How to Swim Head Up Breaststroke

Swimming breaststroke with the face out of the water gets a bad press. There are good reasons for this. But if you’re aware of what you’re doing, there is a time and a place for it.

Head up breaststroke is particularly useful for swimming outdoors –  for navigation, taking in your surroundings, communicating with other people and avoiding putting your face in cold water.

Swimmers who don’t want to get their hair wet, or can’t put their face in water, aren’t a good advert for head up breaststroke. They put visible strain on the neck by pointing the chin forward and everything from the chin down is tense.

Anyone who’s anxious to get forward to some point of safety, because of fear of going under, will put further strain on the spine by doing two things: 1, holding the pelvis up to stay as horizontal as possible 2, using the arms too powerfully.

So, swimming head up breaststroke can be like walking around continuously looking up at the sky, with your arms behind your back, and this is where change is needed.

Without the option of going under the surface for a rest, stress is inevitable. So it’s crucial to learn to get your face in the water and this should never be avoided. Learn to float face down, to trust the water to support you, to let air out into the water. Only then can your experience of swimming with your face out be enjoyable and relaxing.

For people who are comfortable underwater, here are four tips for better head up breaststroke.

1  Let your chin and mouth go under the water, letting air out into the water.

2 Keep your hands out in front of you, ahead of your elbows.


head up breaststroke
Keep hands out in front and mouth underwater, let back end sink

3. Let your back end sink so that you’re semi vertical.

In other words, keep your neck as free as possible, and the whole of your back, which includes your pelvis, long and wide.

4. Take your time.

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