Struggling with Swimming Breaths? Find Out How to Breathe in Different Styles

Understanding Breathing in Swimming vs. Other Sports

Swimming breathing technique is a distinct skill set compared to other sports. In athletics, you breathe naturally, often in sync with your steps. However, in swimming, you must coordinate your breaths with your strokes and manage them while partially or fully submerged in water. This unique environment requires swimmers to develop precise timing and control over their breathing to maintain efficiency and speed.


Breathing Techniques for Different Swimming Styles

Swimmer practicing crawl in the pool.

1. Crawl (Front Crawl or Freestyle)

  • Rhythmic Breathing: Turn your head to the side along with the stroke. Inhale quickly through your mouth before turning your head back into the water.
  • Exhalation: Exhale steadily through your nose when your face is in the water.
  • Timing: Most swimmers opt for a bi-lateral breathing pattern (every three strokes) to maintain balance.

2. Breaststroke

  • Synchronized Breathing: In breaststroke, your head lifts naturally during the stroke. Inhale when your head is above water.
  • Quick Inhalation: Make your inhale quick and sharp as your arms begin to sweep outward.
  • Underwater Exhalation: Exhale through your nose or mouth when your face is in the water as you glide.

3. Backstroke

  • Constant Air Access: Since your face is out of the water, you have more freedom with breathing.
  • Steady Rhythm: Maintain a steady and relaxed breathing pattern. Inhale and exhale at a constant rate, syncing with your arm movements.
  • Avoid Water Inhalation: Be cautious of water splashes. Time your breaths to avoid inhaling water during arm strokes.

4. Freestyle

  • Side Breathing: Similar to crawl, turn your head to the side with your stroke to inhale.
  • Exhalation in Water: Exhale gently through your nose or mouth while your face is submerged.
  • Breathing Pattern: Choose a breathing pattern (every two, three, or four strokes) based on your comfort and experience level.

Tips for Effective Swimming Breathing

  • Consistent Practice: Regular practice is key to mastering breathing techniques.
  • Relaxed Breathing: Avoid holding your breath. A relaxed breathing pattern increases endurance and reduces fatigue.
  • Head Position: Keep your head in a neutral position aligned with your body. Over-rotating can disrupt your stroke and breathing rhythm.
  • Drills: Use specific drills to improve your breathing technique, such as one-arm freestyle with extended breathing intervals.

The Benefits of Mastering Swimming Breathing

Effective breathing technique in swimming not only enhances performance but also ensures safety and stamina preservation. Proper breathing helps maintain a constant supply of oxygen to your muscles, crucial for endurance and speed. Additionally, it aids in rhythm and balance, key components of an efficient swimming technique.


Breathing in swimming is a skill that requires patience and practice. Each style demands a specific approach, and mastering these can lead to significant improvements in your swimming performance. Remember, the way you breathe can make a big difference in how you swim. So take the plunge, focus on your breath, and watch as your swimming transforms!