View Full Version : Learning to breathe on both sides?

July 30th, 2003, 09:57 AM

I'm excited to be here and excited to be back in the water again after about 12 years!

I have numerous questions/things I'm excited to improve on so I thought I'd start with one: my whole life (so basically for 30 years) I've only been breathing on the right when I do freestyle. Any tips for breaking this habit and learning to breath on the left? I honestly can't even remember how I learned to breath on the right the first time around....I've just always only done it that way. I think I'm partly afraid if I just try it, I'll end up drinking the pool..plus it just doesn't feel natural.

jean sterling
July 30th, 2003, 10:12 AM
I had breathed on the right side for years then decided to breathe on alternate sides. As they say in the Nike advertisements, just do it. At first it will seem very awkward, but eventually you will get used to it. What is funny is that now I actually prefer breathing on the left side (and I am not left-handed).

July 30th, 2003, 11:17 AM
I posted a similar sort of question a few weeks ago.I got some very sound advise from a few people.First,try doing catch-up drills, but delay your hand entry by the side of your head for three seconds.This will cause you to roll properly onto your right shoulder and mean that your stroke is correct for bi-lateral breathing.Second drill,is to swim laps breathing on the "wrong side" only.In your case it would mean breathing on the left only.Do this for a ratio of 4 laps "wrong side" and 1 lap "normal side".Thirdly,I have found that by keeping my head still it has made the transition to bi-lateral a lot easier.Now I actually watch my hand enter the water before I roll onto my shoulder.I'm by far from perfect at bi-lateral after just a few weeks, but I definitely feel more comfortable with it.

July 30th, 2003, 12:10 PM
Originally posted by mark_varney47
Second drill,is to swim laps breathing on the "wrong side" only.

That's how I broke my one-side-only habit. I started by forcing myself to swim every other lap breathing only on the wrong side. It was danged hard at first, but after a few workouts everything started loosening up on that side, and my stroke became more symmetrical. After that I just forced myself into an alternate side rhythm, and now I don't even think about it.

July 30th, 2003, 12:28 PM
I've also broken myself from one sided breathing by the breathe-on-the-wrong-side-until-you-get-use-to it method too. BUT I would also like to point out that bilateral breathing is not an end all goal. Recently in the FINA World Championships during one women's event* swimmers like Jenny Thompson* were only breathing on their right sides. The commentators mentioned it because one swimmer could see her competitor going out in the last lap and the other swimmer could see hers on the last length, possibly giving her a little advantage. I don't know if that was a strategy the women were using to keep an eye on each other or whether they swim that way all the time. But, my point is, not all swimmers do bilateral breathing all the time.

There are reasons for bilateral breathing though... from what I understand it helps you develop a more even pull with your non dominate arm.

* I don't remember what event it was and I am not saying Jenny Thompson only breathes on the right side--althought it might have been Jenny--I just don't remember. I'm saying swimmers with world class abilities. Just wanted to clear that up


August 2nd, 2003, 04:37 PM
Thanks for all the replys everyone. I think I'll just start swimming a few laps here and there breathing on the opposite side...maybe during cool down until it feels more normal.

August 3rd, 2003, 08:14 PM
When I first learned to breathe on both sides it was because we were given a set, LCM, 5x200 pull on 2:45, breathing 3,5,7,9 by 50. When we said we didn't know how to breathe on our lefts, we were told we could do it 4, 6, 8, 10. We learned to breathe left on that very set.

I found when I started breathing alternate all the time that I got dizzy. It took a while to get over it.

Stick with it, I've had a lot fewer shoulder problems breathing on both sides rather than leaning on the non-breathing side.

Swim fast,

Gareth Eckley
August 4th, 2003, 04:53 AM
The danger in not breathing to both sides is that you are almost certain to develop an unbalanced stroke.

I coach and see on about 95% of swimmers that they are not symmetrical. If you breathe to 1 side only ( say to the right ) then you will roll fully onto the left shoulder while you are taking a breath. However you will not roll fully onto your other shoulder ( the right ) on the next stroke. This leads to a number of faults:

1.- Your recovery will be wider and more 'straight arm' on your non breathing (left) arm. This is because the body roll enables a higher and more relaxed arm recovery. You will experience more muscle fatigue and soreness on that (left) arm.

2.- Your whole hand entry and 'extend into catch' phase will be " off " on that (left) arm.

3.- Your stroke pull will become much stronger on 1 side than the other. You will swim faster if your stroke is balanced.

4.- One sided breathing tends to encourage " lifting of the head " while taking a breath. If you do this you will press down on your outstretched arm to compensate.

5.- One arm will tend to enter and move into the catch towards or even over the centre line, because of the uneven body roll.

So you can fix lots of stroke faults by doing bi-lateral breathing. Try it and in only a few weeks it will seem natural.

August 9th, 2003, 03:27 PM
Well, I went ahead and just tried breathing on the left side yesterday after doing a workout on my own. It felt so awkard....like I didn't even know how to swim. Guess I'll have to keep working on it....:confused:

August 12th, 2003, 08:41 PM
Do you do any side kicking?
Go one length of the pool on your left side, left shoulder and hip perpendicular to the bottom of the pool, left arm stretched up. Hold that position for the length of the pool and kick and exhale under water, turn up a bit to inhale.

Then return with your right shoulder and hip perpendicular to the bottom.

It will help with getting used to breathe on both sides AND with rotation.

Our Coach has us do up to 4x100 sets of this almost every workout.

August 19th, 2003, 09:59 AM

That's a great suggestion...I'll definitely give it a try!