View Full Version : Obnoxious breathing

Bert Petersen
March 7th, 2002, 01:55 AM
That's my pet name for anaerobic swimming..... Tonight we did a set where we swam a 400, breathing every 3rd on the first 25, every 5th on the 2nd, every 7th, then every 9th !!! on the last 25. Repeat X4 = 400 yds. My question for all the coaches and/or coach wannabees out there is : What's the benefit ? I can see some down-side to this idea, for example; as you start to yearn for that good ol' O2, you shorten up and hasten up each stroke. Not good. So what's the good side ? Cheers ! Bert

March 7th, 2002, 10:32 AM
Obnoxious breathing is what I call when your out of breath and are gasping for air so hard you make that weird honking noise.

March 7th, 2002, 11:44 AM
Our "obnoxious breathing" sets are never quite that extreme (!!)--but the coach says we do them so that we can handle not breathing out of a turn when we are tired. I think the practice actually does help with that. :cool:

March 7th, 2002, 12:04 PM
Funny, we just did a 400 as part of Tuesday's practice breathing every 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th stroke by 100 (breathe every 3rd for 100...). Our coach is always explicit that doing these types of swims helps you to learn how to swim in an oxygen depletion mode. You woud NOT want to race using this breathing pattern BUT you may experience the same oxygen depletion feelings at the end of a race and may benefit from practice at keeping your stroke together in this situation. We don't do this very often in practice.

I do find myself "cheating" and shortening my stroke when breathing every 7th, which defeats the purpose. I usually take 14-15 strokes per length, so one stroke off the wall before breathing plus 7 more strokes before the next breath leads me to doing 6-7 strokes into the turn without a breath. When doing this, I often shorten my stroke length so I can get that extra breath going into the wall. This is no help at all. When breathing every 5th or 9th, it's advantageous to lengthen my stroke so that I'm taking my last breath closer to the turn, so doing this helps me to work on my stroke. Breathing every 3rd stroke is just a useful thing to do to balance out your stroke.

March 7th, 2002, 03:17 PM
I have the same problem with these kinds of sets, in that the turn is a big problem. In a long course pool, this is less of an issue, but even breathing every 5 doesn't fit too well into the pool length. We used to do LCM 5x200 pull 3,5,7,9 on 2:45 when I was a kid. This is when I learned to breathe on both sides, as the coach explained we could breathe 4,6,8,10 if we wanted to breathe only on one side.

I don't see a use for long sets of this type. Practicing no breath or low breath 25s or 50s to check on stroke imbalance, or do some sprinting with no breaths, just like a race, yes. But 3,5,7,9 by 25, 50 or 100 is a set I would never do on my own. The feeling I get during a race is not being out of breath, it is lactic acid overload. I practice this by going fast on long sets.

Swim fast,

April 29th, 2002, 11:13 PM
I agree that it DOESN'T work. Just training yourself to breathe every other is good enough to do the trick. If you want breath control, try breathing the 1st length every 3rd then the next length every 5th then going back to every 3rd, every 5th. I know that it may seem odd, I believed that too, but when I swam this way, it was all good. I got this idea by browsing through different master swim sites. This one particular site is located in the west coast called scaq. I read all of their workouts and enjoyed reading and NOW doing them with my team in texas. If interested their site is I think, www.swim.net. Their workouts are also in the forum on the usms site with Michael Collins. Another good place to get workouts.

April 30th, 2002, 10:09 AM
Remember also that when you're "out of air", you're really not "out of air". When your body feels the need to breathe, it's because your sensor for too much CO2 is going off, not because you don't have enough oxygen. Hypoxic sets help train your body's CO2 overload sensor deal with a little more CO2 in your body than it's regularly used to. You would never race a distance set breathing every 9... but if you do it in practice, then your body will feel like it has lots of extra oxygen when you race and breathe more often.

Breathing every 5,7,9, etc. also helps bring your heartrate down in many cases. Very rarely will a coach tell you to "work" a hypoxic set very hard... it's usually about long smooth swimming. As you reduce the number of breaths, your body can adjust the heartrate, etc., and get comfortable.


April 30th, 2002, 02:27 PM
I like to call it "Hi-Toxic" swimming :)
Anyway, I find it more useful for a warmup set. Historically, I have had better practices when a hi-toxic set was done as a pre-set warmup (that is, a warmup after your regular warmup).

I find that it expands your lungs in a way that will carry through the entire workout. Especially a distance workout.

That's my 5 cents

Joe Bubel

April 30th, 2002, 02:45 PM
I had a girlfriend once who was an elite level NCAA swimmer who called it "HIGHpoxic" training - because she would push herself far enough that she would nearly black-out and would feel "high" for several moments afterwards. Perhaps as dangerous as drugs - but likely not as addictive.

I do not recommend HIGHpoxic training - regardless of ability level.

April 30th, 2002, 03:41 PM
Since breathing every so many strokes may help reinforce bad technique an option I use is to reduce the number of breathes (ie 4 breathes first 25, 3 breathes 2nd 25, 2 breathes 3rd 25 and 1 breath last 25) this also helps in keeping the head down and swimming going into the finish. With this method of hypoxic training there is no benefit on shortening your stroke and it puts everyone at a more even keel (I get as many breathes with my 13 strokes per my length as someone taking 16 strokes per length).


April 30th, 2002, 10:10 PM
Yikes. Thank you;)

Why don't you like the hypoxic sets?
(they are my most unfavorite!)

May 1st, 2002, 06:02 AM
It's the HIGHpoxic swimming I don't recomend - mainly cuz they could kill you.

Hypoxic swimming is OK as long as you do it for the right reasons. To my thinking, the place hypoxic swimming has greatest effect is when used as a technique improvement aid. The further you can go on one breath the less energy you are consuming. It forces you to work the tradeoff between speed and energy consumption.

May 1st, 2002, 10:30 AM
Speaking of "HIGHpoxic" or my preference "High Toxic", a swimmer on our club, his son is a USS swimmer. Last week he attempted a 75 underwater. I understand he's done it before. Well, luckilly for him, the lifeguard realized something was wrong when he stopped moving at 60 yds.:o

Just goes to show, you can trick your brain into thinking you have enough O2, but you can't trick nature. You gotta be careful, know your limits.

Did anyone see the special on (discovery I think) about those free divers? They talked about how you can relax and meditate underwater that you never feel the urge to breathe, causing many blackouts. Something you don't want to do alone I suppose.:eek:


May 1st, 2002, 12:14 PM
I also used to swim with a guy who was also my fencing master. He used to be a member of a french military unit that specialized in deploying and disarming underwater demolition equipment, including free-diving to disarm metal sensing mines. At the age of 50 he could still do 75 yards underwater - and did it every time he went in a pool. He always made a point of surfacing with a big relaxed grin on his face and engaging the nearest person in conversation - no heavy breathing or apparent physical distress at all (but, then, I also watched him take a broken epee blade through his thigh during a Modern Pentathlon bout without so much as a grimace or cuss word).

I DID notice that he NEVER took a shot at going 100 - probably knew his limitations.

Matt S
May 1st, 2002, 08:01 PM
I can recall a few years ago reading a story in Navy Times or a Navy Safetygram about a Dive School student who killed himself "practising" his breath holding. (Perhaps those of you who live in Coronado can back me up on this one?)

Apperantly, this young lad decided he needed to be able to stay underwater longer without the aid of oxygen, and being a highly motived sailor, he thought he would work on it extra. Went to the training tank at the Naval Amphibious Base, and "worked" on his breath holding by hyperventilating just before going underwater. As several participants have pointed out, the urge to breath is not caused by lack of oxygen in the blood stream, but an excess of carbon dioxide. By hyperventilating, he drove the CO2 level down artificially, and set up conditions where he could pass out from lack of oxygen before his CO2 urge to breath would motivate him to surface.

The final factor in the equation was that he appeared to have some trouble staying submerged with his lungs chock full of air. So, when he went under, he hooked his fingers around a water intake plate at the bottom of the pool. Probably some of you can fill in the rest of the story. He passed out before he felt the need to breath, and his fingers locked on the grate. By the time the lifeguards noticed that, gee, he's been under a long time even for a SEAL wannabe, discovered him unconscious, managed to get his fingers off the grate, and started CPR, he was already gone.

Do I think you will kill yourself, even with HIGHpoxic sets? Clearly not! But, as Emmett and others so sagely pointed out, doing low breath sets for the wrong reasons or using the wrong technique is at best useless, and at worst counterproductive. And, most important, do NOT hyperventilate before doing these sets!


May 1st, 2002, 11:48 PM
There have been some good points made here. Years ago I had a long discussion with an Olympic Gold medal winner, who instructed me that you never swim with all your lung capacity, UNLESS you swim some lengths underwater.

As an asthmatic, swimming a length underwater, resting (not hyperventilating), then swimming another length underwater, until I have 4 lengths done, makes a huge difference. It opens the tiny air sacs in the lungs, and it helps me mentally. At one Nationals, the first day I could not swim even one half length underwater. I was having a bad asthma day, coughing badly. I had a so-so one hundred breast. The next day, I did four lengths total underwater, had a great massage, stretched properly and won. And I did it by NOT breathing every stroke, which after 6 seconds underwater after the start and turn is hard to do.

As a coach, I have my swimmers swim lengths underwater. But never more than one length at a time. Sometime they do it after a sprint, sometimes before a sprint. I have my swimmers do a very long warm up, doing sculling and kicking drills until I am sure they are ready to swim hard. I prefer they swim wave style (body dolphin) breaststroke during their under water lengths. Even eight year old girls have no problem swimming a great looking wave style breaststroke underwater.

The pushoff underwater for all strokes have gotten faster and longer the last 15 years. A real eye opener is Natalie Coughlin, all she did was a 49.9 100 back, and a 50.1 100 fly. She went 15 meters off each turn, and gained one FULL body length on the fastest women in the world during those 15 meters! She gained that body length each and every length, so she gained eight body lengths in her incredible 1:49 200 back. She beat the 96 Olympic gold medal winner in back by 3.5 seconds in the 100 back! With swims like this, more and more swimmers WILL get faster underwater, and will do the entire 15 meters underwater.

Masters can and will copy this, and will get faster. As a coach I want to be there while they train their bodies and mind to do this!! As they say, donít do this alone.

Peter Cruise
May 2nd, 2002, 01:21 AM
Many years ago (early sixties), I went to a mixed-sport coaching camp in Santa Clara. The main attraction for me (comp. age-grouper from Canada), was the chance to be coached by George Haines. In our first session with the great man, he directed us to see who could stay underwater the longest. I went straight down to the bottom & grabbed the grating of the drain & hung on. I watched as ever so slowly my mates gave up & floated to the surface. I was the one! I broke the water expecting praise & instead received George's object lesson on how we shouldn't just blindly do every stupid thing an adult told us to- it could be downright dangerous...it took me a good while, but I finally took the point.