Part II: Improve Your Breaststroke Kick Speed

Why yes, in fact, they can.

Fun fact: Flamingos can fly up to 40mph, but need a significant amount of momentum before their feet can leave the ground. Have you ever seen a Flamingo start running before they take flight?


Enough of that, back to swimming 

Last week, we covered the Flamingo drill and what muscle strength is needed for a successful Breaststroke kick. If case you missed Part I of this series, click here.

This week, we take the drill into the pool and discuss how to create and maintain a high Breaststroke kicking speed.

A Breaststroke kick requires strength from a bunch of different muscle groups. In fact, the entire stroke itself is probably one of the most technique sensitive stroke there is. If you watch race footage of Kosuke Kitajima vs. Rebecca Soni vs. Brendan Hansen vs. Adam Peaty—you will see an array of different techniques.

Most of the technical differences seen deal with one of the three aspects below:

  1. Fast Recovery Vs. Delayed Recovery
  2. Eyes Forward Vs. Down
  3. Upper Body Elevation Vs. Staying Flat

Taking into account the common technical differences shown in the Breaststroke technique, we will continue to focus solely on the kick–with the assumption that the only real technical difference with the kick is knee width. We will focus on what the hips do later…

Going back to our Flamingo drill, –if you have your swimmers get into the pool with their chest facing the wall—they can perform the drill the same way as they did on land. The wall is a great tool as it keeps swimmers from bringing their knees too far forward (and/or creating an excess amount of drag when swimming in the horizontal position).

Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Have your swimmer hold onto the gutter (if available) and bring their heel up towards their bottom. Foot relaxed.

Step 2: From there, flex toes away from their body and abduct the hip. Also, externally rotate the tibia and keep knees close to each other

Step 3: Finish the kick by drawing a semicircular motion (toes drawing away from body) with the lower leg and snapping the feet together until you finished with three points of contact: Ankles, Thighs, and Knees.

Additionally: The best part of this drill being performed in the water is that swimmers are able to add finishing the kick with pointed toes (or plantar flexion of their ankles). Similar to the horizontal, streamline position below.

Now that we understand the mechanics of the Breaststroke kick, how do we take this technique and kick Breaststroke at a high speed?

Here’s where the Flamingo comes in.

If you look back at Step 2—that is the key step. A lot of times, younger swimmers, like to try and muscle through Breaststroke and pull with their arms as fast as they can–to get down the pool. But the magic in Breaststroke happens when a swimmer gets their heels up faster and goes from a streamlined, horizontal position to Step 2 as quick as possible.

Step 2 is what I referred to as the “catch” phase in Part I of this series. In Step 2, the inside/bottoms of the feet are pointing towards the bottom of the pool. The more ankle flexibility a swimmer has, the more their foot will be perpendicular to their body and the more speed they will be able to create. The insides/bottoms of the feet are responsible for creating the speed that propels a swimmer down the pool (when horizontal). So in conclusion, the more a swimmer can quickly complete Step’s 1-3, the faster they will swim Breaststroke.

So just like a Flamingo, a swimmer must bring the heels up to their bottom as quickly as possible over and over again—before they “take off” or “take flight”.


Get it? 

Until Next Time,

Abbie Fish

4 Responses

  1. I can’t visualise Step 3, the semicircular motions, with toes drawing away from the body. I tried also picturing it using my arms and hands.

    As we are starting with knees close, is the action any more than straightening the hip and knee joints, and pointing the toes.
    If the knees are not close, then presumably, the action would still be essentially straightening the hip and knee joint and finishing with snapping the legs together as the toes are pointed?

    1. Kind of – it is still extension of the legs but the motion is outwards to inwards, which is circular at best.

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