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Coaches Blog. March 2017.



Bilateral breathing is a swimming technique that involves breathing on the left and right side. If you swim competitively or just for exercise, you should use this technique. When swimmers only breathe on one side of their bodies, their strokes become lopsided and so do their bodies. Breathing only on one side also causes the body to roll to that side more often and that can stress the body. When swimmers use bilateral breathing, they have more even strokes and their “weak” side actually performs well.


  • Ø  Over training One Side

This about what happens when you breathe to the same side with every stroke. Imagine how many times you do that in one practice session. The muscles get trained to work a certain way on one side and a different way on the other. As that single-side breathing stroke is practised, your body will develop the habit and a different shape on each side. This can leave permanent effects on the body long after you have stopped swimming competitively.


  • Ø  Improve the Weak Side

When you practice bilateral breathing, your “weak” side will actually improve. When you breathe to the left and right, you get to see the people who are on either side of you. While this is not extremely useful when you are simply exercising in a pool, it is helpful in races and when swimming in open water. Your strokes will even out as your muscles do, too. Your balance improves in the water, so you actually can because you rotate less.


  • Ø  Helps With Open Water Swimming

If you like to swim in the open water, bilateral breathing is a useful technique to develop. This type of breathing actually calms swimmers who are in choppy lakes. There might be times when one side has bigger waves, so it can be challenging to take deep breaths. Instead, you will have to breathe on the other side and since you have practised bilateral breathing, you can breathe on either side at any time.


  • Ø  Take the Time to Learn

Learning to bilateral breathe is easier than it seems. It will feel awkward at first, just like trying to brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand, but once you practice it a few times, you will get better at it. To prepare yourself before you start swimming, it is a good idea to stretch out your non-dominant side. Most people have tightness on the non-dominant side, which can make swimming with bilateral breathing extremely uncomfortable. Once you start swimming, you should breathe sooner than you normally would on the weak side. You will get a good deep breath and stay relaxed. It is important that you do not lift your head, you should just rotate it enough to get a breath. Your stroke will help keep you from inhaling water.

  • Ø  Watch Your Stroke Adjustments

Another common issue with weak-side breathing is with the underwater pull. Do not straighten your arm when you are breathing. This will create issues with your stroke and make the breath more difficult to take. If you straighten your arm, you will suck in water rather than oxygen. You can avoid the straight arm problem by being sure to over-exaggerate the high elbow on the catch.


  • Ø  Mix Up the Strokes

Bilateral breathing does not have to be done on every single stroke. Once you understand how it works and you can breathe on both sides evenly, you can alternate the way that you breathe. Some swimmers will breathe every three strokes. Some will breathe on one side all the way down the pool and then the other side on the return. For many swimmers, they actually need to do more breathing on their non-dominant side so they can begin to realign their bodies and become more comfortable with both sides of the body. Even though it is awkward at first, bilateral breathing is an excellent way to make the body feel better in the pool. It makes your more even and your enter body benefits from using both sides of the body.


(Taken from

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