Bi-Lateral Swim Breathing

For all the years that I’ve been a swimmer, I have always breathed on my right side. Why? That is because I find it awkward to breathe on my left side. For this very reason, the majority of swimmers prefer to breathe on one side only.



Muscle Bias

However, during the past year, I experienced something that made me change my style. I was having a massage when the therapist informed me that the back muscles on my left side are far more developed than my right.

By connecting all the dots, I realized that this is the product of my tendency to breathe on my right side only when I go swimming, which means that the more I use my left arm to balance as I breathe, the more developed the muscles of my left side have become.


Bilateral breathing will not only keep your strokes equal, but it will also help maintain the equal symmetry of your back muscles. The downside of breathing on side only is that it results in uneven strokes.

You turn to your breathing side around a thousand times even when you are just swimming for an hour. If you do not change anything, your uneven stroke can be a permanent fixture in your swimming technique.

No Blind Side

One of the advantages of breathing on both sides is the fact that this will help you lose your blind side because you get to breathe and stroke on either side of your body.

For an open water swimmer the advantages will include the following: the ability to look for landmarks, ability to steer clear of chops, and the capacity to protect yourself from swimmers who intend to deter you by splashing water as you come out of the water to breathe in air.

Practice, Practice

The only way to enjoy these advantages is by practicing bilateral breathing on a regular basis. Try to breathe in air after 3 to 5 strokes during a drill or warm down. However, do not limit the application to drills and warm downs alone.

True, it is very uncomfortable to do for the first few times. Nevertheless, if you come to think of it, the awkwardness that you feel is actually bearable. Constant practice and application of breathing on both sides will make it easier.

Here are some suggestions on how to practice bilateral breathing without boring yourself:

In each length, breathe in from one particular side. This will allow you to get the much-needed oxygen while enabling you to develop equal strokes along the way.

Whenever you are warming up, or warming down, or in between sets, make sure that you breathe in using your weaker side.

Come up with your own flow of breathing. For example breathe in 4x on your right and then another 4x on your left or it can also be 3x on your left and then 3x on your right.

Try and spend time practicing bilateral breathing every week.

Lastly, always enjoy your swim. Don’t forget all the fun simply because you want to get it right first time.

Good Luck!


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