How to TIME your Breath in Freestyle!

Welcome back to Part II of our series on Freestyle Breathing! This week we will be discussing the 2 DIFFERENT technique styles of Freestyle breathing and more specifically, the timing of the breath.

In case you missed last week’s post, which discussed HOW-TO breathe while swimming (not just in Freestyle), click here to read that.

Otherwise, let’s get started!

As most of you all were taught, the breath in Freestyle happens in correlation with your stroke cycle. Most swimmers are taught to breathe in conjunction with one arm pulling down, and to finish the breath when that SAME hand recovers/enters back into the water. Similar to the video shown below:

While this is the most COMMON style of breathing, many of the WORLD’S BEST swimmers are actually playing around with their breath timing to further enhance the power of their pulls.

Let’s dive into this more:

If you are bench pressing a good amount of weight and keep your hands pretty narrow, the bar is really hard to push. Same thing if you bench press a lot of weight with your hands too far outside. You can use this same argument for a swimmer with a delayed breath.

Most age-group swimmers struggle to get their head back down into the neutral position, BEFORE their hand enters back into the water. What this does is it causes the head to still be moving and for it to be turned away from whatever arm is pulling. This position mimics a “wide-pull” in Freestyle, as the eyes are staring away from the pull arm.

In terms of physics, this makes the swimmers lever arm LONGER and creates harder in this position to really anchor and pull water.

Take a look at this picture:

As you can see above, the swimmer with a delayed breath actually mimics the person bench pressing with their arms too far apart. Overall, the swimmer is not as strong and isn’t getting full use of their chest muscles. On top of that, they are putting a lot of strain on their shoulders as well.

In general, you are always stronger the closer in to your body you are. The further you get away from your body—the more stress you put on the body and less activation you can have from the core/bigger muscles in your torso/back.

So what does that mean for Freestyle Breathing?

There really is two main ways to breathe. The only difference between them is HOW FAST the breath happens. So if you’re wondering if you were taught the breathing style above that happens in conjunction with your arm speed, that is a correct way to breathe—so don’t worry. But if you really want to take your swimming to the NEXT LEVEL, consider trying the Nathan Adrian breath shown below:

Wait, did you see it? The crazy part of Nathan’s breathing is he’s still turning his head to breathe while the arm is pulling down, but as the hand goes through the recovery—he actually gets his head back down and into the neutral position BEFORE the hand enters back up top.

This goes back into the argument on the chest press. You are STRONGEST with your limbs closest towards your body and with your head in-line.

So with Nathan getting his head down before his opposite pulling arm gets to its’ propulsive phase (not sure what that is, watch the video below)–he is setting himself up to be in the BEST and STRONGEST position possible to move water.

Think you can do it? It’s actually not as easy as it seems.

Be sure to tune in next time where we discuss common errors within Freestyle Breathing and I’ll provide an analysis on how to do the Nathan Adrian Breath!

Until Then,

Abbie Fish

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