Breathing techniques in freestyle swimming

Breathing on the side is very important when swimming freestyle. Get tips on breathing easier in the water, and try this free drill workout to improve your technique.

Breathing techniques in freestyle swimming

It is essential to learn bilateral breathing when swimming freestyle, which means breathing on both the left and right sides between strokes. Lift your head and face forward while breathing.

  • Try swimming freestyle by looking down at the bottom of the pool with your neck straight. Do not lower your chin.
  • While swimming, your body will rotate by leading with your hips, and your upper body will stretch as you stretch after the stroke.
  • Breath after each 3rd stroke. Then after 3 strokes (left, right, left), rotate your body to the side while the front arm is still stretched forward.
  • When you rotate your hips, your chest opens – try to focus on keeping your head flat and in line with the water surface.
  • Open your mouth to breathe, and keep one eye underwater. You may need to tamper with your lips so that you do not swallow water while breathing with half your face underwater.

When do I breathe?

Some swimmers are comfortable breathing every other stroke, while others swim 3-5 strokes between breaths. We suggest breathing after every third blow.

Maintaining a streamlined position on the water’s surface while breathing is crucial. If you breathe too often, you may find that your body rotates too much and breaks the perfect streamline.

For more experienced to advanced swimmers, focus on fast starts and turns:

Sliding off the wall

  • Slide the wall underwater in a perfect streamline
  • When you reach the surface of the water, take 1-3 strokes with your head down
  • Try not to catch your breath until you get the backstroke flags (usually 15 feet)
  • When breathing right after pushing off the wall, you will slow down and lose all speed

Approaching the wall to turn:

  • Approach the backstroke flags with your head down and swim freestyle
  • Take a breath and give yourself enough space to swim 1-3 strokes with your head down before turning
  • Practice timing, and learn how to take 1-2 deep breaths before turning
  • When lifting your head up or breathing on your side just before a snuff turn, you will slow down and lose momentum

1 stroke – 6 kick drill

Take a real blow. Kick 6 times with the leading arm stretched forward. Then rotate the body by leading with the hips but keeping the head facing the bottom of the water—alternating sides with six kicks, one stroke for the entire drill.

Paddle drill

Grasp an oar and remove the straps. Place the paddle in front of your forehead. As you move in the water, the paddle will stay in place. Momentum will press it against your head.

A paddle drill is a great way to practice keeping your head still and focusing on looking at the bottom of the pool. Try to keep the oars in place while rotating your head from side to side to breathe between strokes.

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