Frontcrawl Breathing corrections

JOE LIPWORTH 04-05-09The ‘breathing issue’ often comes up in Old Tired Frontcrawl.  A tired swimmer will often hold their breath because it is a natural thing to hold your breath when you are in water.  However holding your breath is hard work.  If you don’t see any bubbles coming up around their neck and head they are likely holding their breath.

It isn’t a difficult thing to change this habit but certainly one worth investigating.  A nice full exchange of air into the lungs and out of the lungs is the best way to maximise the oxygen carrying capacity of a swimmers red blood cells.

Another good reason for ensuring a swimmer is exhaling well is to consider the stress on the medulla oblongata.  This is the base of your brain and controls respiration.  You could not mess with a more important part of your brain.  It controls all autonomous actions.  A nice flow of air in and a flow out will calm your ‘primordial’ brain and take a great deal of stress off.

In a very basic description the medulla measures the amount of carbon dioxide in the lungs and causes you to take your next breath.


If you are holding your breath this part of your brain, which is very accustomed to being listened to, tells you to BREATHE NOW!  As ‘not breathing’ constitutes an error message that makes your primal brain think you are about to die, it is important to try to breathe often.

So considering that this can be very stressful on your subconscious it is worth the time to teach regular exhaling and inhaling to your swimmers.  Once breathing issues are understood by your swimmer then you can start to ensure that both balance and breathing are shared corrections.

A useful drill to help to ingrain exhalation into a swimmers stroke is to ask them to take a big breath and exhale as long as they can.  Ask them not to count strokes but simply keep stroking until the breath is completely exhaled.  This style is often called trickle breathing.  There are some other breathing drills that are pretty common like counting strokes but I find that this often makes swimmers hold their breath and not exhale.

Once balance and breathing patterns are easily maintained a coach should start to look closely at; timing issues caused by Old Tired Frontcrawl.

About Coach Gary

I competed in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul representing Canada and coached in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics for Great Britain. I have a degree in History and a minor degree in Psychology from University of Calgary. I have travelled extensively and have been very lucky to see so much of the world while representing Canada and Great Britain at swimming competitions. I am very proud of the fact that I coached a swimmer to become number one in the world in the fastest swimming race in 2002. I pride myself in my ability to find new and interesting ways to teach swimming. I am an accomplished artist specialising in sculpture, I have another blog called 'swimmingart' where I publish some of my swimming drawings. I have three young children; all boys. I have recently taken up painting and yoga....but not at the same time. You can see my new paintings at:
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