More Fly Kicking in Breaststroke

I never swam anything but freestyle crawl in high school, but as an adult I’ve developed a decent breaststroke. Of course, nearly everyone swims it wrong. Most people swim it as a resting stroke, holding their face out of the water and breathing throughout. At the other extreme, elite racers now stay very streamlined underwater, breathe very little and often get away with extra dolphin kicks that are against the rules but hard to detect.

Above water arm movements crept into Breaststroke events in the 1930s – the result was sometimes called the butterfly-breastroke – and the hybrid stroke was so much faster that butterfly became a separate stroke in 1952.

Now, FINA proposes to legalize more dolphin kicking, but breaststroke purists are afraid that those kicks may once again cause breaststroke to evolve into a fundamentally different stroke.


… the Technical Swimming Congress will officially discuss allowing multiple dolphin kicks on the start of any breaststroke race for up to a distance of 15 meters. … Russian swimming federation President Vladimir Salnikov suggested it in a letter. …

Following is the official wording of the proposed rule change:

After the start, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs during which the swimmer may be completely submerged for a distance of not more than 15 metres. Multiple Butterfly kicks are permitted while completely submerged.
Once the swimmer’s head breaks the surface of the water, the stroke cycle must be one arm stroke and one leg kick in that order. All movements of the arms shall be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane without alternating movement. At the last stroke before the turn and at the finish an arm stroke not followed by a leg kick is permitted.

As reported in the Australian, Changing rules would make breaststroke a joke, says leading coach

Simon Cusack, who coached Christian Sprenger to the Olympic silver medal in the 100m breaststroke last year, warned that such a radical rule change would devastate the discipline.

“It would be a joke,” he said.

“All short-course breaststroke events and 50m events would be won by people who are the best at kicking underwater, not the best at breaststroke.”

Cusack argues that because the underwater butterfly kicking moves a competitor so much faster than breaststroke (the slowest swimming stroke), it would transform the event. Those with a strong butterfly kick would have a distinct advantage over those with the best breaststroke technique.

In my breaststroke, I glide between the kick and pull, and ending *every* whip kick with a small dolphin flick of the lower legs feels very natural – though I know it would get me DQ’d in any serious meet. If allowed to dolphin kick during the glide, I’d probably find it hard to remember to stop during the rest of the length.

Update20130725, from SwimSwam:


… FINA announced that “The rules on breaststroke concerning the start and the turn remain as in the present rulebook.” This rejects several proposals to try to clean up the underwater dolphin kicks, including the implementation of underwater cameras (still under deliberation) and a proposal (that seemed to have a lot of backing within the highest levels of FINA) to allow unlimited dolphin kicks off of the start, and then revert to current rules off of other walls.


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2 responses to “More Fly Kicking in Breaststroke”

  1. pandahill says :

    Super topic, I didn’t realise FINA were even considering this! I hope it doesn’t get through because there’s a reason certain people specialise in breast or fly and never the two shall cross (unless you’re exceptionally talented!) I think if they allowed the fly kick up to the 15m mark as in other strokes it would defeat the object of the breaststroke start, which is easy to do but not easy to be great at… but I’m biased because I often win my races on the strength of my start and turns, if they introduced the fly kick I’d be out of it.


    • Donal says :

      Well I didn’t know, but gather we are already allowed one fly kick at the start and turns. But again, it’s a bad habit to develop if you can get DQ’d for doing it after 15 meters.


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