Master Your Breath: Breathing Exercises for Smooth Freestyle Swimming


Developing a breathing technique would probably be the most challenging aspect for beginners, as well as experienced swimmers. If you are having difficulty with breathing, it could easily affect the other components of your stroke. For example, breathing may potentially cause you to do scissor kicks, cross-overs, lop-sided strokes, as well as poor body position. This is a common misconception among swimmers, in which they fail to realize that the breathing, not the stroke, is the culprit.

In this post, we will be discussing four breathing exercises for smooth freestyle swimming. We hope that these exercises would help you keep a better, as well as a horizontal position when you swim smooth freestyle. Keep on reading if you want to know more.

Breathing Exercises

1. For the first one

For the first one, try grabbing the wall using your one hand, take a breath, place your face into the surface of the water, and start kicking, in which the amount is appropriate to position your body horizontally. At this moment, you will not be exhaling. Instead, you will be holding your breath for about two seconds and let about 50% of the air in your lungs out through your nose, with 20% of that air using your mouth.

While you are letting out about 70% of that air, take a quick breath through your mouth. In swimming, you will notice that you breathe the exact opposite if you are running. When swimming, you are likely to exhale through your nose while inhaling using your mouth. You may also notice that you will not constantly exhale the whole time your head is in the water. This is very important, especially when maintaining your upper body afloat. It would also be useful if you don’t fill your lungs up to their full capacity.

You may start practicing this breathing technique on either side – breathe on your left and breathe on your right. You may do this exercise until you are comfortable with doing the overall movement and more specifically, this breathing technique.

2. The second breathing exercise

The second breathing exercise is a lot like the first one. However, in this instance, you need to have a kickboard instead of the traditional wall. In addition, you’ll also be performing full strokes. Try kicking about six times, then take a breath and a full stroke. You will notice that some swimmers are not exhaling while their head is in place looking at the bottom of the pool. Meanwhile, more experienced swimmers just exhale while their head is moving up to the surface before breaking it and a little bit while their head is on the surface.

It is also noteworthy that this all happens in just a matter of hundredths of a second while swimming fast. This is the very reason why you need to practice this breathing exercise slowly at first. Through repetition, you will be able to perfect and master it.

3. The third breathing exercise

The third breathing exercise is also very similar to the second one. However, you will not be needing a kickboard for this one. Generally, swimmers do have their preferred side but for beginners, you will need to practice a lot to learn the technique of breathing on both sides. You may also notice that goggles barely come out of the water’s surface. This is to make the breath a lot faster while keeping a good alignment of your body.

4. The fourth breathing exercise

The fourth breathing exercise, when compared to the first three, is a lot simpler. You just need to kick while your arms are in a downward position while moving your head a bit to one side to breathe. It should be noted that there should be no movement from your arms.

With this breathing exercise, you need to focus on keeping your hips on the water’s surface and taking quick breaths. Think of it like the way you train on the previous breathing exercises.

Now, it seems like you are prepared to do it all. You may practice on a length of the pool, where you can do the freestyle you can work on all while you take quick and short breaths. You may also try this: breathe every second, third, or fourth stroke. You will perhaps notice the big difference, especially when you stop at one end, take control of your breath, and then do it all over again.

How Should You Breathe?

Most swimmers, after inhaling and returning their head to the water, hold their breath for one stroke. In addition, they also exhale very late right before their next inhalation. This would always result in finishing that exhalation in the air when they have already turned to inhale. Some also feel that they are properly exhaling into the water just because they exhale a little before inhaling, which may be seen a little too late.

When you are swimming, you should be able to exhale except when you are turning your head to inhale. With this, you can exhale using your mouth or through the nose (or both) and it would not matter. However, when your head is in the water, you need to be exhaling in just one constant stream of bubbles.

It is very important that you exhale constantly. Why? Because you only tense up when you hold your breath. When you’re exhaling, you release the said tension. Same way when you’re feeling stressed and someone has told you to breathe. It is not once you inhale that you are feeling a bit more relaxed, it is always when you’re letting go of that air. Another reason is that when you hold your breath, it helps you feel that you require to breathe. In case you are not familiar, this sensation is the buildup of carbon dioxide and not the absence of oxygen.

It is also noteworthy that having your lungs full would be bad for the position of your body. The reason is that your chest may be too buoyant. As your body serves like a seesaw around the center, it would only cause your legs to sink down into the water; thus, creating a bit more drag. Lastly, most swimmers only exhale and inhale during the short window when their head is above the surface of the water. This could be a very difficult thing to do, as you will feel that each breath is either panicky or a little snatched.


Nearly all experienced swimmers think that they are properly exhaling, but they don’t. With this guide, we do hope that you have learned a lot about the proper breathing exercises for smooth freestyle swimming. Now that you have reached the end of this end, we trust that you will be able to apply this new knowledge, which can be of great benefit for you, especially if you are only starting out with this water sport.

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