Different Strokes for Different Folks, Part 2: Breaststroke and Butterfly

Breaststroke is another stroke that many swimmers enjoy either for recovery or to work different muscle groups than freestyle or backstroke.  In the breaststroke, the pectorals start the powerful out-sweep of the underwater stroke and the latissimus powers the in- sweep phase.

The muscles running along the spine are used to pull the head and shoulders up out of the water to breathe as the deltoid, pectorals and brachial muscles bring the arms back toward the body, and the triceps push the arms into their glide position.  The kick involves the quadriceps and hip flexors bend the knees and bring the heels toward the butt while the adductor muscles and glutes kick the legs out and around to finish the whip kick of the stroke.


The most advanced stroke in a swimmer’s repertoire, the butterfly, is often described as the dolphin stroke for its rhythmic undulating body motion.  Combined with strong arms and shoulders, the dolphin kick must be timed perfectly to allow the arms to simultaneously recover over the water and the swimmer to breathe.

The double arm recovery action of the pull builds the trapezius muscles while the abdominal muscles provide the stabilization and strength needed to reach arms out of the water for each arm stroke.


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Kelly Wright is the Aquatics Supervisor at The Clubs at Charles River Park with more than 15 years of competitive and instructional swimming experience. Along with teaching swim lessons, she also coaches Junior and Master swimming and trains lifeguards. Kelly is an Authorized Provider for the American Red Cross and is certified to teach AED/CPR and First Aid classes as well as Emergency Oxygen Administration, Bloodborne Pathogen Training, Basic Water Rescue, Guard Start, and Water Safety.

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