I am trying to learn freestyle swimming and got the kicking nice and strong. I watched numerous videos about breathing and spoke to my instructor and everyone says: "Extend your arm, (almost as if) turn to place your ear in the arm pit of your extended arm and look slightly backwards, breathe and put your face back into the water when your other arm returns for extension".

However, when I extend my arm and turn to breathe, my arm drops and I have no idea how to fix this.

My instructor says its because I'm not extending long enough but I don't think thats the problem. I even tried grabbing a kickboard with the extended arm and practice but I put a lot of pressure on the kickboard thus suggesting some issue.

Are there any exercises or anything else to help me fix this?

  • What do you mean by "not extending long enough"? Do you mean when the(in my case) left hand comes from behind and you turn to the side to breathe?
    – s3v3ns
    Mar 5, 2015 at 6:16
  • I was dealing with exactly the same issue like you and (not fixed completely) partially eliminated that by doing this exercise (out of water): spinalstenosis.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/… (Google for: Prone Arm/Leg Raises)
    – tsykora
    Mar 5, 2015 at 12:02

1 Answer 1


You have a timing issue.

From the way you are describing it, you are waiting until your arm is fully extended before you are turning your head to breathe, which will cause your arm to drop. This is because the water is slowing your forward momentum, and it's hard to keep your arm up as your body sinks.

You (most likely, it's very hard to diagnose swimming problems without video or seeing the person) are breathing a little too late. By the time that your arm is completely extended, your face should already have been out of the water to take the breath, and as your arm begins the pull, your face should be rotating back into the water.

You can try this laying on a weight bench or similar that is basically just a padded bench. Lay face down, and "pull" with your right arm, left arm extended forward. As you lift/bend your right arm to recover and extend it forward, you should rotate your body and head to the right to "breathe". As your right arm starts to pass your face, you should start rotating towards flat again, and your left arm should be beginning its pull phase.

Once you get to flat again, your right arm should now be extended, and your left arm ready to begin recovery. Left arm recovers, right arm pulls. Right arm recovers and you rotate/breath as left arm begins the pull. This ensures that you never have a "dead spot" in your stroke and are always maintaining forward motion. That will make it easier to keep good position and breathe properly.

It is possible to breath the way you are describing, but it requires good body position and technique, which is hard to achieve in newer/beginning swimmers. There are some techniques (front quadrant swimming) where there are other timings used, but they are a little more advanced than the beginner level.

You have an instructor, but another decent instructional method for beginners is "Total Immersion". I don't like it for competitive swimming, but for basic learning it's a good tool.

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