Drills to help improve breathing

Posted Kevin Koskella Articles, Newsletters

Drills to help improve breathingThe most common problem that we see at Tri Swim Coach is breathing. Unfortunately, it is also the (or at least one of them) most critical part of swimming. Obviously, it is important because you need oxygen to survive and to go faster, but it is also critical in developing an efficient stroke. If you breathe incorrectly (i.e. lifting your head, breathing at the wrong time in your stroke, holding your breath) your whole swim stroke collapses and you waste energy. However, if you unlock the power of proper breathing, your stroke will become more powerful, efficient, and relaxed. But how do you get there?

Below you will find a drill progression that I have found works very well for getting swimmers to become more comfortable breathing and breathing correctly.

  1. Side kick: The side kick is the first step in building proper body position and breath timing and form. To do this (and it might help to wear fins at first), kick with your left arm extended and your belly button pointed to the right. Keep your head down and looking at the bottom of the pool, chin tucked, and the neck in a neutral position. Be mindful of your balance in the water and if your legs are sinking. Kick down the pool breathing through your nose or mouth and rotating your head to the side to take a breath with only one lense goggle out. This last point is very important. DO NOT lift your head to do this. Instead rotate your head take a deep breath and resume being sure not to hold your breath. Once you reach the other side, do the same thing on the return but with your right arm extended
  2. 6/3/6: The next step is to do the side kick for six kicks, three strokes, then six kicks on the other side. The focal points are still the same:
    • Don’t hold your breath
    • One goggle out, one still submerged
    • Rotate head to breath and not lifting up
    • Proper balance in the water
  3. One arm drill: Finally we have the one arm drill. While many advocate to have one arm out in front when doing this, I prefer to have the non-working arm planted firmly at the side. This aids in teaching you proper body rotation and breath timing. To do this drill, keep one arm at your side and swim with the other with your foci as the same as above but also to breath to the side as your arm has just exited the water and is “recovering” through the air. You should see your hand “fly” by. When you get good at this, you can add in the focus of high elbow catch. Swim down with one arm, swim back with the other.

Try this progression out and let us know how it goes. We are always available for your questions too.

Train hard and remember to laugh at the water!
Coach Chris and Kev