When doing freestyle, I sink quite low in the water. As I turn my head sideways to breathe, it's still in the water, which makes me push my head more up and as a result, it breaks the momentum and I get tired/out of breath easily, although I'm in a healthy/active condition. Is there any ways to improve breathing pattern in this case?

3 Answers 3


The first question to answer is whether you are positively buoyant when simply floating on the surface. It's very rare that someone can't float. If you can float then the problem is very likely either your basic body position in the water or the mechanics of breathing is causing a misalignment in your body position. A good body position is vital not just for breathing but for any kind of efficient stroke that you can do for a long period of time.

Without seeing you swim, the best advice would be to visit YouTube and search out basic swimming drills for freestyle. There are hundreds that I've viewed and many are very good. If your body position and stroke mechanics are good, then these drills should be very easy for you. I was a competitive swimmer for about 10 years when I was young but when first trying these basic drills later on I found them to be quite challenging, which meant I had some definite deficiencies in my stroke mechanics despite many years of competitive training.

You should find that mastering some very basic body position and breathing drills, that your swimming will improve dramatically in a short amount of time. One piece of equipment that might help quite a bit is a center position snorkel that allows you to breathe without turning your head. These are frequently used in the drills I'm talking about. Good luck!


Try one or both of the following:

  1. "Swim downward" to keep your legs close to the surface of the water. A lot of people drop the lower half of their body when swimming in order to keep their face near the surface of the water. This creates a lot of drag; the legs mimic a sail in this position. I keep my arms at about a 20-30 degree angle to the surface after they enter the water, and look straight down at the bottom of the pool while focusing on keeping my hips and heels close to the surface. Your head can stay near the surface, so long as your hips and heels do too. (I try to feel the air on my gluteus maximus and occasionally my heels, but my kick is not standard.)
  2. Take note of what you see when you come up for air. For years I would look at the ceiling when taking a breath--this is horrible. Try to look to the side wall, especially closer to the pool deck or edge of the pool. Ideally, only about half of your face will exit the water, helping you to avoid sinking the lower body. Some people find they need to practice opening only the left or right side of their mouths to avoid taking in water. I find that using my core to twist my body sideways (so my entire body is almost facing the bottom corner of the pool when I breath) makes this process easier without running the risk of dropping my hips, but not everyone agrees with this.

The "swim down" technique is common in Total Immersion swimming, which is what I practice. Although not exactly the same style of swimming, Effortless Swimming regularly posts videos on YouTube of a swim coach critiquing videos of people swimming, which I find very useful. (People submit their own videos for critique.) This one in particular sounds like it covers some of the issues you are facing, and provides details and visuals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQbjMjneBH0


Keeping your head down is good from a streamlined perspective, it allows your hips to sit higher in the water and therefore create less drag. Getting breathing right on front crawl is a lot about timing: as you pull your arm through the water towards your hip, it should generate a small amount of lift, and also the force and rotation of your shoulder will create a slight dip in the water level - this is when you need to take your breath, to coincide with the slight elevation of your head and depression in the water.

If you are turning your head too far, it twists your body and you will end up snaking down the pool. This tires you out because you are then swimming slightly further per length than necessary, as well as wasting energy with the excess rotation. If you are lifting your head too high, it will sink your hips, causing drag that slows you down.

A good drill for breathing is to use a float (kick board) and swim with it in one hand, held extended in front of you. Then use your free arm to perform the front crawl motion and breath to that side as you pull through the water. Try to keep your head position low (water line should be to your forehead or slightly above). You will want to kick fairly well to keep your body line flat, but focus on not turning the head too far or lifting your face forward.

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