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Tue 27th Sep 2022
Front Crawl Breathing in 4 steps
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Tuesday 4th February 2014

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Richard Stannard has been a consistent figure on the UK Triathlon scene for more than 15 years. Best known for his swimming ability, 'The Fish' is still competing, and also using his extensive knowledge and experience in a coaching capacity. For more on upcoming opportunities and course with Richard, visit

In this feature and accompanying video, Richard breaks down the basics of Front Crawl breathing, so often the cause of many faults within the stroke.

4 Steps to Breathing in Front Crawl

Front Crawl or Freestyle swimming would be far easier if we did not have to breathe!

Try it - next time you are in the pool push off the pool side, relax, concentrate on improving one aspect of your stoke (for example, pushing out of the back of your stroke), and swim as many strokes nice and steadily as you can or one length of a 25m pool which ever comes first, without taking a breath. You should find your Front Crawl feels better and easier. This is because we have removed the breathing element which can cause so many faults within the Front Crawl stroke. So, next time you are trying to improve a specific aspect of your stoke just swim short distances (i.e. single lengths), concentrating on the improvement without breathing.

However, breathing of course is essential for triathlon swimming (in sprint swimming it just gets in the way!). Therefore we must learn to breathe and to breathe easily, regularly and with as little interruption to the stroke as possible.

One thing to note before you start. Breathe out into the water through your nose, mouth or both and breathe in as you turn your head to the side through your mouth. DO NOT try to breathe out and and in as the head is turned to the side. Firstly there is not enough time and secondly you are much more likely to take a mouth full of water.

The 4 Steps:

  1. Standing or sitting in the shallow end (not swimming), put your face into the water and exhale, then come up for a breath and breathe in through the mouth. Continue with this until it is regular, steady and comfortable.
  2. Still standing in the shallow end but this time bent over at 90 degrees with your face in the water, exhale and then turn your head to the side and inhale through the mouth. Repeat several times.
  3. Repeat the above procedure except this time have your arms go through the front crawl motion to help with the timing of the breathing. Breath out into the water as your arm pulls under your body turn you head and breath in as your other arm enters the water to begin the next stroke. Turn the head only far enough to have you mouth just out of the water. There is no need to turn you head to look at the sky or ceiling above you. Over rotation of the head can cause other problems with the stoke and body position. A good rule of thumb is where ever you look and move your head to, your body will follow so only move your head as far as it needs to breathe to avoid over rotation.
  4. Finally, push off the wall and swim slowly repeating the exhale into the water inhale at the side during each stoke cycle. Try breathing to both sides, the left side for one length, stop and recover, then the right side for one length. You may find one side significantly easier than the other but with practice both sides should be possible. Being able to breath to both sides is very useful for open water swimming. Another useful breathing pattern is every 3 strokes or bilaterally which means breathing to both sides, this will help promote an even front crawl stroke and allows more time to think about technique.
Richard Stannard Front Crawl Swim Clinic

Join Richard Stannard seven time World Champion at his front crawl swim clinics in March and April 2014, or at his lake throughout the summer,


Follow Richard on Twitter @RichardStannard

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