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Breathing While Swimming: Basic Tips and Exercises

2016/7/21 10:29:14

This article describes a few basic tips and drills you can use to become familiar with proper breathing technique while swimming. This is useful because when you take up swimming, learning proper breathing technique is often one of the major challenges one faces besides learning how to float.

Blowing bubbles underwater is a good exercise to learn breath control

Blowing bubbles underwater is a good exercise to learn breath control

Once you have good breath control and have learned proper swimming technique, breathing often fits in seamlessly with your stroke and relaxed swimming becomes possible.


Basic Breathing Tips

First, a few general tips:

  1. Wear swimming goggles. Without goggles, water gets in your eyes and irritates them. Furthermore, water in the eyes makes you nearly blind, which can lead to anxiety. On the other hand, you have one thing less to worry about when you use swimming goggles. As a consequence you are more relaxed and learning proper breathing technique is easier.
  2. In those swim strokes where you submerge your head, don’t hold your breath but exhale continuously when your face is in the water. If you do this well, your lungs should be nearly empty when you rotate or lift your head to breathe again.
  3. Inhale quickly when your mouth clears the water. This should occur naturally if you have exhaled properly in the water before, as explained above.

Basic Breathing Drills

The following basic drills can be used to get familiar with breathing technique in the water. Wear swimming goggles to practice those drills.

Drill #1: In shallow water, hold your breath, then crouch down so your head gets under water. Stay in that position for a few seconds, then rise up.

Drill #2: Same as drill #1, but exhale under water through the nose so you blow bubbles.

Drill #3: Same as drill #2, except that you now blow bubbles both out of your nose and your mouth.

Drill #4: In shallow water, crouch down until the water surface rests between your nose and your mouth. Now practice inhaling above water through your nose and exhaling under water through your mouth.


Drill #5: In shallow water, submerge your face and blow bubbles through your mouth, nose, or both. Then hold onto the pool edge and try to get into a horizontal position with your face turned downward. Continue to blow bubbles through your mouth and nose. To get into the horizontal position you can use a relaxed flutter kick.

Drill #6: Bob up and down with your body in shallow water. Inhale while your head is above water and exhale while your head is under water. This drill gets you familiar with rhythmic breathing, a skill that will be useful later on when learning the different swimming strokes.


This article has covered a few tips and exercises useful to learn breathing while swimming. Additional articles that might also interest you are our overview of breathing technique in swimming and freestyle breathing swimming drills.

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