Olympic Swim Star Rebecca Soni Demonstrates Freestyle Kick Breaststroke Drill (VIDEO)

by SwimSwam 10

April 20th, 2015 Training, Video

Courtesy of Gary Hall Sr., 10-time World Record Holder, 3-time Olympian, 1976 Olympic Games US Flagbearer and The Race Club co-founder.

The Race Club, Rebecca SoniOlympic Gold medalist Rebecca Soni, demonstrates Freestyle Kick Breaststroke Drill in this #swimisodes. About 80% of the propulsion in Breaststroke comes from the legs. Knowing that more than any other stroke, breaststroke relies on the power of the kick for propulsion Reb Soni has reinvented the breaststroke technique. At the Race Club camps, we use a progression of drills to let swimmers understand the importance of the legs in breaststroke. When it comes to freestyle kick breaststroke, we have swimmers use their fins to emphasize the power behind them and so they can focus on their arms and upper body.

Better than any other swim drill, Freestyle Kick Breaststroke teaches swimmers how to derive more power from the kick by using the head and upper body. The kinetic energy of the upper body and head driving forward and down, when coupled with the kick, results in more distance swum from that driving motion. The fins also help to elevate the shoulders which leads to more coupling energy as the upper body moves forward. We also do this drill to practice hand quickness, getting a small but powerful pull through the water and hands back in front over the water into the streamline position in time for the next kick. Zach Hayden does an excellent job of demonstrating this more traditional breaststroke, as he pushes the elbows together underwater before elevating the hands over the water into the streamline position. Rebecca uses a different technique that adds more power to her kick. Rather than push the elbows together on the underwater pull, she keeps them elevated near the surface, arches her back to elevate much more for the breath, then pulls the elbow behind her chest, hesitating slightly before she pushes the hands and most of the forearm forward out of the water to reduce frontal drag. By delaying the motion forward of her arms, she sacrifices some power of the pull but adds the additional mass of her arms to her body and head moving forward to create more energy to augment her powerful kick.

Gary Hall, Sr.,  Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

Gary Hall, Sr., Technical Director and Head Coach of The Race Club (courtesy of TRC)

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It looks to me that Rebecca’s elbows are visible out of the water. This is just what Kierra Smith was disqualified for at the Canadian trials recently, and there was some controversy about the difference in judging at the NCAA, where that type of stroke is allowed, and elsewhere. Any comments on that?

I haven’t ever read the FINA rulebook, and rely on sites like this to keep me informed as to what the rules are.

Much, but not all, of Rebecca’s forearm is out of the water, making it legal.


Thanks for the reply, and the original video. Does that mean the elbows can come out of the water if the forearms are out of the water too?


“About 80% of the propulsion in Breaststroke comes from the legs.”

Where does that piece of information come from ? These days the breaststroke kick is getting smaller and smaller. It makes sense, since myself I have noticed I can swim a lot faster with a pull buoy than with kicks. Every fast breaststroker out there right now has a somewhat arm driven stroke. I’d say it’s more 50/50 if even that.

That data came a report from ESPN Science that showed Rebecca creates 100 lb of force from her kick and about 24 lbs of force from the pull. The relative contribution of each for a given swimmer will differ depending on the strength of the kick versus the pull.


Oh alright then !

Though it’s important to note that the propulsion of the kick includes the whole body movement, which wouldn’t be possible without the arm-stroke itself. Otherwise you might get breaststrokers doing unnecessarily long kicking sets when it’s really all about the wholeness of breaststroke, just one forward moving motion instead of stroke, undulation and kick seperately 🙂


Wow, someone who actually thinks. Very rare here. I always ask this question to “stay low kick hard crowd:” If staying low is the way to go so you can get to streamline earlier and kick hard, wouldn’t streamline breaststroke kicking all 50m for example (if allowed) be fastest breaststroke? Off course we know that is not the case. Granted, there are swimmers like Soni that are great kickers (since she gets very little out of her stroke), but soon they run into someone who kicks great and has better stroke/pull, and swims higher, like Ruta does.

bobo gigi

Rebecca, come back please.


No, she retired at the right time. Very smart of her.