This post is sponsored by Airofit. Get 15% off the Airofit Breathing Trainer with the code MySwimPro.
As a swimmer, you’re probably always thinking about technique. You might even spend weeks or months at a time working on one aspect of your stroke. But when was the last time you thought about your breathing?
You might throw a hypoxic swim set in here and there, and that’s about it. But when it comes to improving swimming performance, breathing — and especially breath control — is extremely important.
So, how do you improve your breath control and vital lung capacity? We have some helpful tips for you, including a tool from Airofit that helped Fares increase his accessible lung capacity by 25% in just 4 weeks!
Why is Breath Control Important?
Breath control can be defined as any sort of mindful breathing, from breath holding during swimming to conscious breathing during meditation. Working on your breath has a host of benefits, from stress relief to improved vital lung capacity. From a swimming perspective, here’s why breath control is important:
- Confidence: Being in the water can be uncomfortable. Knowing you can hold your breath if you get dunked underwater or if a wave crashes into you gives you peace of mind and keeps you safe.
- Enjoyment: Improving your breath control allows you to have more fun in the water!
- Results: Whether you want to swim a 50 with no breath or want to finish a 25 without panting on the wall, actively working on breath control will help you improve your performance.
Understanding the Respiratory Musculature
Before you dive into breath control work, it’s important to understand the muscles you’ll be training: the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles.
Related: Learn to Float in 10 Minutes or Less!
The diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs. It’s the principle muscle of respiration. When you inhale, it contracts and moves downward, creating more space for your lungs to expand. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and pushes air out of the lungs.
The intercostal muscles are located between your ribs, and help expand and contract the chest cavity during breathing.
Many athletes neglect to train their respiratory muscles, so they often fatigue quickly. This results in blood flow and oxygen being redirected from your limbs to your diaphragm, which can hinder overall performance.
How to Improve Breath Control
Related: I Tried Special Operations Training UNDERWATER
Increased mindfulness and control over your breathing means you are more comfortable underwater and don’t feel like you’re drowning when oxygen levels decrease. Try focusing on one of these areas to start:
- Technique: When you swim more efficiently, you use less oxygen. After your swims, take a look at your SWOLF score, which is a combination of the number of strokes you took per lap and the time you took to complete the lap. The more efficient your stroke becomes, the easier basics like breathing will be. Learn more about SWOLF score >
- Longer Swims: Swimming longer distances and incorporating breath control work into your pool workouts each week can help you challenge yourself and ensure you are staying mindful of your breathing.
- Diaphragmatic Training: Your diaphragm helps pull air into your lungs and push it out. A breath training program, like the sport-specific programs from Airofit, can help you train your diaphragm to function properly during even the most high intensity workouts.
If you don’t train breath control, there’s a chance you will experience noticeable gains after beginning a structured training program.
Expand Accessible Lung Capacity with Airofit
Airofit’s Breathing Trainer is the first ever breath training system designed for swimmers. Whether you want to swim a no-breath 50 free, conquer a 200 stroke or improve your underwaters, Airofit’s cutting edge technology and training programs can help make your breathing muscles faster, stronger and more efficient.
Fares had a chance to test out Airofit’s swimming-specific programs, and was able to increase his accessible lung capacity from 5.8 liters to 7.4 liters — a 25% improvement — in just 4 weeks! Watch the unboxing video >
The Airofit Breathing Trainer can help swimmers:
- Enhance Oxygenation: Better breathing means better oxygen flow to your muscles during exercise, reducing fatigue.
- Build Strength & Mobility: Airofit builds strength and flexibility in your diaphragm and intercostal muscles to ensure you don’t waste unnecessary energy on breathing. Regular training also increases the mobility of the thorax joints (in your ribs & spine).
- Improve Accessible Lung Capacity: Accessible lung capacity is the amount of air exhaled after maximum inhalation. Airofit improves the range of motion in your diaphragm, which reduces the residual volume of the lungs and allows you to inhale more usable air. As a result, you can go longer between breaths while swimming.
- Increase Anaerobic Threshold: As your muscles get used to an oxygenless environment, you will be able to perform at maximum power output for longer periods of time. These improvements can result in better performance in races, especially sprints.
How it Works
Related: Watch the Unboxing Video!
The Airofit Sport app contains sport-specific breathing programs designed to place different levels of resistance on your diaphragm and intercostal muscles. These programs sync to the Airofit Breathing Trainer via Bluetooth for real-time, visual feedback on your breathing.
Related: What is Hypoxic Training?
Simply put the trainer in your mouth and let the app guide you through each of the day’s breathing exercises. It almost feels like a video game!
Give it a shot for 5-20 minutes per day. Stay accountable and track your improvement over time in the app!
Get 15% off the Airofit Breathing Trainer with the code MySwimPro.
Swim Workouts to Improve Breath Control
Related: How to Write a Swim Workout for Beginners
In addition to training with Airofit, it’s smart to incorporate breath control work into your swim workouts. These sample workouts are a great place to start.
Beginner Workout (1,000 Meters)
For this warm up, rather than swimming each rep on an interval, you’ll take a specific number of breaths before starting the next rep.
- 4 x 50s Freestyle @ 10 breaths rest
- 4 x 25s Kick @ 5 breaths rest
- 4 x 25s stroke @ 10 breaths rest
- 1 x 25 Freestyle – breathe every 2 strokes
- 1 x 50 Freestyle – breathe every 2 strokes
- 1 x 75 Freestyle – breathe every 3 strokes
- 1 x 100 Freestyle – breathe every 3 strokes
- 1 x 100 Freestyle – breathe every 4 strokes
- 1 x 75 Freestyle – breathe every 4 strokes
- 1 x 50 Freestyle – breathe every 5 strokes
- 1 x 25 Freestyle – breathe every 5 strokes
2 x 50 Freestyle Easy @ 10 breaths rest
Advanced Workout (2,500 Meters)
- 5 x 100 Freestyle @ 1:45
- 4 x 50 Kick @ 1:10 – ½ Underwater
- 4 x 50 IM @ 1:00 – ½ Underwater
- 1 x 300 Pull – Breathe every 3-5 strokes
- 8 x 75 Freestyle @ 1:30
- 1st 25: Breathe every 3 strokes
- 2nd 25: Breathe every 5 strokes
- 3rd 25: Breathe every 7 strokes
Main Set (2x)
5 x 50 Freestyle @ 1:10
- 1st 50: 2 breaths per 25
- 2nd 50: 1 breath 1st 25, 2 breaths 2nd 25
- 3rd 50: 1 breath per 25
- 4th 50: 0 breaths 1st 25, 1 breath 2nd 25
- 5th 50: 0 breaths
4 x 50 Freestyle @ 1:00 – Silent Swimming
Do you incorporate breath control training into your workouts? Let us know in the comments. Get 15% off an Airofit Breathing Trainer with the code MySwimPro >
I want to imprive underwater swimming….
I di not reach 1/2…
Keep working on it! Real progress doesn’t come overnight!
Apparently I don’t even make beginner evel….I have worked my way up from barely able to swim 25 meters freestyle to barely able to swim 200 meters freestyle. My main strokes are breast stroke backstroke and side stroke. With a forced 200 meters of crawl in there at the start of each set of rotations. Crawl, breast, back, side then anything goes for 100 meters repeat. So I am swimming about a mile a day with 7 pauses for 5 deep breaths each.Takes me just shy of an hour. I’m 69, 5ft 5in, and BMI 28…..is there any value in this gadget if I can’t do the recommended workout?
Hi Kate, Both MySwimPro and Airofit offer training plans for all levels! You might enjoy our Get Fit training plan, which builds up to a continuous 1500-meter swim: https://myswimpro.com/blog/2017/10/20/6-week-swim-training-plan-to-get-fit/