The Essential Guide to Breathing in Swimming: Nose or Mouth?

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Breathing efficiently while swimming is pivotal to enhancing performance, endurance, and overall comfort in the water.

So, should you breathe through the nose or mouth?

This article delves into the mechanics and benefits of both breathing methods.

Breathing Basics in Swimming

Breathing in swimming involves timing, technique, and preference. The primary goal is to ensure a steady supply of oxygen to the muscles while expelling carbon dioxide, a by-product of muscle activity.

Achieving this balance is crucial for sustaining energy levels and preventing fatigue during swimming.

In simpler terms, you need to breathe as much as you can while swimming to prevent fatigue.

Nose Breathing in Swimming

Breathing through the nose while swimming is certainly possible, however it's not recommended.

In most swimmers, breathing through the nose does not supply enough oxygen to fuel your body during a swim. Additionally, it can be very difficult to even take in any air through your nose when you're breathing during any of the 4 strokes, as there is generally not enough time either. The whole point of the breath in swimming is to be quick and efficient. Breathing through your nose is neither. You're able to take in much more oxygen through your mouth.

Exhaling through the nose, however, is highly recommended. While your face is submerged, it's important to let out your oxygen so that when you turn your head to take a breath, you can focus solely on the inhale. If you turn your head and need to exhale and inhale, you'll find that you often do not have enough time, and doing both at once will fatigue you much quicker.

With that being said, taking deep, steady breaths through the nose at rest during or after intense sessions of swimming can help aid in muscle recovery and reduce the effects of exertion.

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Mouth Breathing in Swimming

Conversely, mouth breathing is the more common practice among swimmers, especially in competitive swimming.

It allows for quicker and larger volumes of air to be inhaled and exhaled, which is crucial during high-intensity swims. Mouth breathing also facilitates easier coordination with stroke techniques, as swimmers can quickly turn their head to the side to take a breath without disrupting their speed or stroke rhythm.

Which Method is Best?

The choice between nose and mouth breathing in swimming largely depends on the swimmer's level, style, and comfort.

Most swimmers and especially those engaged in intensive training sessions will find mouth breathing more effective for meeting their oxygen demands.

Combining Both Techniques

Integrating both nose and mouth breathing into your swimming routine can offer the best of both worlds. Inhaling through the mouth for quick oxygen intake and exhaling through the nose to regulate and extend the breath can create a balanced breathing technique.

This combination can also help manage exertion levels and maintain a steady pace during swims.

Practical Tips for Effective Breathing

  1. Practice Breathing Techniques: Spend time practicing both nose and mouth breathing on land and in water to find what works best for you.
  2. Focus on Timing: Coordinate your breaths with your stroke cycle to maintain rhythm and efficiency.
  3. Stay Relaxed: Tension, especially in the face and neck, can hinder breathing. Work on staying relaxed to facilitate smoother breaths.
  4. Use Snorkels for Practice: Training with a snorkel can help swimmers focus on their technique without worrying about turning their head to breathe.


Breathing in swimming, whether through the nose or mouth, is a skill that requires practice, patience, and personalization. By understanding the mechanics and benefits of each method, swimmers can experiment with and adopt the technique that best suits their style and needs. Remember, the most effective breathing method is one that keeps you relaxed, oxygenated, and able to enjoy your time in the water to the fullest.

Incorporating these breathing techniques into your swimming routine can significantly impact your performance and comfort. Whether you're a competitive swimmer looking to improve your times or a recreational swimmer seeking a more enjoyable experience, mastering the art of breathing in swimming is a step toward achieving your aquatic aspirations.

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