Butterfly Stroke Breathing

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

We may earn commissions for purchases made through links on our site. Learn more on our about us page.

Breathing is one of the most important elements of any swimming stroke. When swimming in a stroke that requires a lot of energy, like a butterfly stroke, knowing the correct way to breathe is especially important. 

Without this, you might find yourself struggling to get through your swimming workouts. 

Knowing the correct breathing technique will allow you to swim for longer and make it more enjoyable. 

This will result in you getting the maximum benefits to your body by burning calories and toning your muscles. 


How to Properly Breathe in Butterfly Stroke?


  • To inhale, breathe in when your body is farthest out of the water, i.e., when your arms are pulling back past your hips while you pull with your arms.


  • Keep your eyes forward and your head steady.


  • You should exhale as your head dips back underwater after completing the pull phase. 


  • Keep your hands in line with your shoulders at all times.


  • As you exhale, your arms will be outstretched ahead of you, and your head will be pointing downwards.


Some swimmers choose to breathe every two strokes, while others prefer to breathe every stroke. This depends on your experience level and what feels comfortable to you. The crucial thing is to keep your arm stroke and breathing in sync.


Should the Butterfly Stroke Alternate Breathing Sides?

The most common breathing technique in butterfly strokes is to the front. This is because the movement in this stroke causes your front to rise naturally. This makes it easier to take a breath at this point. 

Some competitive swimmers, on the other hand, prefer to breathe to the side using alternate breathing sides. Instead of lifting their head for inhalation, the swimmer moves their head to one side. 

Breathing to the side can keep the body closer to the water. But, many swimmers find the movement of twisting the neck unpleasant. 


Tips for Improving Breathing During the Butterfly Stroke

Here are some tips you can follow to improve your breathing during butterfly stroke: 


  • Remember how fast your arms move and how quickly you have to breathe.


  • Start to lift your head up and out of the water before you finish your pull.


  • Drop your head back down before your hands enter the water.


  • Learn to use a breathing pattern – figuring out a comfortable one for you will help you swim faster and more efficiently.


  • Practice butterfly breathing technique drills – there are many drills out there to help you practice and improve your breathing.


  • Use aids – fins, paddles, and even snorkels can all help you improve your breathing. These can allow you to develop powerful lungs to help you sustain a more advanced breathing pattern while butterfly swimming.


Final Thoughts on Butterfly Stroke Breathing

Although it might initially seem tricky, practicing the correct breathing technique and focusing on timing and rhythm will quickly help you improve your butterfly stroke. 

Once you feel comfortable with the breathing element of this stroke, you can easily include a butterfly stroke into your workouts. From there, you’ll start to see improvements in your body shape, muscle definition, and aerobic fitness.