View Full Version : Breathing

January 21st, 2007, 10:56 PM
I haven't even posted here much, and feel a bit nervous about starting a new thread! But here goes.

If this subject has been :dedhorse: please point me in the direction of where (and how) to find old threads.

I have taught myself to bilateral breathe for a couple of reasons -- one, it helps my form to balance on each side, and two it will help in any OW swims in triathlons I do.

On another forum that I belong to, there is discussion of uni vs. bilateral breathing when swimming for speed. Now, I will NEVER in my lifetime set or even meet any speed records :rofl: ! But it might be nice to finish my yardages a little quicker. Since the other forum is of lesser swim skill, I pose the question to you here. The observation seems to have been made that bilateral breathing is used for slower workouts and to work on technique, but when racing and speed work, most if not all breathe unilaterally on their preferred side.

Is there truth to this observation, and are there other tips about breathing technique that you might have to offer.


January 22nd, 2007, 11:00 AM
....bilateral breathing is used for slower workouts and to work on technique, but when racing and speed work, most if not all breathe unilaterally on their preferred side.

I'm relatively new to swimming and started out breathing to one side only. After injuring my left shoulder I was forced (because of the pain) to learn to breathe to the other side. I can now breathe comfortably to either side and generally breathe on a 2-3-2 pattern unless I am in a set where I need all the air I can get. Then I breathe to one side only, but still will switch sides every few lengths. I've been told by our local age group coach (also happens to be my wife) that even in sprints (racing) a swimmer should breathe to either side in order to keep track of the competition.

BTW: When I swim a 50 free, I will only take 3 breaths for the entire race and I don't even think about what's happenning in the other lanes. Just get down and back as fast as I can.

Allen Stark
January 22nd, 2007, 11:14 AM
Swims of 500 and over most world class swimmers breath bilateral or every stroke withevery stroke prdominating.200's some bilateral,some every,some every 4th.100's probably every 4th predominates but there is the occasional every stroke breather. 50's breath as little as possible.

January 22nd, 2007, 12:14 PM
Bilateral is best but I have seen some great swimmers breathe to only one side...Peter Van Den Hoogenband comes to mind.

January 22nd, 2007, 01:53 PM
It seems to me that few swimmers do bilateral swimming when racing. Generally you have a flow and bilateral breathing seems to break the flow. I do it during training or I'll breath every 4 to 5 strokes. I'll breath at whatever side comes up if I'm workign on distance and fitness.

January 22nd, 2007, 02:00 PM
I think the primary benefit to racing bilateral is that you can keep an eye on your competition. I suppose the other side of the story is that you can just swim as hard as you can and not bother yourself with your opponents.

January 22nd, 2007, 03:57 PM
....Is there truth to this observation, and are there other tips about breathing technique that you might have to offer....
Iím a big supporter of alternate (bilateral) breathing. It makes a lot more sense and will undoubtedly allow your body to develop evenly on both sides.

One way to do it is to always breath looking towards the same side of the pool, that way (for each lap) you breathe on the same side for each pool length, but you alternate sides so you still get the balancing benefits. This is an excellent way to get started, and you can always mix it up as you go (for different events, practices, etc.).

In practice I alternate breath now about every 3 pulls on one side (breathe 3x in a row on one side, hold my breath for one more pull on that side, then repeat the process on the other side). Sometimes I still do 2x or 1x on a side before switching. Basically I do whatever is most comfortable at the time, which is what I suggest for others. I highly recommend some form of balanced, alternate breathing. I do this with backstroke as well as front crawl (one length right arm, next length left arm).

Try studying Yoga, and some yogic breathing techniques to improve your breathing (and your swimming in general). Finding a good teacher for instruction is a really good idea here. The method I practice most often (even when I swim) is to start by drawing in the breath using the diaphragm, then expanding the lungs and chest cavity from the bottom up. The exhalation is the reverse (start with the abdomen and collapse the upper chest last.

I think the truth is that you will perform best by taking in as much info as you can on a topic, experimenting with it in thought and in practice, and then doing what feels best.

January 22nd, 2007, 10:16 PM
Thanks for your input everyone. You have all given me some things to play with --- breathe facing the same wall sounds interesting, as does 3 on one side and one on the other, and other mixtures. I'll need to try these out. The thread on another forum indicated that the person cut his 100 time quite a bit with unitlateral breathing. At this point in my slowness, I doubt that would make a change for me :shakeshead:


January 23rd, 2007, 07:13 PM
When racing I think there's all kinds of advice. Although, I think most of that advice is based on the idea that you swim balanced whenever you are not going close to or at race pace. I think most people would suggest that as you practice the greater percent (I would personally say 90-100%) of your time should be spent with breathing equally on each side. Then when you pick up the pace for true speed work and racing when you breathe can vary.

I guess what I am hearing from your post is your questioning the idea that breathing every full stroke will make you go faster even if you are not racing. When I think in fact it comes the other way around, when you push harder and faster you will need to breathe more often.

All other things being equal, I think a swimmer who breathes bi-laterally (preferably at least every 3) in practice will be faster than a swimmer who breathes uni-laterally in practice when these imaginary people go to race. The person who breathes at most every three in practice will have greater endurance from breathe control gained in practice and better balance than the every two swimmer. Even if that every 2 swimmer does right arm down, left arm back.

I guess what I am saying is don't breathe every 2 just to go faster doing the bulk of your workout. I'm not sure if that's what you were trying to ask or not by your last post.