Men's 100m Breaststroke: The Middle 30 Meters


Kevin Cordes, left, swims in the semifinals of the 100 breast. (Small)

By Matt Barbini//National Team High Performance Consultant

Since the beginning of 2010, five international athletes have topped the best American time in the men’s 100 meter breaststroke. One of the defining points in these races may be the middle 30 meters, from the 35 to 65 meter marks. The top five male 100 breaststrokers in the world (in terms of time) have completed the final 15 meters of the first 50 by an average of 0.31 seconds faster than the top eight Americans. The world’s top five have also had significantly longer pullouts on the second 50 than the top eight American performers, with an average distance of 10 meters versus 9.56 meters. Importantly, they are achieving this breakout distance without sacrificing speed. The average second 50 breakout time for the top five is 5.46 seconds while the top Americans average a very similar 5.41 seconds without traveling as far.


Interestingly, from the second 50 breakout to the finish the two groups swim very similar speeds. The top five in the world average 1.54 meters per second following their breakout while the top Americans average 1.53. Thus, the best international swimmers are separating themselves on the back end of the first 50 and by maintaining that speed through the pullout while maximizing its distance. Check out the chart below: 
The mens 100m breaststroke chart.
Given the multiple variables in play during this point of the 100 (swim, turn, pullout, etc.) there is no magic bullet for maximizing performance from 35-65 meters. However, here are three general technical elements to think about in this critical part of the race:

  1. Press the tempo when approaching the wall on the first 50. Don’t compromise your ability to finish with an even higher tempo on the second 50 but start to build speed.
  2. Hold a tight and straight body line following the push-off and prior to initiating the pullout. Straight is just as important as tight, if you’re holding a tight line but are tilted up or down drag increases and distance decreases.
  3. Execute a powerful dolphin kick and pull-down but immediately resume a tight body line to maximize distance on the post-pullout glide. Don’t let your feet drift down as you approach the surface.

For more on breaststroke tempo and pullouts check out these previous HP articles: