How to Breathe Effectively While Swimming – A Guide for Beginners

Breathing is a natural phenomenon. It is a very essential and basic part of our everyday lives. We breathe 24 hours a day and have been breathing since we were born. But why does it get so challenging for us during swimming? 

Breathing issues and sinking legs are the two most common challenges faced by athletes worldwide. In this article, we are going to discuss some tips and tricks for breathing efficiently and naturally while swimming or being underwater.

Here’s the problem. As soon as you hold your breath and get underwater, all the oxygen from the air that you are holding in your lungs gets utilized. Eventually, carbon dioxide starts to build up in your lungs and blood which makes your body feel desperate for air. 

In such a condition, it becomes very hard for you to hold your breath for a long period of time as the urge to exhale increases. By following the steps given below, you will be able to breathe effectively while swimming:

Start exhaling slowly as soon as you are underwater

The first step which you have to keep in mind is that as soon as your face gets immersed in water, you need to start exhaling slowly either with your nose or your mouth – whichever you might feel comfortable with.You will observe that this will create a consecutive stream of bubbles which is known as trickle breathing. Trickle breathing plays an important role in keeping your body calm and relaxed while swimming which ultimately allows you swim with more efficiency and ease.

Maintain a streamlined position and tilt your head slightly sideways to inhale

While swimming, make sure to maintain a streamlined position. This reduces the impact of water resistance and improves the movement of your body.

Make sure to turn your head everytime one of your arms passes over your head. The thing to remember here is not to turn your head towards the sky to catch a breath but to look sideways while turning your head. Turning your head too far on the opposite side may cause damage to your neck muscles or spine, so you have to be careful with this.Therefore in order to prevent such damage it is better to turn your head up to the point where you feel comfortable.


As you have already learned from the above given steps what to do while swimming, now we will be discussing how to do it. We will divide the steps into some drills which will help us to better understand them.

1) Kick

This is a straightforward step. It is a sidekick with your arms leaning on the sides of your body.

  1. If for instance you are facing something like a wall your body should be facing the wall and then you can turn your head slightly to take a breath.
  2. Make sure to rotate your body so that you can do the same on your way back.

2) Six kicks, one stroke

The next method is to kick six times every time on one side before taking a stroke and then turn around on other side and do the same. The idea here is to teach you how to breathe persistently while being on the surface of the water 

3) One-Arm drills

When it comes to one-arm drills, there are quite a lot of variations which are practiced.

  1. Start off by stretching your right arm straight in front of you and then start swimming with your left arm.
  2. Similarly, stretch your left arm straight ahead of you, and start swimming with your right arm. 
  3. Once you have mastered this technique, you can also add another technique to make it more challenging. That is to put one of your arms by your side, keep swimming with the other, and breathe on that side. 
  4. Once you’ve learnt that, switch sides and do the same as before.

4) 3 X 5 X 7 DRILL

Another simple and easy exercise is the 3 X 5 X 7 drill. It is an excellent way to practice bilateral breathing which provides a great base for swimming. 

What we’re gonna do here is that we’re gonna take three strokes on the right side, similarly take five strokes breathe to the left and after that take seven strokes and breathe to the right again.When you’ll reach the seven strokes you may experience the lack of oxygen as most of it has been utilized but the oxygen level will eventually get normal when you repeat the process and come back on three strokes.

5) Sink downs

Sink down is the kind of exercise which is used to get a hold of your exhalation technique. In this exercise, you have to:

  1. Take a deep breath, 
  2. Roll your body like a ball, 
  3. Fold your arms around your body or head,
  4. Try to sink into the water until you get to the surface at the bottom.

While sinking down you have to try and slowly exhale all the air in your lungs through your mouth.

When you have mastered the sink down, you can use it to relax your body by doing three sink downs in a row before you start swimming.

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