FINA Announces Another Rules Change to Breaststroke Pullouts

FINA has announced a rules change to the breaststroke underwater pullout – the latest change to try and give officials a fighting chance, and athletes an even chance, at adhering to the ever-more-complex breaststroke rules.

In the vote, FINA approved a new interpretation of allowing the single dolphin kick on the pullout to come at any time before the first breaststroke kick. Previously, the rules required some separation of the hands before the first dolphin kick. The change will be effective immediately.

Initially, when the dolphin kick was added, most athletes did the dolphin kick clearly during the pull-down. That water became muddied, however, when many swimmers began doing the pullout while effectively still in a streamline – especially in Europe and South Africa, where swimmers were breaking World Records.

That pushed FINA to mandate separation of the hands, which created a very fine inspection of technique where swimmers would create a slight separation of hands, but remain effectively in a streamline.

Now, the rule allows the dolphin kick off of each wall to happen at any point prior to the breaststroke kick.

While that tweak in technique was slow to catch on in the United States, American high school rules already allowed this change beginning with the 2013-2014 season.

The rules still don’t require an underwater pullout at all, which has led some coaches to speculate on ways to take advantage. Specifically, for swimmers who are not primarily breaststrokers, some coaches we’ve spoken to have suggested that in a long event like the 400 IM, they might have their swimmers skip the pullout altogether and instead just do a single dolphin kick before coming up begin their above-water stroke.

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Never thought this was a huge issue….the huge issue is the multiple dolphin kicks off of the walls, especially the starts. Also the dolphin kick at the end of the breaststroke kick, especially in the middle of the pool.

All one has to do is look at the times to see that the swimmers who are practicing this technique have seized the advantage (legally of course). This totally changes the times that H.S. kids are doing. Those that do not know: This will shave about .08-1.2 seconds off of a swimmers individual lap times. (this is the time required to cover the added forward surge if you did not perform the new technique).


I believe Nort Thornton has been recommending that swimmers use a fly kick and then immediately begin the stroke cycle without a pullout. His rationale is that the recovery phase during the pullout negates any of the speed pick up from pull down. Don’t know if the CAL breaststrokers every used his technique in races.

When does this new rule become effective for FINA and USA swimming?


I assume that if the other rule wording remains unchanged the phases (without a pullout) would be streamline, fly kick, breaststroke kick (hands still in streamline) pull (head breaks surface at widest part of pull) and so on……to meet the requirement that any fly kick must be followed by a breaststroke kick


Not sure whether or not that’s what they mean. I think the part “at any point prior to the breaststroke kick.” just means that you’re not allowed to use dolphin kicks during the above-water part.

But of it really means that we would be allowed to have streamline, dolphin kick and then immediatly the breaststroke kick, it would be a huge improvement.


SWIMREF said about the same (if you scroll down a bit)

I don’t think this interpretation is correct. You can dive then streamline then fly kick, but the stroke must start with a pull then a breaststroke kick, not a breaststroke kick then a pull. This is under rule SW7.2 – “From the start and throughout the race the stroke cycle shall be one arm stroke and one leg kick in that order”. I think my judges will still struggle in deciding, if the swimmer performs their fly kick before their pull-out, whether the swimmer performs a second fly kick during the pull-out (aka A-pull or butterfly stroke). I understand that the fly kick was introduced because senior swimmers inevitably perform an undulation during the full-out and this can look like… Read more »


My reading is that the new rule allows two things not previously permitted. One, is the fly kick in streamline (no need to initiate the pull with separation of hands) and the second is fly kick any time off the start and turns as long as it precedes the breaststroke kick. Some might now experiment with inserting the fly kick after the pull down and glide. Previously this was thought slower because you couldn’t fully exploit the power of the pull down glide. Here is the USA rule book amended wording “101.2.3 Kick – After the start and each turn, at any time prior to the first breaststroke kick a single butterfly kick is permitted. Following which, all movements of… Read more »


Breastroke currently is a cyclical stroke that must have an arm stroke before the kick.


Tell that to Kevin Cordes. He goes close to 15 meters off every wall. Hard to imagine he could do that with just one fly kick


With the correct timing and one fly kick i have swimmers between 9-11 covering 12-13mtrs off the walls at start and 8-10 at turns.

The bottom line is the absolutely incredible and revolutionary lowering of the times. Changing the rules is good….but creates an elite group through artificial means. The kids are faster…not Gods.


Swimmer, you need to consider the stroke and turn official who has to make a call across 4 lanes at an age group meet and those who have to teach it. This simplification makes it easy on everyone involved. Some athletes will benefit tremendously from this while still limiting the kick count to one.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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