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Upgrade your breathing technique by Fred Vergnoux

Discover the small change to your breathing technique that could have you swimming more efficiently, in the latest blog instalment from elite coach, Fred Vergnoux. Here he talks technique tweaks for maximum results.


Why work on your breathing? From a physiological point of view, you need to supply your muscles with oxygen. From an efficiency point of view, it can give you a lot more fluidity as your stroke will become smoother if you breathe at the right point.

To improve your breathing technique, aim to make one small change this week from the suggestions below:

Work on your lung capacity

Underwater swimming can allow you to work on your breathing and is helpful for improving your lung capacity. Use fins for your underwater sessions to help provide momentum. Remember, any underwater swimming should always be performed with caution.

Focus on exhaling properly – and practice doing it

A lot of swimmers don’t actually exhale enough – they just ‘breathe in, breathe in, breathe in’, which affects their efficiency. Try this simple drill that can be done in the water, but also practised on land during your warm up:

Take a deep, relaxed breath and hold it for a slow count of four. Exhale to a slow count of four. Blow long and controlled and then stop and hold. Repeat this exercise three or four times.

Wear fins to work on your breathing technique

Speed and momentum can make your swim easier, allowing you can focus on your breathing technique, so consider wearing fitness fins when working on your breathing.

[Speedo tip: Watch our users’ guide to fins, here]

Freestyle – don’t turn to exhale

When you swim freestyle, you need to be sure that the moment you finish exhaling, you breathe in, but you musn’t turn your head to the side to do both. Every time you move your head, you create resistance and damage your speed. So remember to maintain your body position as much as possible, exhale in the water and only turn your head to breathe.

Freestyle – know when to breathe

When you breathe at the right time, your propulsion isn’t affected. In freestyle, breathing every 3 strokes is the optimum because it allows you to spend as much time as possible in the water. Try this great freestyle breathing drill:

Practise breathing every 2 strokes, then every 3, then 5, then 6, then 7 strokes. As a further challenge, perform simple fly kicking with fins, arms by your sides, and alternate your breathing sides: breathing on the left, then on the right.

Breaststroke – try this drill to work on lung capacity and exhalation

Perform one arm pull then three kicks. During the three kicks, focus on exhaling, long and slow. Then practise alternating with short, fast exhalation. Think about holding your breath and exhaling the air out quicker than normal.

Try the butterfly breathing technique challenge

Perform your butterfly stroke as normal using just one arm (place your other arm by your side in a streamlined position). This provides a really good breathing challenge. Tip: Fins will help make this easier.

Summary of the week

  • Don’t forget to exhale properly! Practise exhaling, both long and slow and short and fast.

  • Try wearing fins while practising your breathing – the extra momentum will make it easier.

  • Next week… read about the small change you can make to help you set goals and achieve them.

Missed last week? Read Fred’s blog on improving your stroke technique here.

Learn more about the correct breathing technique by watching our quick how-to videos, covering the techniques you need to breathe correctly during freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly.