How to improve your breathing technique for swimming

by Mihai Pinzariu on September 25, 2019

As a beginner swimmer, there are two important aspects that you need to develop when learning to breathe in the water:

1. Having your face underwater while you breathe,

2. Maintaining a proper rhythm to your breathing.

We’re here to guide you on both of these points so breathing in the water becomes an easy and achievable feat!

1. Breathing with your face underwater

It’s important that you learn to breathe while keeping your face underwater. This is because your hips and legs will invariably drop if you try to swim with your head or face out of the water (i.e. doggy paddling). This is why learning to swim with a snorkel mask on is always the best and easiest way to get started!

“But swimming with my head above water is easier!” You may think so, but the truth isn’t the case. Here’s why you shouldn’t swim with your head above the water:

  • When your head is above the surface, your hips are kept lower, which creates a drag while swimming,
  • This means you need to push harder to get through the same amount of surface area,
  • There’s also increased resistance, which will force you to take more rest breaks as your heart and muscles demand more oxygen.
  • There are lots of different tricks to learning to swim while keeping your face underwater:
  • Make sure you have comfortable goggles on, or even better, a full-face snorkel mask,
  • Keep your focus on the bottom of the pool, or the black line down the centre of your lane,
  • If you have anxiety about keeping your head underwater, make sure to take lots of rest breaks and not overdo it. Remember that when you’re in a pool, you’re never far away from the wall or the exit,
  • Practice makes perfect and don’t push yourself too hard. Be patient and know that learning this skill takes time.

   2. Maintaining proper breathing rhythm

Once you’ve learned to be comfortable with having your head submerged in the water while you swim, you’ll have to learn when and how is the best time to breathe. The most important aspect of rhythmic breathing is to start exhaling as soon as you finish breathing in.

One of the biggest problems with beginner swimmers is that they try to hold their breath while their face is in the water, and then try to exhale and inhale quickly when they come up for air. This is actually incorrect breathing as it leads to shallow breath and a quick buildup of carbon dioxide in the lungs.

It’s vital that you learn to exhale while your face is in the water. When you turn to breathe, you want your lungs to be mostly empty and ready to take in a fresh load of oxygen. Create the proper rhythm by forcefully exhaling through your nose or mouth as soon as you’ve finished inhaling. There is no pause. It’s a constant rhythm between inhale and exhale.

The easiest way to learn how to swim is with a snorkel mask

When you’re trying to learn the proper movements and physical techniques for swimming, focusing on your breath can be a distraction that gets in the way. That’s why snorkels are the best tool you can have to help you work on your swimming strokes.

Here’s why learning to swim with a snorkel mask is the easiest and best method:

  • Wearing a snorkel lets you keep your head still so you don’t have to worry about how and when to breathe,
  • With your head straight, you’ll have less stroke imperfections that are usually caused by your head moving around a lot. This will help you swim straighter and perfect your alignment,
  • With a snorkel mask on you can keep your back and spine completely straight and avoid putting strain on your neck or lower back,
  • It also keeps your hips higher in the water so that there’s less resistance, making swimming easier to master,
  • Focusing on your body roll is easier when wearing a snorkel mask, giving you faster, stronger, and more powerful strokes,
  • You can also watch your hands as they move underwater, helping you generate more power, speed, and minimise the risk of injury.

And once you’ve mastered the strokes and can do them like second nature, then you can worry about how and when to breathe.

What kind of snorkel should I use when learning how to swim?

The best snorkel to use when learning to swim is a full-face snorkel mask that lets you breathe naturally, the same as you would above the water.

FAQ: 

1. How can I improve my breathing technique for swimming?

As a beginner swimmer, there are two important aspects that you need to develop when learning to breathe in the water:

1. Having your face underwater while you breathe,

2. Maintaining a proper rhythm to your breathing.  

2. Why I shouldn’t swim with my head above the water?

When your head is above the surface, your hips are kept lower, which creates a drag while swimming,

This means you need to push harder to get through the same amount of surface area,

There’s also increased resistance, which will force you to take more rest breaks as your heart and muscles demand more oxygen.

3. What are the tricks to learning to swim while keeping my face underwater?

Make sure you have comfortable goggles on, or even better, a full-face snorkel mask,

Keep your focus on the bottom of the pool, or the black line down the centre of your lane,

If you have anxiety about keeping your head underwater, make sure to take lots of rest breaks and not overdo it. Remember that when you’re in a pool, you’re never far away from the wall or the exit,

Practice makes perfect and don’t push yourself too hard. Be patient and know that learning this skill takes time.

4. How to Breathe Properly?

One of the biggest problems with beginner swimmers is that they try to hold their breath while their face is in the water, and then try to exhale and inhale quickly when they come up for air. This is actually incorrect breathing as it leads to shallow breath and a quick buildup of carbon dioxide in the lungs.

It’s vital that you learn to exhale while your face is in the water. When you turn to breathe, you want your lungs to be mostly empty and ready to take in a fresh load of oxygen. Create the proper rhythm by forcefully exhaling through your nose or mouth as soon as you’ve finished inhaling. There is no pause. It’s a constant rhythm between inhale and exhale.

5. What is the easiest method to learn how to swim?

When you’re trying to learn the proper movements and physical techniques for swimming, focusing on your breath can be a distraction that gets in the way. That’s why snorkels are the best tool you can have to help you work on your swimming strokes.

Wearing a snorkel lets you keep your head still so you don’t have to worry about how and when to breathe. With your head straight, you’ll have less stroke imperfections that are usually caused by your head moving around a lot. This will help you swim straighter and perfect your alignment.


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