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Main | The Power of a Team »
Monday
Feb142011

Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing

Breathing is probably the most important part of swimming.  At the end of the day, no oxygen no swimming, as it is also the most important part of life ;-)  Below find my thoughts on the importance of teaching the swimmers how to breathe properly when swimming breaststroke. 

When I was training with Joszef Nagy (BEST breaststroke coach I know ;-), he always stressed breathing properly in breaststroke.  He always told us to hold the breath until the last moment, and never to blow bubbles. There are two very important points to think about with holding your breath until the last moment:

1)      Keeping the center of gravity always high by not losing buoyancy.

2)      Making sure that the swimmer empties his/her lungs every time the swimmer exhales, so more oxygen comes in when taking the breath.

More on point one:

Besides training hard, having talent and being lucky, one of the most important things that a swimmer needs to do in order to go fast is to keep the center of gravity as close to the surface of the water as possible at all times.  In breaststroke and butterfly this is even more critical.  If you walk around the pool deck during practice and you look at the swimmers swimming breaststroke you will see that as soon as the head enters the water the swimmer starts blowing bubbles.  As the swimmer does that, the swimmer gets deeper in the water and the hips and toes start separating themselves from the surface.  What happens if you get a swimmer in a diving well doing vertical kicking with arms in perfect streamline outside the water and then you ask the swimmer to stop kicking, place the head under water and start blowing bubbles?  Well once the head goes under and they start blowing the air out, their body exponentially gets faster and faster going deeper towards the bottom of the pool.  I believe that happens too with the center of gravity in breaststroke and butterfly when we place our head in the water and start blowing bubbles.  The result is that at the end of the race the swimmer looks like going up and down and not much going forward.  Now by holding your breath until the last moment, right before the head breaks the surface of the water again, the swimmer will keep the center of gravity (hips) and toes in a much better streamline and will be able to keep the speed constant, instead of picking up the stroke rate, dropping the hips and not going forward with a negative effect at the end of the race.

More on point two:

Learning to exhale completely right before you take the next breath is very important so you have room to bring in as much oxygen as possible.  The swimmer needs to make sure that every time that he/she exhales the residual waste and carbon dioxide left in the lungs is minimal.  If the swimmer does not exhale properly then the residual waste and carbon dioxide that the blood brings back to the alveoli (lungs) keeps mounting and at one point less oxygen can come in with every breath.  Oxygen is vital to high performance and now we have more carbon dioxide in our lungs with each breath if we don’t exhale properly.  Watch in practice when your swimmers are doing a very hard set and look at some of the kids who look winded.  Check their lips and see if they look purple, if they do maybe it could be because they have too much carbon dioxide in the blood and they are not breathing properly.  Tell them to relax and breath well and you will see a huge improvement with the way they are able to finish the set.

Think about this:  If I am swimming the 200 breaststroke and as soon as my head enters the water I start blowing bubbles, then when the race starts getting tough and I start getting tired, by the time my head breaks the surface of the water, I will have had no time to exhale properly since the reflex will be to take a quick short breath.  Then I am just taking a quarter of my breath in a desperate way, while at the same time, my hips got deeper and my streamline got broken.  Now the wave created by my center of gravity during the stroke cycle is huge in amplitude but not in longitude (I go up and down instead of forward) , plus I have too much carbon dioxide in my system to finish the race at a high level.  The same thing happens in butterfly.  How many times do we see the majority of swimmers finishing the races in a vertical mode barely going forward?  There are many factors like training, technique, talent etc.. that make the swimmer improve and swim fast but one that is essential is the way and when the swimmer takes a breath during the stroke cycle and the way we control our breathing pattern during the race.

I think since breathing is automatic with everything we do in a normal life we take it for granted and we don’t do it the right way when we swim.  You want to improve your swimming, work on breathing properly and think about it.  Don’t take it for granted. It will affect your streamline and your ability to finish the race at a high speed.

I have been teaching my swimmers to exhale at the last moment right before the head is about to break the surface of the water and I have seem great improvements.  Some things to consider are:  be careful because at the beginning the swimmer my swallow water since forcing the air out at the last moment creates a vacuum system and air goes in almost automatically (sometimes water too ;-),  and also in the beginning when forcing the air out the swimmer may feel a little dizzy.

As a swimmer, even though I was a breaststroker, I used this technique when swimming freestyle and I was able to swim at a very high level.  I remember the only time I swam the 1650 in college was in 1991 at the IVY League swimming championships and not rested and unshaved I went 15:26.38.  I remember when I was warming up at the Princeton pool and thinking about the strategy of my race, how I was going to focus on very good turns and controlling my breathing.  If I was able to do that I knew that I would get stronger and stronger in the race.  I use this technique of breathing and I swam pretty well for a breaststroker ;-). 

Think about it and please share your thoughts with me. 

Sincerely,

Sergio

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    Sergio Lopez Miro Olympic Swimmer & Olympic Coach - My Thoughts - Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing
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    Sergio Lopez Miro Olympic Swimmer & Olympic Coach - My Thoughts - Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing
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    Response: dvnf
    Sergio Lopez Miro Olympic Swimmer & Olympic Coach - My Thoughts - Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing
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    Sergio Lopez Miro Olympic Swimmer & Olympic Coach - My Thoughts - Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing
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    Sergio Lopez Miro Olympic Swimmer & Olympic Coach - My Thoughts - Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing
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    Sergio Lopez Miro Olympic Swimmer & Olympic Coach - My Thoughts - Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing
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    Sergio Lopez Miro Olympic Swimmer & Olympic Coach - My Thoughts - Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing
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    Sergio Lopez Miro Olympic Swimmer & Olympic Coach - My Thoughts - Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing
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    Sergio Lopez Miro Olympic Swimmer & Olympic Coach - My Thoughts - Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing
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    Response: go to this site
    Sergio Lopez Miro Olympic Swimmer & Olympic Coach - My Thoughts - Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing
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    Sergio Lopez Miro Olympic Swimmer & Olympic Coach - My Thoughts - Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing
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    Sergio Lopez Miro Olympic Swimmer & Olympic Coach - My Thoughts - Thoughts About Breaststroke Breathing
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Reader Comments (1)

Very interesting tip. should the swimmers be exhaling forcefully in order to get the air out as fast as possible (since they are waiting until the last moment to exhale).

February 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRussell Peterson

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