Swimming can be a difficult sport to learn if you’ve never been taught the very basics. One of the biggest issues most beginners face is breathing in the freestyle stroke. Even for veterans of the sport, breathing can be a nightmare if you don’t know the correct technique and method for easy and effortless breathing in freestyle.

The prospect of swallowing water can stop people from learning swimming as it can all seem too difficult after they’ve given it a shot three or four times. If you are having breathing problems in your swimming, don’t despair. There is an easy solution which can be implemented right away. Here I will outline the three keys to overcoming breathing problems in swimming.

1. Breathing out

The most important aspect of breathing technique is the breath out. The reason most swimmers choke on water is because they blow out all of their air too early or too late. The swimmer should breath to the side of the recovery arm (the arm which is out of the water) and take a big breath of air. As the head enters the water, begin blowing a small amount of air out of both the nose and the mouth. Continue doing this until just before you take your next breath. As you go to breath again let all your air out quickly through your nose and mouth just before you take that next breath. Remember that last sentence and your breathing problems should be fixed.

2. Rotation

To breath effectively it’s necessary to breath to the side. The easiest way to do this is to rotate the shoulders throughout the freestyle stroke. This makes it easier to get the mouth out of the water so not as much head rotation is required. Use your body roll and momentum to help rotate your head when breathing.

3. Stay relaxed

A secret to effortless swimming, not just effortless breathing, is to stay relaxed. Too often swimmers will tense up, hyperventilate and force themselves through the water. This isn’t how to swim fast. You must stay relaxed, keep calm and allow yourself to glide through the water. During your breathing, keep calm and allow yourself to breath normally without forcing air in and out.

There you have it, three important tips which will help you breath easier in freestyle. Remember to let all of your air out quickly through your nose and mouth just before you take a breath. Use your body roll and momentum to help rotate your head when breathing, and stay relaxed and breath normally though out the stroke.

9 Responses

  1. Brenton your advice is very clear and I believe this can help many swimmers. Though I have observed that swimmers may not know what relax means. The style of breathing can be useful in creating a feeling of relaxation, centredness and control. Breathing into the chest and expanding the rib cage creates a feeling of force and tension, whilst breathing into the abdomin can be used to focus core energy. The expansion of the abdominal muscles can assist with hip rotation and subsequent streamlining as the swimmer expels the air and coordinates into the long stroke streamling position.

    Cheers John

  2. How often should I be breathing in/out? I see swimmers taking a breath everytime they have, say, the left arm out of the water but I find this too much and breathe in every second time my left arm is out. Which is correct?

  3. Geoff, It depends what you are swimming. If you’re sprinting like a 50mts you don’t have to breath at all. or one breath (Michael phelps breath every stroke). If you are doing a longer swim say 400 or 800 then you can breath every third stroke or 5th stroke you can still breath every stroke but be careful not hyperventilate. In this case you should take in very little air instead of gulping a lot that you cannot breath out between two strokes. Some people are comfortable breathing every stroke on one side but that may hurt the shoulder of the side you are not breathing (I tend to breath to the right and this hurt my left shoulder…a lot). I hope this helps.

  4. may swimmers taking the breath every 2 and 3 arm so how long we can hold the breath in 25m .50m 100m freestyle

  5. Brenton, good advice for breathing technique.
    Another tactic I used to work on with some of my kids was to have them turn their heads down just a bit, as well as to the side when breathing. This created a nice pocket in the water allowing them to breathe in with less likelihood of swallowing water. Just wondering if you think this approach is helpful, or there are other accommodations that might work better.

  6. Hai Brendon,

    This is Joe from India and i have a unique problem. I am just practising my freestlyle and think i have gotten hold of it. But my pbm is I always go sideways and not treading a straight path through the water. How to fix it?

  7. hello Brendon,
    This is vaishali from India .Actually i am a new comer to swimming .Your tips makes me to learn swimming soon.But my major problem is i am getting tired very soon. I am not able to sprint even one 25 meter.I ‘ll get exhausted.. can you say me any steps too over come this problem. ….

  8. Hello Brenton.
    this is the important tips.
    “As you go to breath again let all your air out quickly through your nose and mouth just before you take that next breath”

    my question is: where should this last breathing out be ? under water or out of the water?

  9. @ Josef – Under the water just before you rotate your head out of the water

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