Category Archives: technique

Freestyle Breathing Patterns

How often should you breath in a 100m race?

Here is an article that appears in USA Swimming

There is some very interesting information.

  • Nobody breathes before the 3rd stroke off the start. Most take their first breath on the 4th-6th stroke.
  • All except one do not breathe on the first stroke off the turn. Eleven of the 14 swimmers did NOT breathe on the last stroke into the turn.
  • Jessica Hardy did not breathe for her last 15 strokes into the finish. Mostly everyone else was not breathing the last 5-6 strokes.

The Women
The word “pattern” should be used loosely. While many of the world’s best women generally stick to a pattern of breathing every 4, there could be a wide assortment of breathing during a length from each person. Generally, most women are NOT breathing every stroke.
2011 World Champion, Aliaksandria Herasimenia, breathes the least, going her first 15 strokes without a breath and then 8, 6, 6, 2 after that. On the second length, she’s a mix of breathing every 6 and every 4.

The number of breaths that these swimmers are taking is not really relevant to everyone else. A swimmer that isn’t as fast will be swimming for a longer amount of time and will be taking more strokes, so the number of breaths should naturally be more than these swimmers.

(There is a visual here, but you will need to view the article)

The Men

(Another Visual, view it on the web orginal website)

It’s much harder to count the breaths for the men because there is a lot more splashing, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to tell breathing patterns for all of the top 6 finishers at the 2012 Olympics.

There is definitely a lot more breathing in the men’s 100. Nathan Adrian, James Magnussen, and Yannick Agnel all breathe every stroke, while Cesar Cielo and Sebastiaan Verschuren do more breathing every 4.

While breathing every 2 sounds great to a lot of future Olympians, the reality is that most swimmers should not do that because you are much slower when you breathe. Having good breathing technique like Adrian and Magnussen – a topic that should be discussed in a future article – allows them to breathe every stroke without major consequences to their speed.

Breaststroke Pull Out

Since the rule change that introduced the butterfly kick within the breaststroke underwater pull, there have been questions as to how and when it should be implemented while conforming to the rules of USA Swimming.

Rule 101.2.3 states:
After the start and each turn, a single butterfly kick, which must be followed by a breaststroke kick, is permitted during or at the completion of the first arm pull.

Because there were varying interpretations of the phrase, “during or at the completion of the first arm pull,” the USA Swimming Rules and Regulations Committee issued the following statement on December 8, 2008:

For the purposes of Article 101.2.3, as it relates to what constitutes the initiation of the first arm pull and the allowed single downward butterfly kick, the following applies:

After the start and after each turn, any lateral or downward movement of the hands or arms is considered to be the initiation of the first arm pull.

Clearly, the butterfly kick may not be taken until after the hands separate from the streamline. However, the rule does not require a continuous arm pull. Thus, following initiation the arm pull may be paused and the butterfly kick taken before the pull is resumed to completion. From the perspective of the swimmer and coach, erring on the side of caution to ensure compliance with the rules is advised.

In this video the swimmer is performing the butterfly kick within the rules. Notice that the hands are separated with a lateral movement prior to the butterfly kick. Notice also the slight pause in the arm pull while the kick is taken before the pull is completed.

For most swimmers, in order to get the most power from the butterfly kick without compromising the body line, the butterfly kick should come at the beginning of the underwater pull, just after the hands separate from streamline. The kick should look as if it is initiated from the knees instead of the chest or hips, by really using the quadriceps to slam down the lower legs. Most swimmers who attempt to do the butterfly kick in the middle of the pull end up with a poor body line.

In this video the athlete does an excellent job of keeping a tight and straight body line. Her dolphin kick is big enough to get power, but not so big that it disrupts her body line

Breaststroke Line

The pull and the kick are very important aspects of breaststroke. However, there is a part of the stroke that often gets overlooked: the body line.

The best breaststrokers in the world don’t win the race because of their super strong pull or kick. Their ability to hit a solid line between every stroke helps them keep their speed throughout the race.

Check out some of these photos illustrating each athlete hitting a very strict body line:

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This is a great shot of Phelps doing butterfly. He has incredible technique.  Look at the following things:

  1. When he breathes he only lifts his mouth out of the water enough to breath, no more, he knows the higher he lifts his head the more energy he will use
  2. His arms are straight and he stretching them as wide as he can.
  3. His elbows point up and his thumbs point down
  4. He only lifts his arms enough to clear the water, no more.  He also knows if he lifts his arms to high, it could damage is shoulders.