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View Full Version : arm dominance and breathing side



jim thornton
February 7th, 2007, 11:41 PM
I passed an instructor at our pool today who was saying to some kids learning freestyle that if they are right handed, they will most likely breathe on the right side, and left handed people breathe on the left side. I don't know if I agree, so I want to get your poll results:


I'm right handed and I breathe most naturally on my right side.
I'm left handed and I breathe most naturally on my left side.
My handedness and my most natural breathing side are opposite
I am truly ambidextrous and breathe with equal comfort on both sides
I am one side dominant, but have trained my self to be a comfortable bilateral breather

ensignada
February 7th, 2007, 11:45 PM
Very right handed. Breathe best on left side.

USMSarah
February 7th, 2007, 11:52 PM
I'm somewhat ambidextrous, and I am more comfortable breathing to my right... but breathing to the left doesn't feel too bad lately.

poolraat
February 8th, 2007, 12:10 AM
Right handed, used to breath to right side almost exclusively. Injured left shoulder and because of the discomfort began breathing to the left. Am now comfortable breathing to either side. Don't alternate breathe but throughout a workout will switch every 2,3 4 breaths or by laps or whatever.

One thing I've noticed since learning to breathe to the left is that my balance is better when I breathe left. My hips drop slightly when I breathe to the right.

Concho Pearl
February 8th, 2007, 12:20 AM
I'm right handed and only breathe on my left. Only breathe when right arm is extended for the pull. Right side doesn't feel right. So I'm a lefty righty.

Warren
February 8th, 2007, 12:35 AM
Im bilateral because thats what I was taught at a young age. I'm right handed and i think im more comfortable breathing on the left.

I havnt really noticed in other people what is natural but I would think that a right handed person breathing to the left is natural because think of it this way... when your breath you are basicly spining and the natural way to spin is to the left. try it, stand in place and spin in each direction which one feels natural? its to the left for most people.

knelson
February 8th, 2007, 02:19 AM
I'm exclusively left-handed and I breathe to the right.

edit: as seen in my avatar :)

goggles
February 8th, 2007, 03:23 AM
Right-handed and breath exclusively to the left

SwimStud
February 8th, 2007, 08:05 AM
Right Right

Forcing my self to go bilateral...3 strokes.

Muppet
February 8th, 2007, 10:13 AM
I voted for right/ right, but over the last 8 years with my current masters team, have developed a really good left-side breathing skill. I tend to do a 3/2 breathing pattern these days, and for whatever reason, whenever it becomes 2/2, it tends to be left-side focused. For the shorter races, the few breaths I take are mostly to the right.

I will note that it feels like I get a stronger pull from my left arm, which I think makes sense from the right-side breathing, as that arm would be underwater holding me up at the surface while I breathe.
:dedhorse:

SwimStud
February 8th, 2007, 10:20 AM
I voted for right/ right, but over the last 8 years with my current masters team, have developed a really good left-side breathing skill. I tend to do a 3/2 breathing pattern these days, and for whatever reason, whenever it becomes 2/2, it tends to be left-side focused. For the shorter races, the few breaths I take are mostly to the right.

I will note that it feels like I get a stronger pull from my left arm, which I think makes sense from the right-side breathing, as that arm would be underwater holding me up at the surface while I breathe.
:dedhorse:

when I go left breathe I have to work on not pulling too soon...otherwise I glug instead of breathe.

m2tall2
February 8th, 2007, 11:22 AM
"I am one side dominant, but have trained my self to be a comfortable bilateral breather"

This is an option in your text but not in your poll. So I didn't vote.

I would defintely vote for this one. I remember starting out I naturally was a right/right breather but I've trained myself to be bilateral so naturally that even when gasping for air either side feels comfortable.

Ivor
February 8th, 2007, 11:25 AM
I'm about 80% left handed and breathe to my right 100% of the time.

If God had meant us to breathe bilaterally he would have given us two mouths.

jim thornton
February 8th, 2007, 11:52 AM
Michele--I apologize; screwed up a bit with my poll, not knowing exactly how to do one. I put down the possible answers in the text part, then submitted it, and the poll form came up, and I tried to recreate the answers from memory...

Ivor--might I just say that Upwithbeavers is an extremely funny website. Like Ricky Gervais bringing The Office to America, I would love to get an Americanized UPwithBeavers version for the US of A.

Finally, in terms of breathing generally, this poll has proved revealing, at least to me. The Swiss have a term "the chocolate side" for which half of your body is generally more limber, flexible, etc. I think they use this for skiing--it's easier to execute certain skiing maneuvers (I'm not a skiier myself, so I am not sure what I mean here by maneuvers, but it probably has to do with kick turns, etc.) on the chocolate side than on the non-chocolate (vanilla?) side. I learned about the "chocolate side" from a yoga teacher years ago, who used it to explain why some contortionistic yoga poses are so much easier to execute on one side vs. the other.

I think swimming is the same. Nobody yet appears to be a natural bilateral breather. The biggest chunk of responses so far is a discord between hand dominance and breathing side. In my own case, I am ever-so-slightly ambidextrous--I shoot a rifle and play pool left handed but do pretty much everything else right handed. I wonder if this might figure in to my own discord (right handed for the most part; breathe on the left side.]

This whole breathing business and handedness also seem to influence directions of flip turns. I am trying to remember which direction my body angles off the wall at (left or right tilted downwards) but for some reason can't recall this. I do know that I take my first stroke wrong--you should probably use whatever arm is deeper, but I tend not to do so.

I wonder if anyone has scientifically studied swimming, handedness, etc. I guess it matters less in fly and breaststroke...

Warren
February 8th, 2007, 12:11 PM
Im not sure what their dominate hand is but

thorpe- right
hacket- right
crocker- right
Hogenban- left
schoeman- left
phelps- left

BillS
February 8th, 2007, 12:29 PM
Naturally right/right, but comfortable bilateral breather now.


This whole breathing business and handedness also seem to influence directions of flip turns. I am trying to remember which direction my body angles off the wall at (left or right tilted downwards) but for some reason can't recall this. I do know that I take my first stroke wrong--you should probably use whatever arm is deeper, but I tend not to do so.


I took some lessons from a woman who swam for Wisconsin. She mentioned that her coach had changed her flip turn rotation to better match up with her first arm stroke, so there is evidently some school of thought about this. She didn't elaborate, and I didn't follow-up.

poolraat
February 8th, 2007, 12:42 PM
I took some lessons from a woman who swam for Wisconsin. She mentioned that her coach had changed her flip turn rotation to better match up with her first arm stroke, so there is evidently some school of thought about this. She didn't elaborate, and I didn't follow-up.

I was told by a coach that the first stroke after the turn should be taken with the arm closest to the bottom. I didn't change my turn rotation though, just changed which arm was taking the first stoke and by doing so it also made it easier to take at least 2 strokes before breathing after each turn (something else the coach was constantly emphasizing).

Ivor
February 8th, 2007, 12:54 PM
Im not sure what their dominate hand is but

thorpe- right
hacket- right
crocker- right
Hogenban- left
schoeman- left
phelps- left

I thought Thorpe could switch at will?

I might have dreamt that.

jim thornton
February 8th, 2007, 01:20 PM
I now note that it's a dead heat: if you add left-left and right-right, it totals 40 percent--same as the discordant left-right and right-left tally.

In terms of switching the rotation of the flip turn, I think this would be even harder to do than becoming completely comfortable with bilateral breathing.

Swimming seems like such a simple sport in many ways, but there are an awful lot of physiological quirks and complexities, eh?

knelson
February 8th, 2007, 01:27 PM
In terms of switching the rotation of the flip turn, I think this would be even harder to do than becoming completely comfortable with bilateral breathing.

I agree and I think there are a couple reasons. One, most of us are used to circle swimming so we naturally turn in a way that facililtates moving to the other side of the lane. Two, we're used to taking the same number of strokes per length, hence we go into the turn with the same arm and that causes us to turn in a certain direction. When I come into a turn with the "wrong" arm it feels a little unnatural.

jim thornton
February 8th, 2007, 01:31 PM
Interesting speculation. I agree with the circle swimming hypothesis, however, when I race with a fastskin suit on, I take fewer strokes per length (not sure if this reduction is odd or even) but still manage to flip the same way (though once I did crash into the way on the very first turn of what proved to be my all-time best 1000 swim; I have a bad habit of swimming with my eyes closed.)

BillS
February 8th, 2007, 01:36 PM
This was an elite swimmer in a high level program (she made the finals in the '04 Olympic Trials in the 200 and 400 IM). The fact that her coach wanted to mess with her turn (which I agree had to feel really, really weird) as opposed to her first stroke to me means that the first dig must be very important, and either more difficult to change or with change having a greater potential negative effect than the change in the turn.

Small stuff, to be sure. But at that level, it's the small stuff that makes or breaks your swim.

okoban
February 8th, 2007, 02:34 PM
I used to breath from the right, a lot of drills made me bilateral.

newmastersswimmer
February 8th, 2007, 02:49 PM
The category I fall into is unfortunately not listed in the poll :shakeshead: ....and that is that I am right handed but I don't have a breathing side preferance....I typically breathe on one side for a while until I get bored with it and then I will switch to breathing on the other side for a while...(also keeps me from getting a stiff neck from breathing on the same side all of the time). I do NOT, however, like to alternate my breathing side continuously back and forth between so many storke cycles....I like keeping it on one side for at least a 25 before I switch to the other side. I wonder how common that is?? ....or if I am the only one who prefers to breathe this way?

Newmastersswimmer

aquaFeisty
February 8th, 2007, 04:06 PM
Right handed, breathe right most naturally. However, I try to bi-lateral breathe most of the time in practice. I breathe in a R,R,3 strokes, L,L, 3 strokes, etc. BUT, when I get tired, or when racing over 100 yds, I default to breathing R,R,R,R,R... :-)

I think people breathe to the opposite side of their 'flexible side'. Just like Jim (Thornton) wrote earlier, most people have a more flexible, more limber side of their body. The down-side when breathing is flexed a bit more than when you don't take a breath. If you breathe R, the down-side is the L. And vice versa.

There's a stretch where you reach one arm up and over your head and reach the other up behind your back and attempt to grab your hands together. I wonder if people try this, they'll find that they breathe to the opposite side of the hand the can reach the furthest up your back. Here's a picture showing what I am poorly trying to explain:

http://scythe.uits.indiana.edu/~r547dex3/holloway/yogabreak/poses/cowface.htm

So, for example, on me I can actually grasp my hands together when my left arm is the one that's reaching up behind my back. My left side is more flexible and I breathe right. When the right arm is reaching up, I can't get my hands to touch.

Just a thought...

scyfreestyler
February 8th, 2007, 05:45 PM
I was first to vote for left and left. Glad to see some others have joined the club.

swim4me
February 8th, 2007, 06:30 PM
I am a lefty, but naturally breathe right. Then my coach yells at me again to breathe bilateraly :frustrated: :frustrated: :frustrated:

Got Boost
February 8th, 2007, 08:30 PM
Right handed and breath left.

Rebecca
February 9th, 2007, 01:22 AM
The category I fall into is unfortunately not listed in the poll :shakeshead: ....and that is that I am right handed but I don't have a breathing side preferance....I typically breathe on one side for a while until I get bored with it and then I will switch to breathing on the other side for a while...(also keeps me from getting a stiff neck from breathing on the same side all of the time). I do NOT, however, like to alternate my breathing side continuously back and forth between so many storke cycles....I like keeping it on one side for at least a 25 before I switch to the other side. I wonder how common that is?? ....or if I am the only one who prefers to breathe this way?

Newmastersswimmer

I also like to breathe on one side for a while and then switch (rather than alternating on each stroke). I am rt handed, but feel pretty comfortable breathing on either side. It comes in especially handy for open water swimming, so you can sight and/or avoid having the sun in your eyes.

knelson
February 9th, 2007, 01:30 AM
The Swiss have a term "the chocolate side" for which half of your body is generally more limber, flexible, etc. I think they use this for skiing--it's easier to execute certain skiing maneuvers (I'm not a skiier myself, so I am not sure what I mean here by maneuvers, but it probably has to do with kick turns, etc.) on the chocolate side

Yeah, just turns in general. I'm much better turning one way than the other. You find this out pretty quickly on narrow cat tracks that force you to make tight turns.

poolraat
February 9th, 2007, 10:53 AM
I also like to breathe on one side for a while and then switch (rather than alternating on each stroke). I am rt handed, but feel pretty comfortable breathing on either side. It comes in especially handy for open water swimming, so you can sight and/or avoid having the sun in your eyes.


I found out in an open water swim that I have a tendency to drift in the direction of the side I'm breathing on so being able to breathe to either side kept me somewhat on course. (I probably ziz zaged an extra 100 or two. No wonder it took so long!)

islandsox
February 9th, 2007, 03:17 PM
I'm right handed and breathe on the right. Am working on bilateral but feels really weird but have been told it "looks" natural. I swim slightly crooked when I breathe on the left and totally in a straight line when breathing on the right.

I am also a front breather because I am an ocean swimmer and have to look up for sighting occasionally.

Donna

LindsayNB
February 9th, 2007, 08:46 PM
I breathe to either side but am not ambidextrous so I can't vote.
I wonder if there is a handedness/first arm to pull out of a turn correlation...

poolraat
February 9th, 2007, 09:02 PM
I breathe to either side but am not ambidextrous so I can't vote.
I wonder if there is a handedness/first arm to pull out of a turn correlation...

I'm not sure about the first arm pull thing but I used to take the first arm pull with the right arm and I am right handed. I had to make a conscious effort to switch to the "bottom" arm which was the left. Now I don't even think about it, it just seems natural.

~Wren~
February 9th, 2007, 10:16 PM
Right handed, breathe right . . . though I am trying really hard to breathe every third stroke. I also take my first stroke with my right hand - on backstroke too.

A bit off topic, but I skate left handed. :dunno:

runner girl
February 10th, 2007, 04:02 PM
I'm right handed and prefer to breath on the left. Due to a whiny right shoulder, I mostly do bi-lateral breathing. When I swim butterfly, I breath almost exclusively to the left (I can't seem to breath right).:shakeshead:

Peter Cruise
February 10th, 2007, 04:45 PM
I am an unreformed right/right, but I do tend to try to balance my rotation and limit my neck movement for the breath to the minimum.

Wren: wouldn't it be easier to wear your skates on your feet?

globuggie
February 10th, 2007, 11:29 PM
Handedness doens't necessarily match up with athletic sidedness. My sister writes with her left hand, but is right-sided in sports. I've also had friends that were right-handed but left-sided. I'm right-handed, right-sided for most sports, but left-eye dominant and therefore act left-handed for things like archery.

craiglll@yahoo.com
February 11th, 2007, 03:32 PM
The only hting I can only do with my right hand is write. I learned to swim & flip by swiming parrallel to my brothers. They are both right handed. I learned by swiming to my left and watching them breath and flip. For a long time my flips were really weird. I can both breath and flip both right & left. I feal most comfortable flipping to the left.

When I was in the sixth grade I accidently ripped my left wrist open. I had lots of rehad. That pretty much solidified me as a leftie with everyting except throwing.