Breaststroke For Triathlon?

by Garry Cummins
(Dublin, Ireland)

I’m currently training for my first triathlon next year and intend to use the breaststroke on the swimming leg. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Intelligent Triathlon Replies:

This is a common question from many beginner triathletes. Front crawl (freestyle) is much faster than breaststroke but requires much more practice to make it effective. Breaststroke a perfectly legitimate means of swimming in triathlon but, as with any stroke we would suggest you spend as much time training using breaststroke as possible, so you are most comfortable with it.

However if you really enjoy this first experience, aim to learn to do front crawl as it will help make you go faster. You can still train using breaststroke initially but build in some lengths using front crawl. There are some excellent articles on technique on the Swim Smooth website ( that may help. Or consider getting some swimming lessons to learn good technique from the outset.

A couple of things to consider though:-

1. Be aware of your fellow competitors. Breaststroke takes up more space as your arms and legs go out to the side. If you are in a narrow lane in a pool you might end up kicking people. If you are in a mass start open water swim you will definitely kick people.

2. If you are swimming open water and using a wetsuit, the extra buoyancy from the suit can mean you sit very close to the surface of the water and swimming breaststroke might mean you end up kicking out of the water sometimes. Not a problem, just practice in your wetsuit.

3. There is a good chance you will end up going slower than other competitors so make sure you swim with people of a similar speed. Pool based competitons often ask for a projected time so they can match people up. Be honest, which means practicing the race distance to know your time. If you are open water swimming you will probably be in an age group wave. So find yourself some room on the edge of the pack and set off at your own pace.

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Jul 17, 2013
Breaststroke by default
by: TJ

I did my first sprint tri last summer and trained all with freestyle stroke and thought I was ready. Although when the gun went off I was 30 meters into it and got water in my googles and had to pull up started panicking and lost my breath. I had to do 75% of my swim segment in an "head above water" breast stroke because I could not regain my calm breathing. I ended up in the back third of the group but powered through the bike and run to finish in the middle of my age bracket. As I look back I was not fully prepared for the event with the proper freestyle and associated breathing technique for the race but the breaststroke saved me because I was able to finsih the segment... I'm going to try another one this summer and hopefully prepare better... but if all else fails, if it takes the breaststroke to get around the buoys then breaststroke it will be...

Feb 06, 2012
Intelligent Triathlon Training Replies
by: Intelligent Triathlon Training

With regards the above suggestion to improve your swim fitness through swimming breast stroke, this might enable you to swim further however it is not using the same muscles/actions as swimming freestyle. Therefore you are better off training using freestyle straight away. Swim regularly, but never too much in one go, so that you are focussing on maintaining good technique throughout your session.

Swim relatively short reps at first (e.g. 25 or 50m), holding the best freestyle technique you can, and then gradually increase the distance you swim.

An example of a session might be 5 - 7 minute warm up using a variety of strokes and some kick, and then depending on your level, 10 - 20 reps of 25m, giving yourself the same duration of rest between reps as it took you to swim the rep. This might seem like a lot of rest but it is to enable you to maintain technique.

We recommend Swim Smooth
to any triathlete wanting to know more about the technical side of swimming and how to improve their triathlon swimming technique. They are a company devoted to improving people’s swimming experience and have a great approach and excellent videos on their site.

Feb 06, 2012
Breaststroke For Triathlon?
by: Mr Wotzhisname

I think a lot of beginners would ask this question, including myself when I began. However, I realised very quickly for your first and further triathlons, you REALLY need to be able to do the distance in freestyle.

Also consider in a triathlon RACE, as oppose to lane training in a pool, you can unintentionally end up kicking and colliding with other swimmers in close proximity because of the dynamic of the stroke.

Freestyle may seem more exhausting and perhaps harder work if you're unfamiliar with it at the moment for swimming distance but practice & improved fitness,and some freestyle coaching will definitely help your technique. Better still Garry, pop along to your local triathlon club and ask them what they think?

Build your swim fitness with breast stroke to begin with Garry, then gradually integrate your training with freestyle laps til you can swim at least a third further than the total race distance required is my advice.

I would recommend having a look at

All the best

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