How to Breathe When Swimming Freestyle: The Paddle Drill

Photo of author

Mastering the Paddle Drill: Essential Tips for Freestyle Breathing

Freestyle breathing is a crucial aspect of swimming technique that can greatly impact your performance in the water. One effective drill that can help you improve your breathing technique is the paddle drill. In this article, we will explore the essential tips to master the paddle drill and enhance your freestyle breathing skills.

swimmer doing the paddle drill while swimming freestyle

Why is Freestyle Breathing Important?

Before we delve into the paddle drill, let’s understand why freestyle breathing is important. Proper breathing technique allows swimmers to maintain a steady flow of oxygen, enabling them to swim longer distances without feeling fatigued. It also helps to maintain a streamlined body position and improves overall stroke efficiency.

The Paddle Drill: An Overview

The paddle drill is an effective exercise that focuses on improving freestyle breathing technique. It involves the use of paddles, which are flat, plastic devices worn on the hands to increase resistance and provide feedback during the stroke. The paddle drill helps swimmers develop a rhythmic breathing pattern, strengthen their arm muscles, and improve their overall stroke mechanics.

Step 1: Equipment Preparation

To begin the paddle drill, gather the necessary equipment. You will need a pair of swimming goggles, a swim cap, a set of hand paddles, and a stopwatch or swimming watch to track your time. Ensure that the hand paddles fit comfortably on your hands without causing any discomfort or restriction.

Step 2: Warm-Up

Before starting any drill or exercise, it is essential to warm up your body to prevent injuries. Perform a series of dynamic stretches, such as arm circles, shoulder rolls, and neck rotations. Additionally, swim a few laps using your preferred stroke to get your muscles warmed up.

Step 3: Proper Hand Placement

Once you are warmed up, it’s time to focus on the correct hand placement during the paddle drill. Begin by sliding your hands into the paddles and aligning them with the natural contour of your hands. Ensure that the paddles are snugly secured to your hands, but not too tight to cause discomfort.

Step 4: Breathing Technique

To master the paddle drill, it is crucial to pay attention to your breathing technique. Start by swimming freestyle with the paddles, focusing on maintaining a relaxed and rhythmic breathing pattern. Breathe in through your mouth as your arm enters the water and exhale through your mouth or nose as your arm exits the water.

Step 5: Incorporating Bilateral Breathing

Bilateral breathing, or breathing to both sides, is a valuable skill to develop during the paddle drill. It helps to balance your stroke and enables you to breathe comfortably in any direction. Practice alternating your breathing to the left and right side, ensuring a smooth transition and maintaining a consistent rhythm.

Step 6: Increasing Difficulty

As you become more comfortable with the paddle drill, you can gradually increase the difficulty level to further challenge yourself. Try increasing the tempo of your strokes or adding more laps to your training session. You can also experiment with different paddle sizes to intensify the resistance and enhance your arm strength.

Step 7: Tracking Progress

To monitor your progress and track improvements in your freestyle breathing technique, it is essential to record your training sessions. Use a stopwatch or swimming watch to time yourself during the paddle drill. Note any changes in your breathing pattern, stroke efficiency, and overall comfort in the water.


Mastering the paddle drill is a valuable skill for any swimmer looking to enhance their freestyle breathing technique. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can improve your breathing rhythm, increase your arm strength, and ultimately boost your swimming performance. Remember to practice regularly, be patient with yourself, and enjoy the process of refining your freestyle breathing technique.