Chapter Fourteen
The Home Pool


The Breast-Stroke

The standard Breast-Stroke (Breastroke) may be described as an endurance stroke. It's fairly fast yet offers swimmers two major benefits; they can see where they are going; and it can be swum long distances without suffering great fatigue. For these reasons it's a good stroke for lifeguards. It's important for guards to keep an eye on drowning victims or where a victim was last seen. If a boat is used to get there, the rescuer may have to search both over and underwater to find someone and in most cases the Breastroke is used. Of course, in pool facilities or small swimming areas where victims are easier to locate, guards swim the faster Front Crawl. The Lifesaving Stroke, a type of sidestroke, is used only for physically bringing victims to safety.

Many swimmers prefer the Breastroke because it doesn't involve total face immersion nor require precise rhythmic breathing. The breathing is very natural. When arms pull back, the chest partially rises above water level and a breath is taken. It's as simple as that. However, the Breastroke is not an easy stroke to learn because coordinating the arm stroke with the kick and glide is somewhat tricky. The Inverted Breast-Stroke is easier because swimmers are on their backs. Swimming with the face partially under water, however, involves taking a breath at a specific moment and therefore requires defined synchronization.

The Breastroke utilizes shoulder muscles to a great extent, including the shoulder rotators. The kick works upper thigh muscles and knees. Unlike the Inverted Breast-Stroke, a regular breastroke begins with a push off the side and a long underwater glide. Arms pull the body upward for a breath, then shoot out in front for another glide. When the stroke begins its circular motion, legs begin the kick. As with the inverted version, when arms are extended together, legs are also straight and together for the glide.


(Also study illustration.)

NOTE: The underwater glide is only performed at each end of the pool when pushing off the side. All other glides are above water.

The Underwater Glide

1--At shallow end, stand with back against pool side.

2--Lift one foot and place against pool side.

3--Bend forward with arms outstretched and hands slightly arched, fingers pointing downward.

4--Lie head and chest atop water.

5--With face in water, bend down head and slowly push off side as legs straighten. KEEP HEAD DOWN.

6--Glide underwater one full body length or until a breath is needed.

7--To surface, lift head up and pull back arms. Stand.

8--Return to side of pool and repeat underwater glide at least 5 X or until mastered.

The Arm stroke (May also be practiced on deck.)

1--In water, stand at chest height, (stoop or kneel down if necessary,) with arms partially underwater.

2--Extend arms forward--palms touching each other.

3--With arms fully extended turn palms outward so that backs of fingers touch.

4--Bend elbows and pull arms away outwardly, forming a small circle.

5--Bring elbows back toward chest.

6--With elbows close together and in front of chest let palms touch once again.

7--With palms touching, extend arms forward.

8--Repeat stroke at least 6 X in succession or until mastered.

The Glide With Arm stroke

1--Standing at shallow end and facing pool, place foot against wall.

2--Take a deep breath and review glide alone, 3 or more X.

3--Perform glide again but this time when breath is needed, surface and perform the arm stroke.

4--As arms pull back, lift up head and chest.

5--Take a breath. Lower half of face may be under water.

6--As another stroke is taken water level may be above eyes but must not cover the head.

7--Arms come together in front of chest.

8--With head down again, extend arms and glide. Repeat 3 thru 8 until mastered.

The Breastroke Kick

By now you should be adept at performing this kick as it's the same kick for the Elementary Backstroke and the Inverted Breast-Stroke. The only difficulty you may have with the kick is where and when to use it.

Up to this point you've been performing the Breastroke sequences using either an up and down kick or no kick at all. This time you will add the kick.

The Glide, Arm stroke and the Breastroke Kick

1--For warmup, practice the glide with arm stroke several X.

2--Begin with an underwater glide from side of pool.

3--While pulling back arms and lifting head up to breathe, draw up legs, knees pointing inward.

4--Perform circle position with lower legs.

5--When arms extend forward, rapidly close legs together and glide.

6--Body should be straight with arms forward and legs together during the glide.

7--Repeat from 2 thru 6 at least 5 X or until mastered.

8--Perform breast-stroke continuously for at least thirty feet.

REMEMBER: Do not swim in water over your head until the Breast-Stroke is mastered. If you accidentally move into deep water and are unable to maintain this stroke, immediately turn over onto your back. Simply float, or swim either the Elementary Back-stroke or Inverted Breast-Stroke to the side or to shallow water. There is no need to panic.


1--Lack of Forward Momentum This is due to all or one of several errors. First, the glide may be too short. It's imperative to have a long glide. It's a new beginning for the stroke and kick after each glide. Count to three before executing an arm pull and kick. Another aid is a kickboard. Float with arms extended while holding onto the kickboard with elbows straight and head down. Perform the kick, then glide. This helps in acquiring a rhythm. After you kick and glide for thirty or forty feet perfectly, add the arm stroke. Correct timing for the stroke will then become automatic.

Lack of momentum may also be due to an ineffectual kick. While concentrating on other aspects of the breast-stroke, it's easy to forget the kick. Make sure you are performing a hard, strong kick when legs come together prior to the glide.

A third problem is in executing one or more of the moves at the wrong time. If arms push ahead for the glide while the head and chest are raised high, it will slow you down. It's acceptable to have eyes and nose above water if preferred but head and chest must be lowered during the glide. The kick's timing may also be wrong. If the kick finishes too soon--before the arms pull back; or too late--after the arms have been extended for several seconds it won't be possible to attain a steady rhythm. The forward extension of arms must coincide with the legs coming together.

Cadence for the breaststroke is: GLIDE; CIRCLE; TOGETHER; PUSH. ("Circle" means that arms and legs form a circle)

2--Unable to go underwater when pushing off side.The number one cause of this problem is the wrong head position. Often, just before pushing off pupils lift their heads up for an instant without realizing it. This is often a reflex action. They are unaware of it and quickly put their heads down but by then it's too late and their bodies remain in the float position. If you are unable to go underwater from the side push, ask someone to watch and see if you give a slight head-lift as you push off. Always be sure your chin touches the base of your neck or upper chest region before pushing off and KEEP IT THERE.

The second cause is due to a wrong hand position. Hands must point downward and arms must maintain a downward slant.

If head, hands and arms are pointing downward there is only one other problem preventing an underwater push, and that's having a straight upper body. The waist must bend forward slightly so the upper body will also be pointing downward.

Watch breast-stroke animation.


Chapter Sixteen, The Sidestroke
The Home Pool
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