Tips & Training

Freestyle: 100 Free Breathing Patterns

9/24/2012

BY RUSSELL MARK // HIGH PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT

I often get asked about recommended breathing patterns for races. Naturally, swimmers like to breathe more, and coaches like swimmers to breathe less. Contributing to the debate is what the best swimmers in the world are doing. Let’s look at exactly what that is before applying it to how everyone else should breathe in a race.

 

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.
  • 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.

 

Womens 100 Free breathing pattern

 

 

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.

 

The Men
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.

 

Mens 100 Free breathing pattern