The importance of proper breathing when swimming

The importance of proper breathing when swimming

Whatever your swimming level, breathing is the engine that drives the physical effort. It is a technical aspect that is too often overlooked, both in training and competition, so it is essential to work on it. Indeed, on dry land, breathing is a natural and unconscious act, but this is not the case in the water.

The importance of training your breathing

During exercise, our lungs demonstrate an impressive ability to adapt. When the need for oxygen increases, our lungs let us breathe in more air and therefore more oxygen. The same phenomenon takes place when we breathe out to release a greater amount of carbon dioxide into the air.

Training teaches you to breathe faster and deeper and therefore more efficiently. Breathing exercises help you understand how to breathe better while swimming. Therefore, learning to breathe properly can significantly improve performance.

In comparison, to carry out the same level of physical effort, someone well trained will benefit from an improved ability to use their breathing and the oxygen from the air; they can therefore reduce their respiratory rate and be more efficient.

Clearly, better controlled breathing is an asset during exercise, but also during the preparation phase for warming up, and during recovery and stretching following activity.

« lack of air »

When the circulatory system is unable to carry a sufficient quantity of oxygenated blood to fulfil requirements, this makes you out of breath. Yet it is not only breathing capacity and respiratory function that are directly involved. The heart plays a major role in this feeling of breathlessness which is mostly to do with the lungs.

Bad breathing causes poor oxygenation. This is called hypoxia. It is an imbalance between the oxygen requirements of the tissues and supply. When hypoxia affects the muscles, it can lead to cramps and inflammatory lesions.

In the water

In the water, breathing is always through the mouth. Full exhalation empties all the air from the lungs, making the inhalation that follows more efficient. Breathing out lasts up to two or three times longer than breathing in.

The other thing that makes breathing in the water different is coordination between movements and breathing. Whether for breaststroke or front crawl, butterfly or backstroke, exhalation and inhalation must be synchronised with arm and leg movements.

Breathing has a big influence on:
- Swimming technique
- Buoyancy
- Balance and alignment of the body in the water
- Propulsion and muscular effort
- Hydrodynamics and water resistance

Now you can no longer say you are not aware. So get your head out the water and: Breathe!

The importance of proper breathing when swimming


National Swimmer & Dialogue Leader