Front Crawl Breathing Technique

When it comes to front crawl breathing, there are two techniques to try out: trickle breathing or explosive breathing.

Are you one of those swimmers who gets to the end of your first length or lap, and collapses in a breathless heap feeling like you're going to pass out from exhaustion?  When you swim front crawl, breathing technique could be letting you down.  Read on, because the solution to your lack of breath is right here.

How and When Do I Breathe?

Before I explain the different types of breathing technique, it is important to understand how and when to breathe - sometimes referred to as ‘front crawl breathing timing’.  

The key points are:

  1. Each time a breath needs to be taken, the head must roll to the side.  That is roll to the side, NOT lift up and look to the side. (The action of rolling the head to the side ensures that the body position remains level.  Lifting the head causes the legs to sink, making the stroke harder work.) 
  2. The timing of each breath must be coordinated with the arm pull cycle.  As an arm pulls through to the hip it leaves a vacant space where the head can be rolled to and a breath can be taken.
  3. The head begins to turn at the end of the upward arm sweep and turns enough for the mouth to clear the water and inhale.  The head turns back into the water just as the arm recovers over and hand returns to the water.
  4. Which side the head rolls to is personal choice and you can change sides or keep to the same side.  

Breathing technique must be in sync with the overall timing and coordination of the swimming stroke.  For more about front crawl breathing timing, click here.

The video clip below shows the basic breathing technique in action.  Watch carefully how the arm pulls back and creates a space for the head to roll and the mouth to clear the water and inhale. The head is then rolled down again as the arm recovers over the water. 

Front Crawl Breathing Video Demonstration

Which Breathing Technique - Explosive or Trickle?

When you swim front crawl, breathing techniques I talk about such as explosive and trickle refer to how you exhale as you swim.

You may be completely unaware of how you breathe when you are swimming front crawl so now is the time to discover which breathing technique suits your and for you to take control of your front crawl swimming stroke.   

free front crawl technique ebook

FREE EBOOK:  all of the technique tips here can be found in my 'Front Crawl Technique' book, along with a couple of bonus drills to help you perfect some essential parts of your swimming stroke.

Don't miss out!  Click here to grab a FREE copy of my book. 

Trickle Breathing

  1. Trickle breathing is a slow controlled exhalation, out through the mouth.
  2. The breath is continuously exhaled through the mouth into the water as the arm pulls through to the hip. 
  3. Bubbles are blown slowly into the water while the face is submerged. 
  4. The exhalation is controlled, allowing inhalation to take place easily as the arm recovers over the water. 
  5. The time taken to exhale can last one or several arm pull cycles, depending on the stamina of the swimmer. 
How to front crawl breathing technique

Explosive Breathing

  1. Explosive breathing gets its name from the sudden exhalation and inhalation action.
  2. The breath is held after inhalation during the propulsive arm phase.
  3.  The breath is then released explosively, part in and part out of the water, as the head is rolled to the side.
  4. This is done in a very short space of time, usually a second or two, and can be very tiring.

Although trickle breathing is usually the easiest and most widely used, explosive breathing does work well for some people.  Therefore it is important to try both and experiment.

The other stroke parts will help your front crawl breathing techniques

How Often Should I Breathe?

Front crawl breathing timing and breathing frequency is very much an individual thing.  Some swimmers start out breathing every 4 strokes or more and then increase the frequency to every stroke as their energy levels drop off. 

Some find it easy to just breathe every stroke to the same side right from the start.  This helps them to establish a steady rhythm and sustain a smooth stroke over a longer distance. 

There is also a matter of fitness level and your breathing pattern could be dictated by your stamina, or lack of it.  The more you swim, the more your stamina will increase and this will improve your front crawl breathing by default.  

Do You Make These Front Crawl Breathing Mistakes?

1.  Holding your breath during the swimming stroke 

This comes naturally to most people but it is not necessarily the most energy efficient way of swimming.  

It is very common, especially for beginners, to hold their breath and adopt an  explosive breathing technique without knowing they are doing so. 

Breath holding causes an increase in carbon dioxide in the system, which increase the urgency to breathe.  This can cause swimmers to become breathless very quickly.

Trickle breathing is the most effective breathing technique for beginners as it allows a gentle release of carbon dioxide from the lungs, which then makes inhalation easier.

2.  Lifting your head instead of rolling it to the side.  

Lifting the head causes the legs to sink and the overall body position to be disturbed and the swimming stroke to be inefficient. 

The best exercise for perfecting trickle breathing and ensuring the head is not lifting is to hold a float with a diagonal grip and kick.  The diagonal grip allows space for the head to roll to the side.

Front crawl breathing technique showing head turn for breath in and breath out.

Get Your Breathing In Tune With The Rest of Your Front Crawl

My 'How To Swim Front Crawl' ebook contains some basic front crawl breathing exercises and shows how to get your breathing to fit into your arm pull and leg kick actions.  Your front crawl breathing timing will be slick and when you swim front crawl, breathing technique perfected, you will be swimming longer distances with less effort. 

Click below to download a copy to your computer, tablet or mobile device.  Or, click here for information on how to fine-tune your basic front crawl swimming stroke.

Basic drills for learning how to swim front crawl
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