Freestyle breathing

Breathing right feels good.

Why is freestyle breathing position so important? Why should we learn how to swim in the right swimming technique in order to swim faster but more importantly to protect our neck.

Have you ever asked yourself why we feel out of breath, like we need to get hooked up to an oxygen balloon, or get tired, to a point where we need to rest every few laps, so often? The answer lies within the swimming technique (it’s not about breathing itself!). We recommend beginners to wear fins and swim freestyle with no breathing or head movement, up till one is capable of swimming 25m with no breathing. Then one can move on to swim with no fins. Next step is integrating breathing- practicing how to breathe and when to rotate your body in order to let your head out of the water.

Many swimmers are mistaken to try and fix their breathing right away, because it is hard to learn few new things at the same time. It is better to master your technique first, and breathing later on. When you try it all the way around, you can get your symmetry out of line. Rotating your head in order to breath can get you out of balance and hurt your neck. The goal is to try and create a third, harmonic movement (breathing movement) which doesn’t hold our speed down (so from a side view it doesn’t look like the swimmer is breathing at all). For example- sprinters (25-50 meters distance) don’t breathe at all so it doesn’t slow them down.

The thing is, that we do need to breath every once in a while! So here are few important points for a faster and tension free swimming:
1. Front arm- place it 35cm under water level, according to your neck flexibility, it will not only lossen your neck and back, you will swim looser with a much better technique.
The flexible we are, the closer our arm reaches to water surface, and vice versa. Either way, do not have your arm on water surface (it slows you down).
2. Eye- keep one eye under water and other one above.
3. Mouth and nose- mouth should be out of water, semi- open. Nose should be out of the water when breathing.
4. Arm to thigh ratio- your back arm should be in close approximation with your thing, in order to breathe and glide smoothly while breathing.
5. Legs and body- body rotation shouldn’t exceed 90º. Make sure your kicking is continuous thorough out rotating and breathing. It takes off tension from the neck when getting your head out of the water. Kicking might be the most important thing that stabilizes you, making it possible to breathe smoothly.
6. Timing- in competitive swimming, the swimmer rotates his body towards the end of the stroke, but in WEST swimming technique we wait for the arm to reach half way of the stroke, and then we start rotating our body to a full breathing.

Swimming sidewise with fins is a classical swimming workout breathing drill- swimming one lap with your right arm straight forward, and second lap with left arm straight forward, while thinking at all time about having one eye in the water and one eye, as well as mouth and nose, out. You can swim this drill with your head down (looking at the floor) for 5 seconds, and for another 5 seconds during breathing. It teaches us correct body rotation and reaching breathing position quickly by using our core muscles, and not our neck.

WEST swimming technique creates harmony in the water and strengthens the muscles (while having very smooth body movement, so there is no pressure on your joints, neck or back). Understanding correct breathing position upgrades your swimming level, even if your are already a good swimmer who breathes correctly.

Practice breathing drills at each practice for a month (for a total of 300m per workout). With time you will come to breathe slower, move forward faster, and get more air in with every stroke.

It is highly recommended you watch the WEST breathing drills in the WEST program. Those will help you protect your joints, such as shoulder, back and neck, which might get hurt if breathing incorrectly.
Learn how to swim freestyle in WEST swimming technique- drill- 20 : Catching water in breathing position

We swim freestyle, taking a breath every 3 strokes. Each time we breathe we keep our front arm close to the water line and at the right depth for us according to our flexibility level.

We catch water for 3 seconds, meaning we play with the water while our arm is stretched in front and our legs are kicking for the whole 3 seconds.


Exercise objective:

To catch water and keep our front arm up and forward while we breathe. Many swimmers drop their front arm instead of gliding so they miss a lot of pulling ground and also exit the flow line since their body goes up before breathing and down afterwards.

Going up and down during breathing might also cause neck and back pains.

Controlling the water catch during breathing keeps our arm up so we can advance faster with less effort.

Learn how to swim freestyle in WEST swimming technique, drill -21: Superman 5 sec. No breathing.

Learn how to swim freestyle in WEST swimming technique  drill -22: Superman 5 sec.+ 3 sec in breathing position.


Front arm at optimal depth that fits our shoulder blades and neck flexibility. If we are flexible our front arm’s shoulder should touch our cheek whereas if we are less flexible or feeling pressure on our shoulder blades it should touch our chin, while our thumb touches the thigh.

In this state we kick for 5 seconds,

Then swap arms and kick for 5 seconds more.

On the third stroke we reach breathing position and kick for 3 seconds with half our eye in the water, nose above and breathe slowly.

 Exercise objective:

Getting the body used to legs kicking at 45 degrees and 90 degrees during breathing in freestyle.

Getting the body used to maximal stretch, in order to strengthen the core muscles so we can later use the center of the body’s force to pull and breathe without straining our neck.

When we swim in WEST swimming technique our goal is loosen the neck and lower back and by that we will breathe easily and inhale more air.

Learn how to swim freestyle in WEST swimming technique drill -23: Angles 45 & 90 degrees , without breathing.

We kick with our legs just like in the Superman exercise, keeping our body at 45 degrees for 3 seconds.

After 3 seconds we rotate the body some more to about 90 degrees.

At this point we want our head to be looking down but it’s often tilted a bit to the side due to lack of neck flexibility.

After 3 more seconds we swap arms again and do the exercise over keeping the body at 45 degrees, 3 seconds of kicking and 90 degrees till we run out of air at which point we slowly stand up.

The exercise can also be done using a snorkel to provide continuity.

Exercise objective:

In addition to strengthening the core muscles and controlling the body’s rotation, the main purpose is to get the body used to rotating at 90 degrees without tilting the head. Once rotating the body at 90 degrees becomes easy, breathing during regular swimming will not strain the neck so we can strengthen our muscles even more and protect our joints.


Learn how to swim freestyle in WEST swimming technique ,drill -24, west Breathing position

Learn how to swim freestyle in WEST swimming technique-drill 25 ,3 sec. head down , 3 sec. breathing position

Learn how to swim freestyle in WEST swimming technique-drill 26 ,A Cube with breathing position when body is on the side.

Learn how to swim freestyle in WEST swimming technique drill-27:Cube with head down.

Learn how to swim freestyle in WEST swimming technique- drill 28: Breathing every stroke from an arrow position.

Learn how to swim freestyle in WEST swimming technique- drill-29 – Dolphin kick on the side.


It is recommended to work on your swimming technique in the first 2-3 months, and the best of course is to do the WEST program which will help elongate your muscles, protect your lower back and will help the body be perfectly ready for the pressure of the program.(to get a 50% discount fill in this questionnaire ant write that you read this article)

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