Swimming and Breathing in the Four Strokes

On this page you will learn some tips for swimming and breathing in the four popular swimming strokes. You will also learn how to breathe seamlessly taking into account each swim stroke's peculiarities.

If you are a beginner, you may also want to familiarize yourself with some basic breathing while swimming tips first.

Breast Stroke Breathing Tips

Breathing is the easiest in the breast stroke. If the swimmer keeps his head above the water surface at all times, he doesn't need to think about his breathing technique at all.

However, to improve his streamline and be more efficient, the swimmer should submerge his head and exhale during the breaststroke's glide phase. He then inhales during the arms' pull phase.

Backstroke Swimming and Breathing Tips

In the backstroke, the swimmer lies flat in the water on his back, and his face is turned upwards. Breathing isn't an issue as long as the swimmer has good balance.

If this isn't the case yet, the balancing on the back swimming drill is excellent for learning this skill.

Freestyle Breathing and Swimming Tips

In the freestyle swim stroke, the exhale should always be done under water. There isn't enough time to both inhale and exhale above the water. The swimmer shouldn't be holding his breath, he should exhale continuously.

Another important point that affects breathing is balance. If the swimmer is unbalanced, which means that his hips and legs drop, he will have to kick harder to keep them up.

As the legs' muscles need a lot of oxygen, the swimmer will be in a hurry to breathe, which will undermine his stroke rhythm. To correct balance, check out the freestyle swimming balance drills.

When the swimmer begins to swim freestyle, he hasn't learned to exhale properly through the nose yet. When he turns his head to breathe, water may enter his nose. A simple solution to this problem is to wear a nose clip. The swimmer can then wean himself off the nose clip later when he has mastered the other aspects of the stroke.

It is also advisable to learn how to breathe on both sides in freestyle, as this will ensure that the stroke is more symmetric and fluid.

The most popular breathing rhythm in freestyle is to breathe every third arm stroke, which basically means that the swimmer alternates the sides on which he inhales at every third stroke.

Another popular breathing rhythm is to breathe every second stroke. This means the swimmer always inhales on the same side. This breathing rhythm is often used in sprints, as the faster breathing rhythm supplies more oxygen to the muscles.

Butterfly Breathing and Swimming Tips

In the butterfly swim stroke, as in the front crawl, there is only a short amount of time during which the mouth clears the water and the inhale is possible. This means that the exhale must occur when the face is submerged.

Most butterfly swimmers inhale while they look to the front. There are some butterfly swimmers however that turn their head to the side to breathe in as it allows them to keep their head lower. In turn their hips and legs don't drop as much and they maintain their body undulation more easily.

The most popular breathing rhythm in the butterfly stroke is to breathe at every other arm stroke.

Other rhythms are possible. For example, breathing at every arm stroke supplies more oxygen but also costs more energy as the body must be lifted out of the water more often. Breathing less often saves energy but depletes the oxygen reserves faster.

So the best swimming and breathing rhythm is a matter of personal preferences depending on the swimmer's abilities.


You now have learned swimming and breathing tips in the four popular swim strokes. You may also want to review some basic tips about breathing while swimming. You can also have a look at the freestyle breathing drills.


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