5 Tips for a Better Breaststroke with Emily McClellan

Emily McClellan is no stranger to elite breaststroke. McClellan first broke out on to the national scene at the 2012 Olympic Trials where she finished 6th in the 100-meter breaststroke. She continued to excel capping off her senior year at UW-Milwaukee as the 2014 NCAA runner-up in the 100-yard breaststroke with the third fastest time in history at 57.76! Now training out in Southern California with Trojan Swim Club, McClellan wants to share some breaststroke tips that have excelled her to the level she enjoys today.

1. Finish Your Kick

Really point those toes on the end of each kick. Follow through all the way until your heels come together. This will maximize your kick, promote a strong, tight streamline and help with your​forward movement.

2. Work the Walls

Pullouts are so important! You can use the underwater part of your race to your advantage by being quick off the walls and into your pullout. ​Work on the glide and streamline off the wall to get the most out of each turn.

3. Keep Your Head Down

Eyes on your own race! Looking around will only waste your time and energy. Watching the person next to you won’t help you swim faster! Make sure to stay focused on your own race. This also means don’t bob your head with each breath. Keep your chin tucked and try not to move your head.

4. Shoot Your Arms Forward

This will help set your pace and tempo in the water. If you focus on getting your hands out in front of you, then you can start the next stroke to keep you moving forward quicker. Of course, you must remember to make sure your kick keeps up!

5. Timing is Everything

You want your arms to be catching the water while your heels are coming up to your hips. Sometimes the timing of the arms and legs are off. To fix this I think about “kicking my arms forward.”

a3-square-5_logoEmily McClellan is an A3 Performance Athlete.

Swim Training is courtesy of A3 Performance.




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5 years ago

This is really interesting to me as her point number 5 is always how I was taught to think about and coach breaststroke, but it seems to conflict with what we see on film in elite breaststrokers. It also contradicts what Russell Mark has to say here:



Reply to  Wrangler
5 years ago

That jumped out at me when I read it too. There’s just too many different ways to swim that silly stroke. Apparently this works for her, but it’s definitely outside of the current trend in breaststroke.

5 years ago

Emily – Nice job on describing the stroke, in a very simple way, that everyone can understand.

There are so many different styles of breaststroke. It’s definitely not a one size fits all stroke.

This is the way Emily was taught to swim and it definitely has worked for her. She has a wonderful feel for the water and a very strong kick.

5 years ago

Does anybody have some footage where we can see her timing? I’m really interested if that’s just what she thinks about and what it feels like to her versus what’s actually happening with the timing.

Reply to  Wrangler
5 years ago

Here is the link to her Trial swims (click on #3). Emily is in lane 6.

About Elle Meinholz

Elle Meinholz

Contributor Elle Meinholz has been in love with swimming all her life. Growing up she swam for the Waukesha Express Swim Team and Catholic Memorial High School. The oldest daughter of two former UW-Badger swimmers, Elle went on to college to fulfill her lifelong dream of swimming as a Wisconsin …

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