SecretTip: Breathing Patterns

In this video, we talk about oxygen, the most important nutrient and one that we often overlook. The fact is, without oxygen we can’t live for more than 7 or 8 minutes. And with oxygen it helps us to produce one of the most vital fuels for our muscles called ATP. We can produce ATP in our bodies without oxygen but we don’t produce it nearly as efficiently. When we have oxygen versus not having oxygen we produce 15x more ATP and we don’t produce a byproduct which is called lactic acid which slows us down.  How can we develop breathing patterns to get enough oxygen?

So the point is, we need as much oxygen as we can get! The problem is, the act of getting oxygen, or breathing, is problematic for freestyle, breaststroke and butterfly. So we have to learn to breath in a way we reduce the consequences which are increasing drag and slowing our stroke rate. If we can learn to breath effectively and fast and quickly, we can get more oxygen and improve our swimming performances.

Read more about the 2:3 breathing pattern for freestyle in Gary’s Aqua Note “To Breathe Or Not To Breathe … That Is The Question“. 

5 Responses to SecretTip: Breathing Patterns

  1. Nico Messer

    Here’s the link to another video showing Gary Hall Sr. demonstrating the 2:3 breathing pattern at Founders Park.

  2. Coachkopie


    Thanks for posting this. This video and narrative focused on head position and breathing technique in terms of movement patterns. This is important but I suggest there is another equally important aspect of getting oxygen that swimmers can master if they play with it.

    * First, think air exchange rather than breathing
    * Second, when we think air exchange, we can focus on the all important exhale. Emphasizing exhaling may seem counterintuitive for someone wanting to take in air but taking in air is predicated on a full enough, rhythmic and well timed exhale.
    * If we play with flutter kicking, in a prone, head lead form and get air to the front (yes – this is an inefficient form but a good way to feel rhythmic air exchange) – the swimmer can feel if he / she is getting good air fully, smoothly and on first (quick enough) inhale. That will be predicated on how and when they exhale. Other drills can be used to lay with this same feel for air exchange.
    * We Exhale to Inhale; repeat – We Exhale (into the water so we hear and feel bubbles and just before and as we are about to go for air) to Inhale.
    * Timing is important so play with it. Feel it and see what you discover – about the exhale and the “rebound” like Inhale. Again – we exhale to inhale – as we are all doing right now.
    * In an exercised state the sensation is different from when sitting relaxed as is the perceived depth and rate of breathing but the mechanism and basis of exhaling to inhale remains the same.
    * Exhaling is a healthy RELEASE of Air. it is not a forced expulsion as when one blows out candles on a birthday cake or when one (pardon the grossness) blows one’s nose into a tissue. It is a full, rhythmic release from the torso – through the mouth and nose but not from the mouth and nose).
    * With face submerged, check to make sure one’s jaw and lips are relaxed. Clenching either or tightly sealing the lips is counter productive.

    *** So again, the technique you talked about is very important – for swimming and oxygen flow but so is the quality and nature of the air exchange.

    Play with it – SAFELY ALWAYS – but play and find how to rhythmically release and take in air. Feel and hear the bubbles – as when teaching people to relax and exchange air with simple rhythmic bobs.- We may not feel or hear bubbles quite as clearly at top end racing speed but we will when simply swimming – and once the rhythm and feel are part of one’s swimming (Air Exchange) it will be there whether waking up, cooling down, training or racing at all speeds and output levels.

    Coach Kopie (Allan Kopel)

    • Nico Messer

      Thanks for that detailed response and your insight! Of course we do believe breathing or getting oxygen in swimming is very important…that’s why we created this secret tip. For many reasons Gary mentioned in this video or explains in the above mentioned Aqua Note, swimming is different than other sports!

      Sprinters want to reduce their breathing to a minimum or not breath at all during a race whereas mid-distance and particularly distance swimmers want to make sure they get enough oxygen right from the beginning of their races.

      All the things you suggest how to focus on inhaling/exhaling and the breathing in general are good things to do in practice. In a race or serious set though you would really want to try to exhale in a burst…full lungs will help you float higher in the water and keep a better body position. Slowly releasing air most probably will affect your body position and some swimmers might not be able to get a full inhale as they still try to exhale when it’s time to take that next breath.

      Down here in the Keys at the Race Club we do focus a lot on hypoxic work and play with different breathing patterns and such in practice. When it comes to racing we keep close to the principles I elaborated in the 2nd paragraph.

  3. Pingback: Myth #8 of 10 Swimming Myths Debunked - Breathing in Freestyle | The Race Club

  4. Pingback: To Breathe Or Not To Breathe ... That Is The Question | The Race Club

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