Swimming 101: Balance Your Breathing

Tummy drill was designed to do two things: 1. It allows a swimmer to "feel" what an earlier breath initiation feels like, and 2. It makes it very difficult to over-rotate during the breath. Both of these things make it the perfect drill to use when working on a balanced breath.

Tummy drill might just be one of the easiest drills you ever learn. Start in "superman" position with both of your arms extended in front of you. Keep one arm in that position and move your stroking hand to your stomach. Leave it in place as you move your head up to breathe. Once you do, finish the stroking movement of that arm and begin your stroke with your other arm. When doing this drill, it's a good idea to take an even number of strokes between breaths so that you can keep the movement as consistent as possible.

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Tummy Drill Set

Note: At SwimLabs we use this longer set with a lot of our clients. Doing this kind of set ensures that you are able to maintain this kind of breathing for longer distances, as you would on race day.

Focus: This drill is all about staying balanced when you breathe, and properly coordinating your breath to your stroke.

2x100 Freestyle Tummy Drill: Breathe x 4 (10- or 15-second rest)

2x200 Freestyle Breathe x 4 (15-second rest); maintain balanced breathing

The fact of the matter is, no matter how hard you try, you can't swim freestyle unless you breathe properly, and breathing properly in freestyle is hard. If you spend some time learning how to stay balanced in your breath, you will be well along your way toward optimizing your breath in such a way that you will be able to swim faster on race day.

Need to make it easier?

  • Try the same pattern of breath while standing on the bottom and holding the gutter.
  • Repeat a pattern to yourself in your head as you swim, such as "Tummy, Breathe, 1, 2, 3, 4). It will make it easier to make sure that you complete each movement.
  • Don't rush! If you swim slower, it'll be easier to do the drill.

More: 3 Steps to a Panic-Free Swim Start

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About the Author


SwimLabs Swim Schools are state-of-the-art swimming facilities outfitted with video analysis and Endless Pools for a truly unique underwater experience. At SwimLabs, recreational and competitive swimmers can swim in a unique environment that provides them with the knowledge to learn, experience to continually improve, and the passion to enjoy a lifetime of healthy activity and competition. They currently operate locations in California, Colorado, Illinois and Virginia.

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