Breaststroke Kinesics:Muscles used in Breaststroke
The muscles and muscle groups worked in the breaststroke
At Swimaholics, we understand that for most of us, swimming well is not an end itself, but is part of a larger effort towards a healthier lifestyle. If like me you want to know which muscles really do the work when you are swimming, this post is for you. It will cover the upper body muscles recruited during the breaststroke. The piece is a bit technical but I’m sure you can go through some muscle lingo for some minutes. Understanding the muscles groups you use during a swim will help you to improve your stroke as well as help you in planning your exercise schedule.
The breaststroke requires accurate coordination between the muscles of the arms and upper body, and those in the lower limbs. While many of the major muscles in the body are used in the stroke, several specific ones are used in propelling the body forward.
Upper Body muscles
The latissimus dorsi (lats) are the muscles running from the upper back to the middle that are flexed when you push your hands together at the front. Bringing the hands together below your chest as you prepare to glide in water activates these muscles especially if you push against a lot of water. The lats are important for a good pull as they prepare the triceps to pull. The lats are therefore used from the time of entry into water as you glide till when you prepare to pull. Relaxing the lats by pushing the head down with hands together, above the ears during the glide allows you to continuously relax and stretch the lat muscles for a good work out.
The triceps brachii (commonly triceps), take over the work at the catch phase. Triceps are the muscles at the back of the upper arm opposite the biceps. During the catch, these muscles are pulled and relaxed at the in-sweep. However, the work done is quite minimal per pull.
The pecs (pectoralis major) are chest muscles mostly used in the breaststroke to stabilize the body. During the arm pull at the in-sweep, these muscles are tensed and relaxed continuously as the body move through each pull. During the kick, the chest muscles are used to balance the body working to enhance streamline during recovery.
To lift and stabilize the head for a breath, the trapezius (shoulder to neck), longissimus, splenius. and semispinalis muscles are utilized. To prevent neck fatigue during long swims, when gliding, these muscles are relaxed to keep the head very low in water.
Working on these muscles during a swim will help your breaststroke pull improve making you a better swimmer. Check out for the next post on the leg and core muscles worked during the breaststroke.