Adam Peaty’s Secret: How the World’s Fastest Breaststroker Actually Glides More

by SwimSwam 34

November 05th, 2019 News

Adam Peaty has a secret?

The history of technical evolution in the swimming technique usually results from a dynamic balance between what every coach, team or federation does and what it is possible to learn from the other athletes. Every main competition is a great opportunity to watch the other swimmers at work and to study the different technical solutions they adopted.

The analyst

Most of the time the differences concern training, strength and power! Sometimes it is all about some new technical solutions… but other times it is not so clear.

That’s the time when you have only one possible solution: call your “Analyst!”

The analyst is the man who lives backstage. You can usually meet him before the competition, but you will never see him during the competition. Sometimes you can see him running to his hotel carrying all his equipment.

He is always hidden in the upper part of the stand. Sometimes you hear him speaking or yelling to his camera and computer, and for sure he is the one screaming “SIT DOWN….” to the people in front of him.

But that is  another story for another time. In short, every coach and every athlete at the elite levels of swimming consider the analyst as their Jiminy Cricket, always ready to give them the right advice because supported by precise, indisputable technical data. The analyst is not afraid of any question!

The Analysts! Courtesy of Stefano Nurra

  • Can you tell me how to win the race?
  • Why this athlete is faster than mine?
  • From the heat to the semifinal I must gain 1 second in 100m, can you tell me how?”

These are the most frequent questions the analyst is usually asked, sometimes hoping for the magic wand.

Bicycle vs Motorbike?

At the moment there are few athletes who are faster than the others, but only one of them is able to leave all the others far behind. It is as if he rode a motorbike while all the others are only using a bicycle.

This is Adam “the Rider” Peaty.

Above all, in long course the gap between him and the others is huge in the 50 and 100 meters breaststroke.

It’s not easy to find the right answers to explain this miracle:  the analysis of laps, splits, stroke length and stroke rate shows us that he is surely faster than the others, but the results of time are not the only thing we have to understand.

It is important to explain “why” and “how” all this is possible.

Data collection

To better understand the differences between Adam Peaty and all the other swimmers I tried a kind of analysis different from the race analysis:

The “Coordination Timing Evaluation.”

I timed all phases of the pull and the kick and I synchronized pull and kick including the gliding phase. I measured the athletes in the second and in the fourth 25 meters. The values I am showing are the average of the three cycles. The report states the time and the percentage of every phase in the cycle. One of the main parameters is the glide time and percentage.

I timed three phases for the pull:

  • propulsive phase – from the catch to the beginning of the recovery.
  • recovery – from the beginning of the recovery to the extension of the arms
  • passive phase (a.k.a. the glide) – from the extension of the arms to the next catch

Four phases for the kick

  • Recovery phase – from the flexion of the knees to the start of propulsive phase
  • Propulsive phase – from the beginning to the end of the propulsive phase
  • Passive phase – from the end of the propulsive phase to the next recovery phase
  • Kick delay – I also timed the delay between pull and kick, stroke rate and tempo, stroke length, speed and of course the glide (value and percentage).

I analyzed the incredible world record Adam Peaty achieved in the 2nd semifinal in 100 meters breaststroke in Korea last summer, and as not a lot of people are used to this kind of analysis, I analyzed also all the other swimmers in this event, in order to compare the data collected.

The secret

These data show us something very interesting and help us explain Adam Peaty’s incredible skill. Moreover, a careful reading of the data shows us what the real difference between Peaty and the rest of the world is.

First of all, let’s consider the passive glide time as a percentage of the full stroke cycle: Adam Peaty glides more than any other swimmer.

This value is crucial if we consider his stroke rate, the highest in this semifinal and in general the highest in the world. Normally when the stroke rate increases the glide decreases. In my opinion this is the real difference in Peaty.

Let’s try and understand how he can reach this kind of gliding and power!

With a careful reading of the timing of the pull and kick phases we can observe that Peaty’s pull recovery is the fastest. If we consider the propulsive kick phase, Peaty is absolutely faster than any other swimmer of the group. Both parameters are very effective for the propulsion.

Video courtesy Of Stefano Nurra

The pull

The way Peaty carries out the pull is absolutely amazing. He can reduce the time of the recovery without wasting any propulsion: this is the reason why he has more time to glide. Some underwater videos online show us how Adam Peaty is able to direct the recovery just forward, reducing the front drag as much as possible.

Another interesting detail is the proportion between all the phases of the pull.

Peaty’s recovery is shorter than the propulsive pull. He inverted the common proportion of the length of these two phases – only Fabio Scozzoli has the same proportion-  but Scozzoli’s recovery time is absolutely longer.

The percentage of the passive pull is the longest and that means that the balance and the management of the pull are totally different.

All the details are oriented to more glide, without wasting efficiency so to apply a greater strength in the water in a more hydrodynamic position.

Video posted by Claudio Pagnini

The kick

The movement of the kick is simply astounding. Adam Peaty is able to push very fast and effectively. The propulsive kick time is the fastest and moreover Adam shows us an incredible power in his kick. In this way he is not just powerful, but he can also save time to glide, so to use the effectiveness of his kick in the best way. Even Peaty’s percentage of the duration of the passive kick is the longest!

Koseki Yasuhiro comes closer but his stroke rate is a lot slower. And once again all of this data leads to the intention to glide. From the underwater video it is possible to see that the kick needs to be very narrow in order to be fast.

This solution it is very interesting, above all when the stroke rate is so high.

The coordination

With this kind of chart, it is possible to see the sync between the pull and the kick (the bands are synchronized), so it is possible to highlight the different phases of the kick in terms of pull. An important key is the gap between the end of the recovery pull and the beginning of the propulsive kick. This timing is very important in order to study the coordination between pull and kick and the advance continuity.

Theoretically a good breaststroker should be able to increase the stroke rate without wasting the ability to glide – of course the glide will be shorter.

To be more precise, when the athlete increases the stroke rate, he could speed up the pull action – not necessarily all the phases, but above all the passive pull.

At this point the gliding time will be shorter, but when the stroke rate is very high this “trick” is not enough to avoid the risk of negative glide.

To keep gliding it is important to change the coordination accordingly to the stroke rate: the higher the stroke rate is the more important it is to anticipate the kick, in order to avoid the negative glide and keep the continuity of the advance.

Adam Peaty is the best swimmer in this group able to do that: the difference with the others is huge and moreover most of the swimmers feel it difficult to change the coordination in this way.

The image below shows the coordination in Peaty’s stroke. The blue bar on top tracks the phases of his pull: the propulsive phase (dark blue), recovery phase (medium blue), and passive/glide phase (lightest blue).

The green bar shows the phases of the kick: the white portion is the kick delay, the medium green is the recovery phase, the dark green the propulsive and the lightest green at the end the passive/glide phase.


Peaty’s secret is… an incredibly precise technique supported by his ability to take into account a lot of other minor details which maybe not so common for everybody. I can’t think it is possible to reach this kind of precision without working specifically in this way, so I congratulate Adam Peaty, his coach Melanie Marshal and every analyst or coach who worked or are working with him.

P.S: Speaking to my computer he suggested I should analyze also the final… for the happiness of the most dataholics.




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1 year ago

This is a brilliant piece of analysis. Nice to see the technical brilliance of Adam Peaty being in the spotlight for once; Too often we get caught up in his power and neglect the technical brilliance he possesses.

Reply to  Dee
1 year ago

Yes, but his specific technique works because of his power and capacity to be faster than everyone else in every different phase (kick, arms recovery and so on), until 100m. It’s always great rewatching that historical Worlds semifinal, even more after reading these data, but the main impression remains the huge differences between Peaty’s energy in the water and that of the other competitors. Peaty is (a lot) faster in everything, also in the double-touch, nearly one-touch, turn at 50m.

Reply to  nuotofan
1 year ago

I agree 100% – That is the reason I’ve always doubted the idea that somebody will catch up to him during his career. He has something you can’t teach, you can’t watch videos of Adam Peaty and teach what he does. To see an athlete in any sport with such power and speed, but also the technical precision to control those physical attributes while pushing 100%, is incredibly rare. Combine that with his mental strength, self belief and desire to improve after every race and you have an athlete as close to unbeatable as a human could possibly be.

1 year ago


Reply to  Skoorbnagol
1 year ago

First off , àdam is The most dedicated breast strker ever, He puts time in to better.
Weights Dryland daily.
American swimmer lack that extra.
Hi become great.

Reply to  Johnson
1 year ago


Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Johnson
1 year ago

Except Lily. She says she outworks everyone. So take that, Peay breath.

Andy Hardt
1 year ago

Excellent analysis!

tea rex
1 year ago

Great breakdown. I would certainly use this data if I was ever forced to swim breaststroke.

Captain Ahab
1 year ago

Glides more? Looks like rapid fire machine gun technique to me.

Gary W Hall
Reply to  Captain Ahab
10 months ago

Doesn’t glide more. Just spends a higher percentage of time in the streamline (glide) position in a stroke cycle. That is an important difference.

Sir Swimsalot
1 year ago

As much as I dislike swimming breaststroke, I always have the highest respect for breaststrokers. Breaststroke requires the most technical proficiency, as exhibited by Peaty here. I’ve never gotten the hang of it.

1 year ago

What does negative glide mean

1 year ago

Love this! Very clear.