How to perfect your breaststroke glide

Training & Technique
Written by: Elizabeth Byrnes at 29 March '16 0
You are reading: How to perfect your breaststroke glide

“Not everyone is going to be an Olympic and world champion but there are elements that are key for every breaststroker be they club swimmers or elite” – Jon Rudd, swim coach to Olympic 100m breaststroke champion, Ruta Meilutyte.

When Jon Rudd first met 12-year-old Ruta Meilutyte they communicated through sign language.

She was raw and in Plymouth under sufferance, a young girl who was not yet a teenager, far from her Lithuania home

It was her father who wanted her to join Rudd’s programme at Plymouth Leander but as time went on and Ruta got a grasp on English, her homesickness gradually went and the partnership between the two saw both of them enter uncharted territory.

Just three years after Ruta met Rudd, the then 15-year-old was the Olympic 100m breaststroke champion.

She added the world title a year later in Barcelona, as well as 50m silver, and was second at last year’s worlds in Kazan, Russia.

Not everyone is going to be an Olympic and world champion but there are elements that are key for every breaststroker be they club swimmers or elite.

Rudd says: “If you compare Alex Dale Oen to Cameron Van Der Burgh to Daniel Gyurta to Adam Peaty, you have got completely different stuff going on there so with breaststroke first of all between the 50/100/200 I personally don’t see a lot of change in technique, I just look for a change in timing.

“The key thing in the glide position is obviously body shape and body tension.”


“When the hands are at the front of the stroke, when the swimmer is in maximum extension, the hands for me should be touching and should be in a V shape.

“If the hands are touching you usually have the elbows locked: you have a really nice tight shape at the front of the stroke to allow the kick to send the swimmer forwards.

“The reason the hands are in a V shape is because the hands should be angled at 45 degrees for the outscull section of the stroke, that is when the hands sweep outwards slightly wider than the shoulders to prepare for the inscull phase of the stroke which is the propulsive phase.

“The outscull should take place just under the surface of the water and shouldn’t travel downwards: if you travel downwards you reduce the range of the inscull propulsive section.

“If you imagine the water is custard you will be sweeping outwards just under the skin.

On the inscull phase my belief is that it is elbows that lead and the hands follow so the elbows accelerate in a U shape towards the side of the ribs and the elbows actually make a connection with the ribs at the front of the ribs and the hands meet a forearm’s length away from the front of the sternum.

“And that sweeping U shape movement of the inscull is the propulsive section of the breaststroke stroke.

“Giving yourself enough range to generate power is the key in actually increasing the pull propulsive effectiveness.

“Once the elbows connect with the ribs it is then the case of getting the hands through to the front of the stroke again as quickly as possible because that final stretch is a non-propulsive section so anything non-propulsive needs to be over with quickly.

“Once the hands reach the front again it’s a case of how long you hold that glide position depending on whether you are swimming a 50, 100 or 200 or whether as part of a medley.”


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Written by:

Elizabeth Byrnes

Liz swam with a local club in Sheffield, England, as a child before retiring at the grand old age of 12. Her lifelong love of the water, combined with a passion for travel, has seen Liz plunge into pools across the world. Liz spent 12 years with the Press Association reporting on swimming and athletics at Olympic and World level but is now fulfilling a dream as a freelance writer. When not in or around the water, she can be found hiking, running and cycling.