Freestyle Breathing Drills: 5 Techniques and Benefits

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What are the benefits of freestyle breathing drills?

Freestyle breathing drills are an essential part of swim training, offering numerous benefits for swimmers of all levels. Here are some key advantages of incorporating freestyle breathing drills into your swimming routine:

Freestyle breathing drills

  1. Improved lung capacity: Freestyle breathing drills help to expand lung capacity by focusing on proper inhalation and exhalation techniques. This increased lung capacity allows swimmers to take in more oxygen, enhancing endurance and overall performance in the water.
  2. Enhanced relaxation: Practicing freestyle breathing drills promotes a sense of relaxation and calmness while swimming. By mastering efficient breathing techniques, swimmers can reduce tension and anxiety, leading to smoother and more controlled strokes.
  3. Increased bilateral breathing: Freestyle breathing drills encourage swimmers to develop bilateral breathing, which involves alternating the breathing side. This technique promotes better body symmetry, balance, and overall stroke efficiency.
  4. Improved body rotation: Proper breathing technique in freestyle involves coordinated body rotation. By practicing breathing drills, swimmers can reinforce the correct body positioning and rotation, leading to a more streamlined and efficient stroke.
  5. Better stroke rhythm: Freestyle breathing drills help swimmers establish a consistent and rhythmic breathing pattern. This synchronization between stroke and breath allows for a smoother swim and reduces the risk of oxygen deprivation during intense swimming sessions.
  6. Greater confidence: As swimmers become more proficient in their breathing technique through drills, their overall confidence in the water increases. This newfound confidence translates into improved performance and a more enjoyable swimming experience.

How to improve breathing technique in freestyle?

Proper breathing technique is crucial for efficient and effective freestyle swimming. Here are some tips to improve your breathing technique:

  1. Exhale fully underwater: As your face is submerged in the water during the stroke, exhale forcefully through your nose and mouth. This clears out stale air and prepares you for a quick inhalation when you turn your head to breathe.
  2. Inhale to the side: When it’s time to breathe, turn your head to the side and inhale quickly and smoothly without lifting your head too high. Aim to keep one eye in the water and one eye out, maintaining good body alignment.
  3. Time your breath with your strokes: Coordinate your breathing with your arm strokes to maintain a smooth rhythm. Typically, swimmers take a breath every two or three arm strokes, but find a pattern that works best for you.
  4. Focus on body rotation: Engage your core muscles and rotate your body from the hips when taking a breath. This allows for a more natural and efficient movement, reducing strain on the neck and shoulders.
  5. Practice bilateral breathing: Bilateral breathing involves breathing to both sides, which helps to balance your stroke and improve symmetry. Gradually incorporate bilateral breathing into your training by alternating sides every few strokes.
  6. Use breathing drills: Incorporate specific breathing drills into your training routine to target and improve your breathing technique. These drills can include one-arm freestyle, breathing every three strokes, and exaggerated breathing to enhance breath control and timing.
  7. Seek feedback and guidance: Work with a qualified swimming coach or instructor who can provide feedback on your breathing technique and offer tailored exercises and drills to help you improve. Their expertise can make a significant difference in refining your technique.

Which drills can help beginner swimmers with freestyle breathing?

For beginner swimmers, it’s essential to start with drills that focus on building a strong foundation in freestyle breathing technique. Here are some drills that can help beginners improve their breathing:

  1. Bubble blowing: Begin by standing in chest-deep water and practice exhaling forcefully through your nose and mouth while blowing bubbles. This drill helps beginners get comfortable with exhaling underwater and establishes proper breathing rhythm.
  2. Kickboard breathing: Hold a kickboard with both hands and extend your arms in front of you. While kicking with a kickboard, practice taking quick breaths to the side, maintaining a steady rhythm. This drill helps beginners get accustomed to the breathing motion while maintaining body position and balance.
  3. One-arm freestyle: This drill involves swimming freestyle with one arm extended in front while keeping the other arm at your side. Focus on maintaining a steady breathing pattern while rotating your body and coordinating the arm stroke. This drill helps beginners develop breath control and body rotation.
  4. Catch-up drill: Begin by extending one arm in front and only start your next arm stroke once the extended arm completes the full stroke cycle. This drill encourages beginners to take their time and focus on proper breath timing and body rotation.
  5. Breathing every three strokes: As a beginner, practice taking a breath every three arm strokes to develop regular breathing patterns and balance your stroke. Gradually increase the number of strokes between breaths as you become more comfortable and proficient.

What are common mistakes to avoid when breathing in freestyle?

While learning to breathe in freestyle, swimmers often make some common mistakes that can hinder their progress. Here are a few mistakes to avoid:

  1. Lifting the head too high: One common mistake is lifting the head too high during the breathing motion. This disrupts body alignment and creates unnecessary strain on the neck and shoulders. Instead, focus on turning the head to the side while keeping it in line with the body.
  2. Holding the breath: Holding the breath instead of exhaling underwater is another common mistake. This can lead to tension and disrupt the breathing rhythm. Remember to exhale fully underwater to make room for a quick and efficient inhalation.
  3. Breathing late or early: Incorrect timing of the breath is a common mistake. Breathing too late or too early in the stroke can disrupt the smooth rhythm and break body alignment. Practice coordinating your breath with your arm strokes to achieve proper timing.
  4. Over-rotating the body: Excessive body rotation while taking a breath can create instability and slow down your stroke. Focus on maintaining a balanced rotation and avoid over-rotating to maintain efficiency.
  5. Neglecting bilateral breathing: Many swimmers neglect bilateral breathing and rely solely on breathing to one side. This can lead to imbalances in stroke technique and hinder overall stroke symmetry. Practice bilateral breathing to maintain balance and improve stroke efficiency.

How often should beginner swimmers practice freestyle breathing drills?

The frequency of practicing freestyle breathing drills depends on the individual’s swimming goals and availability. However, consistency is key when it comes to improving breathing technique. Here are some general recommendations for beginner swimmers:

  1. Start with two to three times per week: Begin by incorporating freestyle breathing drills into your swimming routine two to three times per week. This allows your body to adapt to the new techniques and build muscle memory.
  2. Gradually increase practice frequency: As you become more comfortable and proficient with the breathing drills, gradually increase the practice frequency to four to five times per week. This will help reinforce proper technique and improve breath control.
  3. Alternate drills with regular swimming: It’s important to strike a balance between breathing drills and regular swimming. While drills are essential for technique development, incorporating regular swimming sessions allows you to apply those techniques in a more dynamic and realistic environment.
  4. Listen to your body: Pay attention to your body’s response to the training and adjust the frequency accordingly. If you feel fatigued or experience any discomfort, consider reducing the frequency or intensity of the drills to prevent overtraining and potential injury.

Remember, consistency and patience are key when improving freestyle breathing technique. With regular practice and proper guidance, beginner swimmers can gradually master the art of efficient breathing and enhance their overall swimming performance.


Q1: How long does it take to improve freestyle breathing technique?
A1: The time it takes to improve freestyle breathing technique varies from person to person. With consistent practice and proper guidance, beginners can see improvements within a few weeks, while more significant advancements may take several months.

Q2: Can freestyle breathing drills help with other swimming strokes as well?
A2: While freestyle breathing drills specifically target the technique for freestyle swimming, many aspects, such as body rotation and breath control, are applicable to other strokes. Therefore, practicing freestyle breathing drills can indirectly benefit other swimming strokes as well.

Q3: Can I practice freestyle breathing drills on dry land?
A3: Freestyle breathing drills are primarily designed for water-based training. However, certain dry land exercises, such as yoga and core strengthening exercises, can complement freestyle breathing drills by improving overall body control and flexibility.

Q4: How can I prevent water from entering my nose while breathing in freestyle?
A4: To prevent water from entering your nose while breathing in freestyle, exhale forcefully through both your nose and mouth underwater. This clears the nasal passages and creates a small air pocket, reducing the chances of water entering your nose.

Q5: Should I breathe to both sides during open water swimming?
A5: While it’s not essential to breathe to both sides during open water swimming, developing bilateral breathing skills can provide more flexibility and adaptability in different conditions, such as waves, currents, and glare from the sun.

Q6: Can I practice freestyle breathing drills without a swimming coach?
A6: While having a swimming coach or instructor provides valuable feedback and guidance, you can still practice freestyle breathing drills on your own. However, it’s important to be mindful of your technique and seek expert advice periodically to ensure proper form and progress.

Q7: Are freestyle breathing drills suitable for all ages?
A7: Freestyle breathing drills can be beneficial for swimmers of all ages and skill levels. However, it’s important to adjust the intensity and duration of the drills based on individual fitness levels and any pre-existing medical conditions.