Chapter Seven-B~FC Breathing, Instructor
The Home Pool


The Red Cross Breathing Drill~Instructor

The first part of this drill is easy because it only involves head movements so most pupils will master it quickly.

The second part of the drill uses head and arm movements combined, which is more complex. Those who have mastered One Perfect Breath (OPB) are more likely to achieve proper rhythmic breathing skills faster than those who have not first learned to push off the wall on their sides to have acheived at least ONE perfect breath.

Part One of the Red Cross Breathing Drill

1--Face is down in exhalation position.

2--Head rolls to side, still exhaling.

3--Head turns, face up, mouth closed.

4--Mouth opens for breath.

5--Head turns down, exhale, face in water.

6--Face down, continue exhalation.

Explain above positions several times slowly, then demonstrate as illustrated.

The main reason why many find rhythmic breathing difficult is that THEY FORGET TO CLOSE THEIR MOUTHS BEFORE TAKING THE NEXT BREATH! This cannot be emphasized enough. If you teach the method of having pupils take their time to get a breath, they are more likely to remember to close their mouths an instant before taking the next breath. This is so important because if they don't, they will get a "breath" of water instead of air and you will have a more difficult time convincing pupils that they can breathe while swimming the Front Crawl.

After explaining and demonstrating the above drill, continue with class practice.

1--Class lines up facing pool side and holding on with one hand. Be sure that they back away far enough to allow their faces to be in the water when they bend over.

2--Have pupils take a deep breath, put faces in water and exhale, then stand. 3 X.

3--Next, explain that they will take a breath, exhale in water as before, then ROLL head to the side opposite of the "holding-on" hand AS THEY CONTINUE to exhale. Then stand up. Demonstrate 2 X.

4--Pupils perform above task at least 3 X. Critique individually. Be sure heads are well down into water and are not lifted up while turning onto the side.

5--Explain taking breath and exhaling under water. They must continue to exhale as head rolls onto its side. Emphasize: THEN MOUTH CLOSES BEFORE another breath is taken. Demonstrate slowly 4 X.

6~~Have class perform above continuously as demonstrated. Go down line to critique individually.


1--CHOKING usually occurs when taking a breath too soon. Be sure pupils are waiting until mouth is completely out of water and CLOSED before taking the next breath. Many will think it's okay to take a breath as long as their mouth is exposed to air, however, residue water in mouth may cause choking if not first pushed out with lips closed before taking a breath.

2--LIFTING UP HEAD TO TAKE A BREATH is common. It must be nipped in the bud before it becomes a bad habit. It not only causes water to go up their nose but will also slow them down due to water resistance. Be sure that everyone keeps their opposing-side ear down in the water while taking a breath.

3--HOLDING IN THEIR BREATH is what some Water-Shy swimmers do rather than taking a breath and exhaling. If you see anyone with puffed out cheeks you can be sure that they are not taking breaths. This is a fear reaction and you may need to work with such pupils one-on-one. They feel unable to expell enough air under water and therefore won't be able to get enough air when turning their heads for a breath. Have them perform the drill in EXTREMELY slow motion fifteen or twenty consecutive times. Their speed will pick up automatically and they will no longer need to hold in air.

4--NOT EXHALING HARD ENOUGH is often a problem of those who are frail or not used to forceful huffs. Have them practice blowing hard above the water. Suggest that they imagine they are blowing out candles on a birthday cake. Coughing forcefully is also good practice as air is pushed out by abdominal muscles..

5--NOT INHALING HARD ENOUGH usually occurs when pupils turn their faces back down too soon. Slowing them helps, but some simply may not be used to grabbing the quick hard breath necessary for swimming. They should practice above water a few times breathing deeply and quickly, then huffing the air out.

6--EXHALING THROUGH NOSE ONLY is usually the problem if pupils are performing everything correctly, but are still not getting enough air. Though most air that's expelled under water is through the nose, the mouth needs to be open for adequate exhaling. You know this but it may be new to your pupils. Do not forget to explain it to them. The more air EXHALED the more air will be INHALED. Also, when the mouth is open during exhalation, nasal passages are equalized so water is not likely to remain in them to cause choking while inhaling.

Part Two of the Red Cross Breathing Drill

1--Shows position for proper alignment.

2--Head begins roll for breath as arm starts to pull back.

3--Elbow points straight up as head turns with face out of water for quick, deep breath.

4--Arm reaches over in the Arch as head begins downward turn.

5--Hand enters water while face is straight down for exhalation.

6--Exhalation continues with the Pull.

7--Exhalation continues prior to the Lift.

The best way to explain the arm and head movement while breathing is to emphasize that both move continuously and at the SAME RATE. The most frequent error occurring in this drill is moving the head and arms at different speeds. For example, if the head moves too fast to take a breath, the upper arm may be in the way blocking air passage. If the arm moves too quickly there may not be enough time to turn the head for a breath.

Explain the problems, then demonstrate proper positions as shown in the above illustrations. (You may wish to copy and print this picture for your pupils to study.)



Progressions For Part Two of RCBD

1--After explaining the RCBD Part Two and demonstrating at least 4 X, slowly then fast, have class stand at side and perform proper alignment as illustrated above.

2--Go down line checking for correct positions. Critique.

3--Caution class to move both head and arm at same rate, slowly but continuously. 3 X.

4--Call out each move as pupils perform task--i.e.; Head-Down, Arm-Pull; Head-Turn, Arm-Lift; Breath; Arm-Arch, Head-Down; Hand-Dip, Exhale; Head-Turn, Arm-Pull; Mouth-Close, Breath, etc. At least 4 X.

5--Have class practice while you go down line offering help and critique. Continue with the above until class performs the RCBD Part 2, perfectly.


Tell pupils to imagine one end of a string is attached to the side of their head and the other end to their palm on their breathing side. Say that when the arm pulls back their head will turn and when the "string" is loosened at the Dip, their head turns back down. This image helps pupils understand the connection between arm and head movements.

Learning the above drill will take up the full class time (or longer.) If those who perform well before the time is up would like to push off the side and try the Front Crawl with Rythmic Breathing let them practice. They may use OPB or Red Cross Breathing but either way, remind them to have a good float, kick, and arm stroke FIRST with RCBD, and before taking the second breath with OPB. Be certain that they are practicing with partners.


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