs to be completed comparatively gently.

Arm action

As in the leg action, the arm stroke consists of an out sweep, catch, in sweep, release and recovery. The hands follow an elliptical pathway.

Out sweep

Not propulsive but positions the hands for the in sweep. The hands move out, forward and slightly up as they near the end of recovery and are fully extended, until they are outside the shoulder line. They circle down to make the catch. The arms flex and the elbows 30° - 40° during the latter part of the out sweep so that the arms can achieve a backward orientation at the catch. At the catch the hands are pitched out and back.

In sweep

This is the propulsive phase of the arm stroke and comprises a semicircular sweep out, back, down and in. The elbows remain high with forearms rotating back, and down and in around them. The elbows bend during the in sweep and are about 90° at the end. This is because short levers are more efficient and a bent arm is a shorter lever. The palms of the hands are facing out, they rotate until they are facing back and in at the end of the in sweep. The hands face out until they are under the elbows. They are in line with forearms and accelerate throughout.


About halfway through the in sweep the hands begin to move up and forward. Propulsion then ceases. Pressure on the water is also then released. The hands move up and forward as they near the surface. Once near the surface they push forward just above or just below the water until they are fully extended. Forward inertia is overcome as the arms complete extension and the hands started to move outwards. The palms rotate in an up and the elbows come close together as hands move towards the surface. Palms rotate down and the elbows remained close together as full extension is achieved.


A breath is taken once per arm cycle. This aids the timing and does not interfere with the rhythm of the stroke. With the arms extended the eyes look down, the head is between the arms. The face begins to lift as the hand sweeps out and is at the surface at the catch point. The downward movement of the arms will complete the facelift. And as the arms sweep in the breath is taken. It is necessary to maintain the forward velocity during breathing so keep eyes focused down on the water or shrug their shoulders forward as the arms extended. The head should be dropped forward towards the water also.


Ideally the out sweep of the arms should begin just before the in sweep of the legs so that there is a slight overlap between the leg kick and the arm pull. This ensures that the arms have moved to a point where they can contribute to propulsion when the leg kick finishes.

Breaststroke Screw Kick

What is it? - The legs/or feet are not symmetrical and simultaneous. A knee is turned inwards. A foot is turned inwards. The legs are not in the same horizontal plane.

What causes it? - The Feet not reaching the seat at the same time. Incomplete recovery phase. Incorrect recovery. There is no ankle rotation on recovery. The shoulders are not level. Their hips are not level. The feet are not level.

How to cure it - Identify the fault. Identify the source of the fault. Identifying exactly at what point in the stroke it goes wrong - where it was writes and where it started to go wrong. That is the part that needs correcting.

Always correct the stroke in the water so that the swimmer has balance. You can use "roll throats" for all basic teaching practices. You should use only a limited amount of holding and who rail practices even though communication is easiest here. You can do practices with two floats, or any practice that gives good, stable balance.

Start of recovery - legs must be streamlined and touching.

During recovery - legs bend at knee - and not at hip.

End of recovery - heels touching at seat or hip width apart.

Start of propulsion - slow both feet, do not rush.

During propulsion - the feet follow an egg shaped path and move down to stretch.

End of propulsion (glide) - the heels and big toes touching.

Practises to Show and Correct Screw Kick

Kick prone with two floats in slow motion. Ensuring a long glide, with knees, heels and big toes together. You can identify the source of the screw kick from here.

Pause at the end of the kick for a count of four and at the beginning of the kick count of two. This slows the stroke right down to the speed at which you can observe even the smallest fault.

Perform the first half of the leg kick slowly. If the screw persists, touch heels together all the way to the seat during the recovery.

Swim closer to the wall, and touch it with a total of the screw leg, make sure it is slow and gentle.

Breaststroke Faults and Corrections

Body position

If the head is too high, this may be due to fear, the swimmer being unable to breathe out in the water or the hips and legs are too low. This will increase the resistance of the stroke and can be corrected by returning to early practices for the legs, arms and breathing or from a push and glide.

If the swimmers head is too low it can be caused by poor take action, or who are facing the water for the majority of the breaststroke. This will cause the feet and hips to rise. And can be corrected by emphasising head up to breath.

If the swimmer has asymmetrical shoulders then there stroke won't be symmetrical, it will be caused by a dropped shoulder, lack of knowledge, a screw kick, or breathing to the side and can be fixed with attention to achieving the symmetry in the whole of the stroke.

Leg action

Asymmetrical kick, "screw kick", it is due to either a lack of awareness, I dropped me or appointed foot. It will give Paul propulsion and can easily be corrected I also played practices, breast related action on the back or whip kick practices.

If the kick is too wide, which is caused by a swimmer being taught wedge kick or a simple lack of body awareness. It will increase resistance and reduce propulsion, it can be fixed by a breaststroke leg action on the back and whip kick practices.

If knees go to the chest when recover, the stroke or have increased resistance, reduced propulsion and may even cause them to go backwards, it can be caused by lack of awareness of the swimmers action. It can be fixed through leg drills and emphasis on heels to the buttocks and not knees to the chest.

If the feet are not rotated outwards in the propulsive phase the swimmer will have a major lack of power. It can be due to a lack of knowledge, lack of body awareness or a lack of mobility. Leg practices poolside and turning feet away from each other during the kick usually sort this.

If feet are not Dorsi flexed within this, will once again have poor propulsion. It may be caused by inflexible ankles or lack of knowledge or body awareness. You can fix it by getting this matter point that hallucinations, or to drive their heels back first.

If their feet come out of the water it will be because the head is too low or they have a lack of hip flexion. This will result in a loss of power and increased resistance, all you can do is emphasise correct position.

If the feet are too low it will create frontal resistance. It is due to high head, the poor kicking action or a lack of strength. You can emphasise chin on the water or emphasise a strong propulsive phase of the kick, they should also relax during recovery.

If their feet are not together and end of the kick by the legs are extended, this will reduce the power of the stroke and is due to a lack of body awareness. You can emphasise the whip together, and make sure they feel their feet touching each other to correct this.

Arm Action

If the fingers are wide apart in it will cause loss of power as the water slips through the fingers, is caused by lack of body awareness. You need to emphasise fingers being together along with arm practices.

Hands directed sideways, shallow straight arm is caused by a wide arm stroke and causes a reduced propulsion. But it is fixed by emphasising sweeping around a "key role", and emphasising and narrow stroke.

If this has dropped elbows it will reduce the propulsion and create even more resistance on the recovery. Is caused by pulling elbows backwards or a child performing double arm doggy paddle. It is easily fixed by emphasising arms round along with standing and walking practices.

An incorrect pitch of hands throughout the stroke is caused by lack of awareness and is means that stroke will lose its power because the hand slipped through the water. It is corrected to sculling practices and arm practices.

If they are pulling back too far, it means they could have weak leg action. In means the in sweep is ineffective and it makes the recovery difficult. It can be corrected by using a woggle, keeping the swimmers hands in sight at all-times as well as sculling and arm practices.

On stopping prior to recovery is due to lack of awareness and causes the timing to be wrong and a bobbing action. Arm practices and emphasis on the in sweep and glide will fix this.

Hands not accelerating during the in sweep is due to lack of awareness and a lack of strength, causing the loss of propulsion. Correction practices include arm practices and sculling practices.

If someone has asymmetrical pulling action they may move sideways across the pool and have reduced propulsion. It is caused by a one dropped shoulder or a weakness in one arm. It can be fixed to standing arm practices and walking arm practices.


If swimmers holding their breath it could be because of the fear of swirling water were fearful to bring up the nose and means they can only swim until they run out of breath. You need to emphasise breathing rhythm whilst kicking with a float and performing the whole stroke with a woggle.

If a breathing too early in the arm cycle, this is because they lift their head during the down sweep. It causes extra resistance. It can be fixed only breathing practices.

Head turning to the side is caused by a fear of water on the face and fear of water on the eyes. It should mean the shoulders would become out of line and make a screw kick. You need to emphasise looking forward and emphasise breathing into the mouth and out the mouth and nose. Develop kicking with a float practices and with the head looking forward.


Arms and legs not coordinated is due to a lack of knowledge and creates less effective stroke. You can correct this through emphasises pull kick glide and kick with the hands forward.

If the swimmer has rapid strokes they may be afraid of sinking or putting their face in the water, or the stroke is weak. It causes ineffective propulsion increased turbulence, this means that the swimmer will tire quickly. You need to build on the swimmer special glide and emphasise their pull Breath kick glide sequence.


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