This blog post is sponsored by Airofit! Get 15% off the Airofit Breathing Trainer with code MySwimPro!

In swimming, breathing (or the lack thereof) plays an important role in your overall speed and efficiency. Whether you’re a beginner who is just starting to get comfortable in the water or you’re more advanced and want to push your underwaters to 15 meters, you’ve come to the right place! 

From body position to breathing pattern, we’re sharing the 5 common freestyle breathing mistakes and how to fix them!

1. Poor Body & Head Position

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: your body and head position make or break your freestyle technique! Many swimmers will look forward before turning their head to the side to breathe. Doing this encourages your hips to drop toward the bottom of the pool, which creates extra resistance and will tire you out much faster! 

Related: How to Improve Breath Control for Swimming

Instead, focus on keeping your hips high and your eyes looking down at the bottom of the pool. When it’s time to breathe, keep those hips high and turn your head to breathe, keeping one eye and one ear underwater at all times. Maintaining good head position will encourage proper rotation during freestyle, and will make breathing easier!

If you’re worried about inhaling water, don’t be! Your forward momentum will create a small air pocket that’s just big enough for you to take a breath.

2. No Breathing Pattern

Many swimmers don’t have a consistent breathing pattern when they swim. Sticking to a specific breathing pattern is huge when it comes to getting comfortable in the water and swimming for longer periods of time. 

Most swimmers breathe every 2, 3 or 4 strokes. When you start breathing every 5+ strokes, you start to get into breath control training (more on that later).

Related: How to Breathe When Swimming Freestyle

Many coaches will teach you to breathe bilaterally — on both sides. However, that’s not a hard and fast rule, and many elite swimmers breathe to just one side. It’s still good to practice breathing on both sides to ensure you’re comfortable with it.

These breathing pattern recommendations don’t apply to breaststroke (since you automatically breathe every stroke) or backstroke (since your face is out of the water most of the time). For freestyle and butterfly, though, establishing a breathing pattern is crucial, especially for racing. 

For shorter races, like the 50 free, many elite swimmers try to minimize the number of breaths they take, sometimes taking 2, 1 or even zero breaths! If you try to do this, make sure you are mentally prepared and know exactly where and when you’ll take your breath(s), such as 4 strokes after your flip turn.

3. No Breath Training 

In addition to sticking to your breathing pattern throughout your workouts, you can incorporate hypoxic swim sets and other breath training modalities to challenge your breath control. 

Outside of the pool, the Airofit Breathing Trainer can help you increase your vital lung capacity, anaerobic threshold and breathing efficiency. Most athletes don’t spend time exercising their respiratory muscles, and Airofit fills that gap with sport-specific breathing programs that strengthen and mobilize the diaphragm and intercostal muscles. A strong respiratory system results in: 

  • More efficient breathing patterns: A weak diaphragm pulls much-needed blood away from your limbs during high intensity exercise or races.
  • Increased vital lung capacity: Strong and flexible respiratory muscles allow you to inhale more usable air with each breath.
  • Increased anaerobic threshold: Your muscles are used to an oxygenless environment and can perform at top speeds for longer.

After 4 weeks of training with Airofit, Fares increased his vital lung capacity by over 25%! The swimming-specific training plan took him just 5-10 minutes per day, and he noticed that he was able to push his underwaters further and swim no-breath 50s with more ease.

Related: How to Improve Your Vital Lung Capacity in 4 Weeks

The Breathing Trainer is small, lightweight and connects to your phone via Bluetooth so you can visualize your breathing and track your progress in the Airofit Sport app. It feels like a video game that you control in real time using your breath! Get 15% off an Airofit Breathing Trainer with code MySwimPro >

Try this swim set to improve your breath control:

10×50 Freestyle @ 1:00

2 round of the following:

  • 1×50 Free with 4 breaths
  • 1×50 Free with 3 breaths
  • 1×50 Free with 2 breaths
  • 1×50 Free with 1 breath
  • 1×50 Free with 0 breaths

Feel free to adjust the interval, distance or number of breaths based on your skill level. 

4. Breathing In and Out of Walls 

Your turns are an opportunity to maximize your momentum, and breathing right before or right after a turn can slow you down big time. If you’re guilty of doing either of those things, think of the space between the backstroke flags and the wall as a “no breath zone.” Do your best to breathe before the flags before you turn, and after your turn, wait to take your first breath until you’ve passed the flags — usually about 3 strokes.

Related: 4 Freestyle Breathing Drills for Beginner Swimmers

Stay consistent with the “no breath zone” and you’ll likely notice improvements in your breath control!

If you’re a triathlete or open water swimmer who doesn’t think flip turns are important, think again! Working on turns and incorporating the “no breath zone” into your workouts will help improve your endurance.

5. No Interval Training

If you’re going to the pool and swimming straight and without a plan, you’re not going to experience maximum gains in your breath control and technique. Instead, start incorporating structured interval training!

Structured workouts challenge you to work at different effort levels and energy zones, and will most likely be a better workout than swimming straight. They’re also a more efficient use of your time and, when done consistently, can help you reach your goals more quickly.

If you’re looking for a structured training program to help you reach your goals, download the MySwimPro app! Sign up for MySwimPro Coach to unlock Swimming and Dryland Training Plans tailored to your skill level, goals and schedule.

What tips do you have to improve the freestyle breathing technique? Share in the comments! Get 15% off the Airofit Breathing Trainer with code MySwimPro >


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