The benefits of hypoxic sets

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Hypoxic TrainingBreathing might be the hardest part of the stroke for a beginner and intermediate swimmer to master, so why would you want to make it harder by restricting your breath?

Hypoxic training means limiting your breath to every 3, 5, 7, 9 or even holding your breath for a full length. This does not mean to hold your breath then gasping for breath each time; rather you want to focus on controlling your exhale so that you run out of air at the moment you need to take a breath.

Today I am going to give you three good reasons to include these sets:

  1. It balances your stroke: Many swimmers breath to one side every other stroke regardless if they are warming up, sprinting, or cooling down. While this may work for some, unilateral breathing can make your stroke and body alignment off balanced. It can also strain your neck and stress your back. By including sets where you focus on breathing to each side you balance your stroke and force yourself to return to a neutral position (as if you were swimming with a snorkel) in the water and thus better, more efficient, hydrodynamic form.
  2. It builds lung strength: Hypoxic sets build a tremendous amount of lung strength and capacity so that you use oxygen more effectively. If you are racing at altitude (Ironman Boulder and Ironman Lake Tahoe for example) then definitely start doing these exercises.
  3. Preps you for open water: In ocean and open water swims, you cannot always breath every stroke or to one side. It is therefore important to be able to breath to both sides and at random intervals. Hypoxic training provides you with the confidence you need to feel comfortable breathing on either the left or right.

I like to do build hypoxic sets by 25, so I will do a length breathing every 3 strokes, then another every 5 strokes, then 7, then 9, then start at 3 again. You can also include hypoxic sets built into your warm up, recovery (like in this week’s workout), or cool down.

Train hard!
Coach Chris and Kev