Butterfly Breathing

Swimming Technique Misconception: Butterfly Breathing

PHOENIX- Many people believe that the technique of the fastest swimmers is worth copying, resulting in numerous misconceptions. In reality, even the fastest swimmers have technique limitations, but they offset them with strength and conditioning. The purpose of this series of articles is to address scientifically the technique misconceptions that have become “conventional wisdom,” and to present more effective options.
A common technique misconception is that a butterflyer should not change the angle at the neck to breathe. Typical advice is to maintain the non-breathing neck angle when breathing to avoid submerging the hips and increasing resistance. However, swimmers can actually minimize resistance by using the full range of motion of the neck to breathe.
SUMMARY: The conventional wisdom is for a swimmer to maintain the same angle at the neck during breathing and non-breathing in butterfly. However, if the swimmer does not change the neck angle, then he/she must change the body angle to position the mouth above the surface. When the body angle changes, the swimmer generates excess resistance, expends more energy and swims slower. An effective breathing motion requires extension at the neck through the full range of motion. If a swimmer completely extends at the neck, the body remains horizontal so that resistance is minimal. A swimmer can expedite the learning process by focusing on cues to change the breathing motion. (More to this article on page 16, by-Dr. Rod Havriluk)
Dr. Rod Havriluk is a sports scientist and consultant who specializes in swimming technique instruction and analysis. His unique strategies provide rapid improvement while avoiding injury. He can be reached at the website for Swimming Technology Research www.SwimmingTechnology.com.

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012 Saving Scholarship Swimming
by George Block
Shortly before Christmas 2014, a small group of representatives from the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA), the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA), USA Swimming (USA-S) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) met to brainstorm and develop an initial strategy to save scholarship swimming.

015 The Case For Snorkels
by Michael J Stott
Swim Coaches of all levels embrace the snorkel as a necessary training tool that has numerous benefits including breathing assistance, balance and improved head and body position.

020 Cal’s Bears Are Golden
by Jeff Commings and Annie Grevers
Cal captured its fourth women’s title in the last seven years, winning decisively over two-time defending champion Georgia, 513 to 452.

028 Too Easy!
by David Rieder, Jeff Commings, Jason Marsteller and Michael J. Stott
As Texas swimmers dominated the competition at NCAAs by winning seven events and setting records en route to a 129-point margin of victory, Coach Eddie Reese tied Ohio States’s Mike Peppe (1931-63) as the winningest NCAA Division I coaches (11 titles) in men’s swimming and diving.

034 First-Timers At Women’s NCAAS
by Annie Grevers

039 Behind The Scenes At Men’s NCAAS
by Michael J Stott

044 The Usual Suspects
by Jason Marsteller
Emory, Kenyon, Oklahoma Baptists and Indian River extended their winning streaks at this year’s NCAA Division III, NAIA and NJCAA Championships-ranging from three straight team titles up to 41. Only Queens University of Charlotte at the NCAA Div. II meet was able to end Drury’s run at the top and start a new “streak” of its own.

010 Lessons With the Legends: Bill Rose

018 Swimming Technique Misconceptions: Butterfly Breathing
by Rod Havriluk
A common swimming technique misconception is that a butterflyer should not change the angle at the neck to breathe. Typical advice is to maintain the non-breathing neck angle when breathing to avoid submerging the hips and increasing resistance. However, swimmers can actually minimize resistance by using the full range of motion of the neck to breathe.

052 Q & A With Coach Brad Isham
by Michael J. Stott

053 How They Train Kevin George
by Michael J. Stott

013 Dryside Training: Kick Set On Land
by J.R. Rosania and Darian Townsend

048 Goldminds: Swimming’s Most Importatnt Lessons (Part 2:#’s 16-30)
by Wayne Goldsmith
Here is a summary of the most important lessons the author has learned in the business of helping swimmers and coaches realize their potential-a personal journey 25 years in the making!

055 Up & Comers

008 A Voice For The Sport

056 Gutter Talk

058 Parting Shot


  1. Marie Ward

    Brian Schenkenfelder

    • Brian Schenkenfelder

      The problem is 99% of people use their shoulders and core to lift their head which causes the hips to drop and the stroke to stall. Technically you can turtle your head forward and stay in line. Most people just don’t do it that way and it is a difficult skill to master. It is much easier to teach people to keep their head in a line by looking down.

    • Marie Ward

      Of course! Michael Phelps has mastered the turtle breath in butterfly!

  2. Lovely EM

    JM Karwa lees dit ff

  3. Joshua Franz

    So, when your arms are out of the water and returning to the forward position your head is not already out of the water high enough to get a breath? You should raise it further to get your mouth out of the water?

    • Kate Timke

      What the article is saying is that instead of keeping your head and neck in a neutral position throughout the stroke and breath, you should tilt your chin up when you breathe.

      The first diagram shows the body position when just flat in the water, not breathing. The second shows how much the body angle has to change when you done tilt your chin up on your breath. The third diagram shows how much less the body angle changes when you do bend your neck on the breath.

    • avatar

      …then you are breathing too late.

    • avatar

      This is a great article but it’s not the entire article– you can find the entire article in the May magazine and it explains better.

  4. Debbie Smart

    My second best stroke . May be I breath wrong, but it works for me and I can do 6 lenghs straight .

    • avatar

      Please try the recommended breathing. I’ll bet you make 8 lengths using less energy.

  5. Cristina Villa

    Sila Munoz no entendí nada jejeee

  6. Eoin Foster

    Deirdre Morris Perth

  7. Peter Coates

    Eyes naturally focus on the direction of movement, its instinctive. However the head remains parallel to the body, offering minimal resistance with the water. Streamlining 101:)

  8. Lisa Dumsar Branham

    Moises RiveraBruce CarrQuelvin RamirezJose MartinezJose RamirezSarah AguilarDaisy Capetillo

  9. Andrew Webber

    Read this guys swimming tips before, not overly convinced by this one. It’s a combination of the back end of the arm motion, second kick, and minimal head lift that gets your breath in. If we followed the advice given here, it would be a very flat stroke swum on the surface, that’s not going to be as fast.

    • avatar

      Thanks for your comment. Maybe I can convince you with a little more info. We conducted two studies using the strategies for fly explained in this article. With a one week treatment, young teens (age 13) significantly improved their technique (as measured by the active drag coefficient), as well as their swimming velocity. National caliber older teens (age 16) had a one month treatment and an even bigger improvement in their fly technique.