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Improve your breathing in front crawl

While it is the most popular swimming stroke, mastering breathing in front crawl can be a challenging aspect for many swimmers.

Knowing how to inhale, and when to exhale, can prevent people from progressing as a swimmer and enjoying their time in the pool.

We’ve developed some basic breathing tips to help you improve, as well as a useful video at the bottom of this page.

Sign in to our Members Area on to view more front crawl videos, as well as more useful tips on health and nutrition.

Tips for breathing in front crawl

  1. The breath cycle is commonly every three or five arm strokes
  2. Make sure you exhale under the water and try not to hold your breath. It may be a trickle (gentle and continuous) or explosive (all in one go). It can be through your mouth, nose or a combination of the two.
  3. The head stays in the bow wave, and smoothly turns to one side, not lifting forwards, to inhale as the body rotates. As the body starts to rotate to one side, the arm on the same side will pass by your side.
  4. The bow wave will create a trough or pocket of air for you to breathe into, protecting your mouth and nose from the water.
  5. As you turn your head, keep your opposite arm extended in front of you and in line with your shoulder. It will be about 20-30 cm under the water with your elbow higher than your wrist. Your wrist higher than your finger tips.
  6. As you see your hand coming over the top of the water (on the same side), start to rotate your body back to horizontal. Your head rotates in line with your body.
  7. As the body starts to rotate back into the water, the hand that is extended out in front will now start the pull phase.
  8. Your face returns to the water before your hand does.
  9. Try to keep the rhythm of your stroke unaffected by breathing.

Front crawl breathing video

This short video from our Swim England Members site will help you get your breathing right. Remember, practice makes perfect.