Should You Learn Bilateral Breathing? #SwimTechTues

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?!

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.

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!

Get Over The Fear Of The Tumble Turn #SwimTechTues

Get Over The Fear Of The Tumble Turn #SwimTechTues

Have you watched people effortlessly swimming up and down, and gracefully flipping over at the wall, bouncing off and swimming the opposite direction? Have you ever wondered how people do it? Or do you watch in fear of trying something like that?! Here’s how you can get over the fear of the tumble turn!

First and foremost, doing tumble turns aren’t a necessity; they aren’t even important. They can be useful though, if you do them well. A well executed tumble turn, as well as looking cool, slick and fast can give you power and speed off the wall as well as saving you lots of time. That said, a poor tumble turn could be slower than what you do now, so practice is required!

Learning to tumble turn

1.  Practice doing somersaults in the water. Do them from standing to help give you the power and propulsion to get over. Don’t forget to tuck up tight! The tighter you tuck up, the quicker you will spin over.

  • If you find water goes up your nose, blow out hard. If air is coming out, water can’t go in!
  • Not going over straight? Push off both feet, and tuck both your knees tight against your chest.

2.  Swim a couple of strokes and somersault. Try swimming a length and do a tumble every 5-6 strokes. The key with this is to make sure your last pull is strong, then drive your head and shoulders down and tuck your knees into your chest.

  • Don’t worry if you get a little disoriented the first couple of times! As you get more used to the skill, you’ll get more comfortable and be able to carry on.
Tumble turns

Think fast entry

3.  Swim a length (with or without somersaults) and as you head over the T at the end of the length, do a somersault so you can finish with your feet flat against the wall – hopefully level with your head!

  • Ideally you want to be less than a metre from the wall, but this will come with practice and experience as to what works for you. Use the T as your guide, and adjust once you get a feel.
  • Maintain some speed into the wall. It’s counter intuitive, but if you slow down it makes it harder to tumble, there is less momentum. That speed and momentum gets carried round in the circle for you to push off – whereas if you slow down, you actually travel closer to the wall. It’s another example of speed being your friend!
Tumble turns



4.  Swim a length front crawl and somersault into the wall as above. Then push off on your back. Simple!

  • If you find yourself pushing down toward the bottom of the pool think about staying tucked up for a fraction longer. It’ll make waiting a lot shorter!
Tumble turns

Plant your feet against the wall


5.  Once you have mastered the skill of planting your feet on the wall and pushing off level – and not downwards – you can take on the last part, getting onto your front. There are two ways to do this. My favoured way is to plant your feet pointing upwards, but with one foot slightly above the other. This means that when you push off you will roll on to your side – and be ready to take that first stroke on your front. Alternatively you can plant both feet together then twist both together by about 45 degrees.

  • If you find your feet slipping off the wall, focus on planting your feet first before trying to twist them.
Tumble turns

And push off!



Take your time with learning this – as with any skill. The point is that drills are there to make you smoother, stronger, more efficient. Make sure you hit all those target points!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here!

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

Rock & Roll Swimming – What Is Rotation #SwimTechTues

Rock & Roll Swimming – What Is Rotation #SwimTechTues

Rotation is one of the really important parts of swimming – and also quite misunderstood! Rotating the body (rather than swimming flat on your front) has 4 useful benefits:

1) Increased reach (forward and backwards)

2) Reduced frontal profile (so less resistance)

3) Better ability to get the bigger muscles of your back involved (so more power)

4) Most importantly for many – easier to breath!

There are two ways of controlling body rotation – either from your hips or from your shoulders. The problem if you only use your shoulders is that because they are relatively small muscles, and they are controlling what your arms are doing too, it’s very easy for them to tire very quickly. By off loading some of that stress – the control and balance of your stroke – to our core muscles, you can maintain a smoother and stronger stroke for longer


Two of my favourite drills to develop balance and stability are kick based (every triathletes’ favourite) and a really good way of dialling in good posture and body position as well.

The first is side kick – focusing on maintaining good core tension (ie belly button toward your spine, good head position and a straight line from your hip to shoulder to the hand out in front).

The second is rotator kick – aiming to drive all the rotation from your hips, and keeping hips and shoulders in line at all times.

Both of these drills (like most drills) over exaggerate the motion that is needed when you actually swim. The ideal position in the drills is to get to 90 degrees to the water surface, when actually you only want to rotate somewhere around 30-45 degrees. By over exaggerating the motion in your drills, only going part of the way in full stroke should feel easy.

As a result, when I coach, I prefer to use the term ROCK rather than rotate when you swim. When you swim your hips should move the same as when you might skate, kayak or play a golf shot. If you can maintain good body/core tension and just gently rock from the hips, it should allow you the extra reach and easier breathing without causing the body to snake around from side to side.

Have a go and let us know what you think. Try it with a snorkel or doing half a length without breathing. Feel for a rhythm coming from your hips. Aim for that single axis running down the middle of your body.

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!