Bilateral Breathing: Should you Breathe to Both Sides in Freestyle Swimming?Written by Kevin Koskella
One of most common wonders of swimming world is, should you use alternate-side, or bilateral breathing?
Throughout my swimming career, I had always breathed to my right side only until a year ago. Why? Because breathing on my left side felt awkward and uncomfortable! This is reason why most swimmers will breathe only on one side. Last year I had an experience that made me change my ways. I was getting a massage and my therapist noted that my left lat muscles (back) were much more developed than my right. Putting two and two together, I realized that years of right side only breathing in pool had caused me to use these muscles on my left side far more than my right as I was balancing with my left arm while sucking air into my lungs!
The answer to question is yes, you should use bilateral breathing, if you’re not already. The main reason is that it will balance out your stroke (as well as create symmetry in your back musculature!). The problem with breathing to one side only is that it can make your stroke lopsided. In a one-hour workout, you may roll to your breathing side 1,000 times. A lopsided stroke can become permanent in a hurry after practicing this for a while!
The benefits to breathing nearly as often to one side as other are that using your “weak” side more frequently will help your stroke overall, and you’ll lose your “blind” side. If you are an open water swimmer, later benefit will help you check for landmarks, avoid chop, or keep another rough swimmer from splashing water in your face (or punching you in nose!) as you breathe.
Swimming and Shoulder InjuriesWritten by Kevin Koskella
Most sports come with injuries to accompany them. Although swimming is, by most standards, not a sport associated with high risk of injury, it does have it’s own problems. By far biggest source of sidelining swimming injuries is shoulder.
I was a competitive swimmer for 14 years, sometimes doing double workouts and 15,000 meters per day. I swam mostly freestyle and backstroke. I never had a shoulder problem until my college years. I had been training with pull buoy and paddles throughout my freshman year of college. I started getting a little pain in my left shoulder, but being 19 and feeling invincible, I swam through pain and was sure that a little rest after season would fix me right up. Well I did take rest and ended up in a lot more pain when I resumed swimming a few months later! The doctors said it was rotator cuff tendonitis. I rehabbed and within a few more months I was back to swimming every day, but my shoulder has never been same since.
There are a variety of ways to give yourself a shoulder injury in swimming. “Overuse” is often what doctors will say. This is a pretty general term and doesn’t help many athletes when they’re trying to accomplish their goals and avoid getting hurt! Some of other ways include:
•Improper Technique- reaching too far and over-rotating, crossing over in freestyle when pulling •Sudden increase in training distance or intensity •The use of pull buoys and hand paddles •Swimming only freestyle at every workout •Unbalanced strength development
1. One of most important things in stroke technique when it comes to freestyle and avoiding shoulder injuries is to bend your elbows underwater during pull. This is proper form and will keep you from putting your shoulder in an awkward position that leads to a rotator cuff problem.
2. When you’ve had some time away from swimming and are resuming training, always ease back into it. If, for example, you train with weights and had a 3-month layoff, you wouldn’t try to max out on your bench press first day back. The same applies to swimming. Instead of jumping back in and resuming 5,000 meters you were doing before your break, start with something very light, like 1000 first day, 1200 next, etc.