Should You Learn Bilateral Breathing? #SwimTechTues

Have you been told or read that you should learn bilateral breathing? Do you know what bilateral breathing is?!

bilateral breathing

What Is Bilateral Breathing?

Bilateral breathing is breathing to both sides. It normally equates to breathing on an odd number of strokes – 3, 5, 7 etc. It CAN be really useful in keeping your stroke even and help you maintain a straight line as you swim. Additionally the swimmers who tend to get shoulder/neck injuries and problems tend to be the swimmers who only breath to one side – a feature of poorer posture and reliance on one side doing the majority of the work.

[Tweet “Breathing to one side CAN potentially increase the risk of overuse injury”]

However I’d argue that breathing bilaterally is not a necessity and could potentially hold athletes back in the water. Especially with (but not confined to) new swimmers, there are so many things to try and focus on that breath control becomes really difficult, and trying to hold on to breathing every third stroke results in very quick fatigue.

In most sports, we don’t have to work very hard to get oxygen. But in swimming, specifically in freestyle , we have to turn our head to get air.

bilateral breathing

Maintaining good posture and a straight spine will keep your stroke as smooth as possible while breathing.

Cycling or running at maximal exertion requires between 50 and 60 breaths per minute. If you are swimming anywhere from 400 metres to 2.4 miles, chances are your stroke rate is 50 to 60 strokes per minute. If you are an alternate breather, breathing every third stroke (1:3 ratio), your respiratory rate is only 20 breaths per minute. A swimmer taking 60 strokes per minute and breathing to one side on every stroke cycle (1:2 ratio) takes only 30 breaths per minute, far below the body’s chosen rate.

So it’s not surprising that maintaining bilateral breathing can potentially be a challenge!

[Tweet “Breathing bilaterally severely reduces your body’s chance to get oxygen.”]

When coaching I prefer to focus on making sure that the swimmer in front of me has a balanced stroke – that both the left side and right side are doing the same thing, that the core and spine are staying straight and not bending round to one side or another. From there you can ensure that general breathing technique is good. The next step is to make sure that when breathing, you don’t let your hand cross under your body. My favourite drill is to swim with out breathing, and slowly reduce the number of strokes between breaths. Try to maintain the smoothness as you add in more breaths per length!

Obviously it is a great asset to be able to breath to both sides; specially in open water where waves, wind or bright sunshine could make breathing one way more difficult.

[Tweet “Breathing bilaterally is a useful skill but not a necessity.”]

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in  the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

Distance Per Stroke – Extend Front To Back #SwimTechTues

Distance per stroke is a commonly used phrase with swimming and triathlon. But many athletes don’t fully understand what it means.

When swimmers see DPS, they immediately think, “Oh, that means that I should just extend my arm more and glide more.” While you will go farther doing this, you are making two critical errors.

Firstly, by extending through your shoulders. You are not only straining your shoulders, you are also not reaching as far as you could.

The key to DPS is understanding that it is primarily a rotational drill. To extend to your fullest, you should rotate your hips while extending forward. By doing so, you will get at least two inches farther and thus have a more efficient stroke. You should be aiming for a straight line from your hip to your elbow and on to your hand.

Secondly, swimmers like to glide because they feel that they will get the most distance. When you glide however, you are slowing down and creating a dead zone in front of you. If you are in a strong current, you will actually move backwards. When practicing DPS, therefore, do not slow down and glide.

Distance Per Stroke

 

Instead, after rotating and extending, start your high elbow pull in a controlled fashion and drive forward rotating and extending with the other hip. Then repeat the catch and pull on the other side. Your hands should almost always be in motion – just not necessarily at the same speed.

Finally, the biggest thing that will have an impact on the distance you travel for each stroke: anchoring on the water. If your hands slice through the water like a knife through butter, it really doesn’t matter how far you reach or rotate. Focus on engaging your hands and forearms on the water to press it back behind you – as a result you will travel further and faster every single time.

Next time you see DPS on your workout be sure to a) extend through rotation, b) don’t emphasize the glide, and c) focus on extension from the front all the way to the back of your stroke. By focusing on those three points, you will be faster and more efficient for it.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in  the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!