When breathing out during swimming, I've come across conflicting info - a swim instructor years ago told me to "exhale it all out immediately", so after I take in my breath, once my head is submerged, I breath out fully.

I prefer, and the youtube videos I just watched support this, exhaling over time. So I'll breath in, and then once my head is submerged I'll breath out for the duration, until I turn my head to take another breath.

Is one way "better" or more efficient than the other? Is there debate between the two methods? Is one way "just wrong"?

Note linked question doesn't deal with breathing out, this is a different question.


Neither way is "just wrong", although if you breath out completely every time your face hits the water, you can start hyperventilating.

Breathing in swimming is just like any other sport, you breath in or out as much as you need to. If you are swimming at a slower pace, you may not need to breathe every single stroke, so you can exhale over a longer period of time. If you are sprinting, then you may need to breath out very rapidly so that you can inhale every stroke.

Treat it like other sports, breathe as you need to, and if you need to, learn to breathe on both sides of your stroke, it will make things easier in the long run.

  • ah. are you implying that i should be exhaling continuously until i take another breath? and that it is really the speed between breaths that determines how fast i exhale? (i'm not swimming fast enough to require a breath each stroke - i take a breath every 3).
    – bharal
    Jan 22 '15 at 15:31
  • @bharal - Yes. If you hold your breath and then exhale and inhale, you can create symptoms of hyperventilating. A breath every 3 is fine. Just like other exercise, unless you hold your breath while running. :p
    – JohnP
    Jan 22 '15 at 16:54
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    I agree that you breath as much as you need to, but in my swimming days I found that for proper sprints (e.g. 50 m), most would breath minimally - sometimes just 3 times during the race, or around 7 strokes a breath. It's predominantly anaerobic for those short distances, so breathing every stroke would be unhelpful.
    – andrewb
    Jan 27 '15 at 21:46
  • @andrewb - Very true. I was a distance specialist, so I was more approaching it from that. But you are correct, 50m will breath once (if that), and 100m 3-4 times in the race. Good point.
    – JohnP
    Jan 27 '15 at 22:43

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