Step by Step Guide to Rotary Breathing

Learning how to breathe to the side is one of the most challenging aspects of learning to swim the Front Crawl for children and adults alike. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be discouraging and it can actually be fun. Below are some steps that will allow you to perfect your rotary breathing.

Step 1: Breathing out of your nose

Stand in shoulder deep water and practice pushing bubbles out of your nose as you keep your mouth tightly shut. Practice this motion until you feel comfortable with it, coming up for air when you need to breathe by opening your mouth and taking a breath.

Tip: Try to remember that while your head is underwater you should be pushing bubbles out of your nose only – it can be tricky to get used to, but it’s like learning a bike in that you won’t forget it once you’ve learned.

Step 2: Breathing out of your mouth to the side

Once you feel comfortable with pushing bubbles out of your mouth in the water and opening your mouth once you need to breathe, head over to the gutter or side of the pool and grab on.

Work on bringing your chin to your chest as you gaze down towards the bottom of the pool and slowly blow out the bubbles out of your nose (with your mouth shut still).

When you have pushed out all the air rotate your gaze so that your chin is to the shoulder of whichever side you choose to breathe to.

Tip: Don’t worry about trying to perfect breathing to the side on both sides right away. Pick a side that works for you and stick to it – don’t flip flop back and forth between sides until you are comfortable with the entire movement.

Tip: Grab a kick board and hold on to the edge of it, making sure your arms are extended. Continue to breathe to the side as you make full arm strokes and return your hand to the board after each stroke. Practice this movement on the wall and when you are ready add in the kick board and propel yourself forward by kicking and making arm movements.

Step 3: Breathing

Once you feel confident with Steps 1-2 you should be ready to take on the full movement. Continue to work on rotating your gaze and chin to your shoulder while you breathe to the side and bringing your chin back to your chest when your face returns to the water.

Tip: A stroke kick is going to help you immensely during the beginning stages. The appropriate kick for front crawl with rotary breathing is the flutter kick (straight legs).


If any have any questions or need some clarifications feel free to email me at or check out the other swim posts here.



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14 responses to “Step by Step Guide to Rotary Breathing

  1. yeah girl – share the swimming wealth 🙂
    that’s what my clients always complained about… “i can swim, but the breathing – omg!”
    your explanation was perfect! i forwarded it to the bf.

  2. Danielle

    I haven’t swam in YEARS but this is good stuff to know 😀

  3. Kate

    thanks for the info. i have not been swimming in years but would love to start again. i usually get bored with one type of exercise after a few weeks so I can always use more things to chose from.

    hope you had a good weekend!

  4. This post reminds me very much of when I used to teach swimming lessons 🙂

  5. Esther

    I just started an adult stroke class and I am really struggling with rotary breathing. I have been trying to swim laps from the get go. I can’t wait to go in the morning and try some of your tips and see if that helps. Thanks

  6. Esther

    I worked with the kickboard today for about 15 minutes and I got it. I was much smoother in the water and was able to breathe. Thank you so much for the advise!

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  8. Connie

    Scheduled to do my 1st sprint triathlon July 25th. Had to stop swimming because of (eventually diagnosed) inflamed bursus and rotator cuff of my left arm. Laid off for a few weeks and am starting to swim again tomorrow. Had a young coach and fear that I went to hard too soon. Will try this breathing tomorrow and go easy on the shoulder. Scared about the swimming. Any suggestions?

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