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Proper Breathing Technique for Freestyle Swimming

author image W D Adkins
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.
Proper Breathing Technique for Freestyle Swimming
A swimmer in a lap lane. Photo Credit Trepalio/iStock/Getty Images

The modern freestyle or front crawl stroke was first demonstrated in London in 1844 by two Native American swimmers named Flying Gull and Tobacco. British observers dismissed the swimming technique as uncouth, even though the Americans easily bested some British swimmers. In 1873, John Arthur Trudgen reintroduced the front crawl to Britain, successfully. Freestyle is the fastest swimming stroke and the only stroke in which you don't lift your face out of the water to breathe. Instead, you turn your head to one side. As a result, the proper breathing technique is the most difficult freestyle skill for many novice swimmers to master.

Step 1

Exhale while your face is under water. When you turn your head to breathe, you'll only have a second to inhale. You don't have time to exhale completely and then inhale while your mouth is clear of the water.

Step 2

Align your head with your body between breaths. Don't move your head, except when you turn it to breathe. Focus your eyes on the bottom of the pool to help keep your head still and properly aligned.

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Step 3

Breathe on the same side of your body during every other stroke. Each arm pull counts as a complete stroke. Turn your head toward the side on which your arm passes overhead.

Step 4

Rotate your head until your mouth just clears the water, and then inhale sharply. Don't lift your head. Your head and body forms a bow wave through the water as you swim. A pocket, or trough, then forms behind the wave, so the water level beside your head is lower than the surrounding water. If you keep your head properly positioned, your mouth will be in the trough, making it easy to breathe.

Step 5

Avoid over-rotating your head. Turn it only enough to take a quick breath. Immediately turn your head back to a face-down position and then begin to exhale to prepare for your next breath.

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