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Swim Breathing Technique

Updated: Jul 26, 2019

Proper breathing techniques can lead to better body position and enhanced performance. So in honor of proper breathing while swimming, biking and running we are going to do a 3 part series focusing on proper technique in each sport. This week we will focus on the swim.

A good breathing technique can eliminate bad form such as a scissor kick caused by lifting to much of your head out of the water or taking to long of a breath. An improper breathing technique can also cause arm crossover or a lopsided stroke.



First, let’s start with the breath exhale underwater. For a beginner and intermediate swimmer this is a challenging skill to incorporate. You should be steadily exhaling the whole time your face is underwater. Exhaling can happen from your mouth or nose, it doesn't matter. When you are at the pool take a look at some of the other swimmers breathing techniques. If you see a small spray when they lift their head out of the water to take a breath, there is a good chance they are exhaling late in the stroke and still pushing air out when lifting their mouth out for a breath in. This leads to a longer breath time, resulting in body crossover, scissor kicking and a less relaxed feeling in general.


Now onto the inhale. When inhaling head position is important, to take a breath you do not need to lift your whole head out of the water. In fact the freestyle swim position creates an air pocket or dip in the water next to your head so you don’t need to lift your whole face out of the water. When taking a breath keep one eye in the water and your mouth out. With proper body position you will be able to breath into the “pocket” while only rotating your head a little. Proper technique and finding the pocket to breath in eliminates over rotating of the head and body, eliminating cross over, lower body drag and scissor kicking.


Spending time during your warmups and cooldowns focusing on good body position and breathing will make you an even faster, smoother and more efficient swimmer. In addition if you are not a bilateral breather this is a good time to work on the skill. Learning to breathe on both sides makes your stroke more symmetrical and helps with tracking straight through the water.

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