Swimming any of the four competitive strokes well requires practice and commitment to technical detail—especially the front crawl or freestyle stroke. The front crawl is the only stroke that requires the swimmer to rotate his body and head in unison to breath. Breathing incorrectly will cause problems with stroke mechanics. In swimming terms, bi-lateral breathing refers to a swimmer breathing on both sides, alternating every three or five strokes cycles.
The Importance of Bi-Lateral Swimming
Being able to swim bi-laterally has both technical and real world benefits making it a worthy skill to master. Bi-lateral swimming keeps your stroke symmetrical–extremely important in swimming. Bi-lateral swimming allows you to roll an equal amount to your right and left sides, allowing you to breathe, and flutter kick more efficiently and effectively. Competitive swimmers can check on their competition on either side of the pool. Open water swimmers can avoid bright sun light in their eyes and waves in their mouths.
One Arm Drill
This exercise will help you practice the correct body position to your weak side without the stroke. If your flutter kick is weak, use fins to keep you moving. Push off the wall and rotate your body to the right keeping your left hand extended to the front—your right hand back on your outer thigh. Take a breath, and return to looking down at the bottom of the pool. Exhale into the water and repeat for one pool length. Repeat the drill rotating to the left until you have completed one lap. Complete a total of 200 yards or meters.
Vary Your Breathing
Perform this exercise as part of your warm-up routine. Begin swimming the first length breathing only to your right side; swim the return length breathing only to your left side. On the third length, breathe every third stroke alternating from one side to the other. On the fourth length, breath every fourth stroke focusing on exhaling into the water, your hand entry, and the catch. On the fifth length, breathe every fifth stroke still focused on relaxed exhales into the water, hand entry, and your catch. On the sixth length, breathe twice to your weak side, than twice to your strong side. On the seventh length, breathe on each stroke focusing on quick rotation from side to side. Varying your breathing pattern will help you become more comfortable with bilateral breathing.
Bi-lateral breathing will improve your swimming over time if you consistency include bi-lateral drills into the warm up or cool down sets of your training. Many swim coaches agree that you will begin feeling more comfortable with bi-lateral breathing. One key element to focus on is fully exhaling into the water before going to air, especially on the weak side rotation.
About the Author
Gregg Seltzer is the founder and coach of Triability Coaching based in the Chino Valley of Southern California. Triability Coaching specializing in coaching, advising, and training amateur athletes competing in triathlon, marathon, century rides, and open-water swims. He is a USAT, USAC, USATF, and ASCA certified coach. Gregg competes in a triathlon races of various distances annually, and is a crazed trail racer in the off-season. Reach Gregg at mailto:email@example.com for comment, feedback, questions, or for training arrangements. You can also follow him at Twitter.com/triabilitycoach. Our phone number at Triability Coach is 800.884.2194.