Before EVERY workout I stretch 10-15 minutes. I use a ROM stretch device to get my shoulders so I can swim a proper streamline, and then I stretch my legs. See my article on shoulder stretches at Stretching my way to a National Championship. A swimmer who sworks out breaststroke must stretch your legs before practice and during practice to prevent pulls to the groin, and to the medial collateral ligament.

I warm up slowly, never kicking hard or pulling hard. Usually I try to do the same warmup as what I will do at Nationals, this establishes a pattern your body gets used to and lets you have a preconceived idea for nationals.


Warmup should last at least 10 minutes, with 15 better. During warmup I always swim some laps underwater. This opens the lungs and allows you to swim at peak effectiveness. I try to do a total of 4 lengths underwater at nationals. I always do my special hand drill during warmup. You start by keeping the arms straight in front, then pulling the first lap about 10 inches wide. The next lap the pull is 12 inches wide, with NO pull back. The next lap the pull is 14 inches wide. The next lap the pull will be full race width. This is to emphasize the elbows coming in under the chest, with essentially no pull back. Also emphasise snapping the hands together under the face.

Premain Set

My favorite sets are 75s, first lenght kick, second breaststroke drill, last length full stroke. I do these on 90 sec intervals. Closer to a big meet I will extend the time to 2 min., but will swim them all out.

Once my legs feel OK then I will do 75 yard kicks on 2 min. Feel free to get out of the pool and stretch your legs if they feel too tight.

An alternate is to do 100 kicks, but even though I can repeat 1:25s, 2 minutes is too fast an interval. 2 min 30 seconds is perfect for allowing a hard kick. Never use a board for kick sets, you want to kick one kick underwater, then one kick up to breathe. When you get used to that, try two kicks underwater, then one up for a breath. Keep your arms in the streamlined position. Note you cannot kick like this with a board. I try to do one to two lengths all-out egg beater kicks, to work the muscles that pull the legs up to the buttocks. After this swim an easy 50 breast.

I alternate the way I pull breast, one day using a buoy. This is to feel the pain. Try pulling 4 X 100 all out to get a little pain going, then do as many 200 pulls as you can before your hands go breast-spasmo; you know when the fingers curl up due to the lactic acid.

Then the next day I will do pulls with Zoomers on my feet, and no buoy. This pull set is to work on hand speed and a good catch, not for the pain of lactic acid. Give yourself lots of time between pulls. I like 50 yards fin pulls, using flutter kick to work on hand speed, and dolphin kick to work on when to breathe, and when to shrug my shoulders. See my article on shoulder shrugs at Modern Breaststroke. You can also do this set with fists closed, feeling the water pressure on the inside of the forearm.

Another favorite pull set is to swim with Zoomers a hard 25 freestyle, then come back all out pull with a dolphin kick. Do not do this more than once a week, as you will go extreamly anearobic on this set. I like to do eight of these on 90 seconds, I will usually Die on the last one.

Main Set

You must do these, but my least favorite set is broken 200 or 300 breaststroke. Doing this set 3 or 4 times, emphasing different portions of the 200. You can emphasise the middle 100, the last 75, or the last 50. When the rest of the team is doing 200s, 300s or 400s, move to a slower lane and swim them drill breaststroke. Make every turn a race turn and push off hard underwater. Try to go 11-12 yards off each wall, and work the first stroke up. Always pull and then breathe, breathing first is like throwing out a parachute and looses 1 second per length. Try to perfect where your head comes up just before the catch of the arms, this is worth .3 seconds per length, or 2.4 sec. per 200 breast. Remember the rules requires that your head break the waters surface before your hands starts the inward scull. Then swim slowly to the next wall. On a good day I can do 13 to 15 yards off each wall, usually catching the swimmers who are doing freestlye. This forces me to slow till the next wall.

Warm down

Always do at least 200 yards warm down, to get as much of the lactic acid out of your body. If you can stay later try doing 400 yards warm down. Unfortunately most masters have set time constraints in the pool.

Alternate sets in parentheses.


  • 6 x 50 slow freestyle on 50 sec.
  • 4 x 25 underwater on 60 sec.
  • 4 x 100 Breast slow on 2:30 min
  • 2 x 100 Breast moderate& on 2:00 min.

    Pre-main Set

  • 6 x 75 Breast Drill on 90 sec. Kick, drill, swim
  • 6 x 75 Hard Kick on 90 sec.
  • Horizontal eggbeater 60 sec.
  • 4 x 100 Pull buoy 2:30 min.
  • 2 x 200 Pull buoy 4:00 min.
  • Scull Drills 60 sec.
  • Pull flutter kick 60 sec
  • Pull dolphin kick 60 sec.
  • 25 free 25 pull 60 sec.

    Main Set

  • 6 x 200 Breast Drills 3:30 min. Work underwater & turns


  • 200-400 Easy no fins

    Total 4100-4300 one hour 75 min.

    To reduce to 60 min. Reduce warmup from 6 x 100 to 4 x 100 breast, reduce Main set to 4 x 200 Breast. Do not reduce drill sets, they are the most important part of breaststroke workouts.

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