Front Crawl Breathing

Explosive or Trickle Breathing?

Front crawl breathing is easier when your whole stroke is balanced.  The head turns to the side on inhalation and then exhalation occurs underwater for trickle breathing, which is the preferred breathing technique for most swimmers.

For some basic swimming exercises to improve the timing of your breathing and to help get your breathing technique smooth and seamless, download How To Swim Front Crawl

The Front Crawl Book

"Absolutely must buy. I now know what each part of my body should be doing. Outstanding!"


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The Front Crawl Book

"Absolutely must buy. I now know what each part of my body should be doing. Outstanding!"


Click for more info

Rolling the head to the side is essential for maintaining a streamlined and efficient body position, but must be a smooth action to ensure the breathe occurs seamlessly in time with the arm and leg coordination.

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.

Breathing can be bilateral (alternate sides every one and a half stroke cycles) or unilateral (same side) depending of the stroke cycle and distance to be swum.

Which Front Crawl Breathing Technique Works Best For You?

You may be completely unaware of how your breathe when you are swimming front crawl. 

Here are the two most common ways to inhale and exhale during this swimming stroke.

Trickle Breathing

The breath is slowly exhaled through the mouth and nose into the water during the propulsive phase of the arm pull.  The exhalation is controlled to allow inhalation to take place easily as the arm recovers.

Explosive Breathing

The breath is held after inhalation during the propulsive arm phase and then released explosively, part in and part out of the water, as the head is turned to the side.

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.

My 'How To Swim Front Crawl' ebook contains some basic breathing exercises and shows how to get your breathing to fit into your arm pull and leg kick actions.  It's simple and straight forward and it's waiting for you at the link right here

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Front Crawl Breathing Mistakes That Cost Energy

It is very common, especially for beginners, to perform explosive breathing without knowing they are doing so. 

Holding the breath during the swimming stroke comes naturally to most people but it is not necessarily the most energy efficient way of swimming.  

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.

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

Another common mistake is to lift the head instead of roll the head 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.

Related Pages

Fine-tune Your Breathing Technique With These Exercises

Download these documents to your computer, tablet or mobile device and discover the most essential technique tips and key focus points to help improve your basic breathing during front crawl.

Breathing whilst holding the poolside


Breathing holding a float with diagonal grip


Breathing with single arm action


Breathing with alternating arm action


Click here for more front crawl exercises.

All of these documents are PDF format and are compatible with all tablet and mobile devices.  Some computers may need PDF reading software such as Adobe Acrobat

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