FINA Clarifies Breaststroke Pullout Rules

FINA has released two new rules interpretations to try, as best as they might, to legislate the ever-convoluted breaststroke pullout.

The first is regarding rule SW 7.1, where the interpretation was added that the first arm stroke begins with the separation of the hands. This has sort of been the de facto understanding of the rule for years since the Europeans and South Africans began using their dolphin kicks at the very front of the stroke, as compared to later in the pullout motion that was the norm in the United States and other countries. It’s not clear if this rule changes the interpretation that a downward motion also begins the stroke.

The second rule interpretation couples with the first, and is again the rule that has been in play for some time, in that it eliminates the argument for a non-continuous stroke making this early butterfly kick illegal. Now, swimmers can separate their hands, pause to complete the butterfly kick, and then complete their pulldown.

These interpretations trickle down to all FINA-sanctioned levels of the sport.

SW 7.1 After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs during which the swimmer may be submerged. A single butterfly kick is permitted during the first arm stroke, followed by a breaststroke kick.


The first arm stroke begins with the separation of the hands. 

SW 7.2 From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and after each turn, the body shall be on the breast.  It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time.  From the start and throughout the race the stroke cycle must be one arm stroke and one leg kick in that order. All movements of the arms shall be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.


A pause after the separation of the hands is not a violation of the rule.

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It’s good to have some clarification, though just about everyone already did this and was never disqualified. People will still butterfly kick as soon as they hit the water and into the wall.


My problem is that it’s practically impossible to call if one truly takes to heart the requirement that the benefit of the doubt always goes to the swimmer. For example, how can you be absolutely sure that the hands have not separated? As noted above shouldn’t a downward movement of the hands be evidence of beginning the pull? Even with someone walking the sides and with high speed/high resolution video that you can call easily call this…..we’re at the point where some swimmers are taking their fly kick before beginning the pull, because even slight separation of the hands can be done to minimize drag associated with the pull so why not allow it? Take the kick off the start… Read more »


This is an instance of FINA’s incompetence: They started allowing the kicks shortly after Kitajima used it illegally at Athens’04. What I mean is: it is not a rule to protect swimmers (like when they required breaststrokers to breakout the water sooner than the japanese were, in the early 50’s – see Furukawa). Regardless, the initial kick is much more efficient. So, I agree with neswim: ONE dolphin kick anytime before the breaststroke kick (that’s how I do it). The problem is that cheaters are doing two kicks (instead of the regulatory one). But it’s easy to see the 2nd kick! The “natural” undulation is anything but that. It requires intent. What I see most is the first kick after… Read more »

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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