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Correct Breathing Pattern in Freestyle


Hi Gary,

I would be very interesting in your opinion on what breathing pattern would you would recommend to young competitive swimmers (10-12 years old) and kids 5-6 years old?

Our coach is strictly follows one-side breathing while I have a fear that this will develop very unbalanced technique for kids. Moreover, I see that as long as the body is not rotated to the “unbreathing” side, the small kids do not have enough strength to pull the arm outside the water and drag on water surface or even underwater.

Thank you, Michael


Hi Michael and thanks for your question.

In my opinion, some children will swim freestyle well breathing only to one side and others will thrive breathing bilaterally (or every 3 strokes).

As a young coach I always taught swimmers to breath every 4 on their left, breathe every 4 on their right and to be able to breathe every 3 or 5 strokes too.

I had a very good swimmer who was 13 years old and breathed bilaterally all the time.  My former coach then did some work with her over an 8 week period and her 400m freestyle time dropped by 8 seconds in that time and she (just) won the Australian Age Championships… breathing every 4 strokes.  When she breathed every 4 strokes, she looked a lot more balanced in the water and was able to get into a better rhythm than breathing every 3 strokes.

This experience really opened my eyes to the benefits of breathing on one side only and so long as the swimmer is able to hold correct technique with both arms and rotate effectively to both sides, it can be very effective.

Having said that, I still coach young swimmers to be able to breathe on both sides and bilaterally as I believe this helps them develop balance in the water and equal rotation to both sides and provides them with choices to breathe on the left, the right or bilaterally as they get older.



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