Beginning or Improving Bilateral Breathing

author : garyhallsr
comments : 1

"Today I tried slowing down my stroke to see if I could REALLY focus on my technique.  I've been trying to bi-lateral breathe, so I've been working on breathing to the right.  When I do, I push my left arm down to try and "support" my breath. If I don't, I end up with a mouth full of water.

"So my question is, are there any drills to help with my left/right balance, or should I just continue to try bi-lateral breathing until I get it?"

By Gary Hall Sr.
The Race Club

Bilateral breathing is also defined as a 1:3 pattern of breathing. That means one breath for each three arm strokes. It also means that successive breaths are taken on opposite sides. The advantages of bilateral breathing in triathlon are that it enables a swimmer to get a view on both sides and if breathing on one side or the other tends to create a flaw in the stroke mechanics, it may also reduce the error and help balance the stroke.

Among elite swimmers, bilateral breathing is practiced much more often by women than men. I am not certain the reason for that, but it is historically true. Breathing to one side and every cycle (2 strokes) is considered a 1:2 pattern of breathing. Recently, I also discussed on your forum a 2:3 pattern of breathing, whereby the swimmer breathes to opposite sides on two successive strokes, then holds for one stroke before initiating 2 more successive breaths starting from the same side of the last breath. Before one attempts this technique, however, I would recommend getting comfortable with the 1:3 pattern first, so that breathing to either side feels more natural.

The following are the advantages and disadvantages of the 1:3 pattern.

PROS:

  1. Getting a view to both sides enables one to see competitors more easily during a triathlon.

  2. The act of breathing in freestyle, no matter how quickly achieved or well done, slows a swimmer by either slowing the stroke rate, increasing drag or both. The 1:3 pattern reduces the numbers of breaths by 1/6 over the more common 1:2 (every cycle) pattern.

  3. Keeping the lungs inflated for longer periods may increase (slightly) the average buoyancy of the human body while swimming.

CONS:

  1. Reducing breaths reduces oxygen flow to muscle needed for higher ATP production, may induce respiratory acidosis and add to the metabolic acidosis from lactate production.

  2. In rough OW, breathing on a side where waves are coming from may lead to swallowing excessive water.

  3. Requires adaptation, increased level of fitness and balance that may need to be developed.


Whether you decide to use a 1:3 pattern for triathlon swimming or, like me, adopt a 2:3 bilateral breathing pattern for endurance swims, either way you will need to get comfortable breathing to both sides. Here are some of my favorite drills to learn to breathe to both sides.

Bilateral Breathing Drills

  1. One arm freestyle with arm at your side. Breathe every cycle to the side with your resting arm at your side, learning to rotate the body and using the downward force of the opposite arm to rotate the head backwards for the breath.

  2. Catch-up freestyle with dolphin. Use the dolphin kick with or without fins and while holding the leading arm in front take a freestyle stroke with the left arm while breathing to the left, then a freestyle stroke with the right arm while breathing to the right. Leave the other hand in front until you initiate each pull (catch-up stroke).

  3. One arm drill. Hold one arm in front and swim freestyle with one arm for 25 yards or meters, then the other arm for 25 yards or meters, breathing every stroke, back and to the side, rotating to the side for the rearward breath, then returning to the stomach position with the chin tucked down.

  4. Practice breathing with a 1:3 pattern until both sides feel comfortable and you are sure you can get a good clean breath on either side.

  5. Move on to try a 2:3 pattern if and when you have mastered 1 – 4. If you can do it, a 2:3 pattern will give you 33 1/3 % more oxygen than a 1:3 pattern and 16.7% more oxygen than breathing every cycle, and will put you much closer to your respiratory rate on a run or bike.

Regards,

Gary Sr.
The Race Club

Rating

Click on star to vote
27415 Total Views  |  252 Views last 30 days  |  41 Views last 7 days
date: February 4, 2011

Author


garyhallsr

Hall's record is one of amazing successes. Gary has held 10 world records. In both 1969 and 1970 he was named World Swimmer of the Year.

Since retiring in 2006 as a physician and moving with his wife Mary, to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Dr. Gary Hall has now dedicated his life to coaching technique and training methods to children, masters, fitness and health swimmers, triathletes and others at The Race Club Camps.

Author

avatargaryhallsr

Hall's record is one of amazing successes. Gary has held 10 world records. In both 1969 and 1970 he was named World Swimmer of the Year.

Since retiring in 2006 as a physician and moving with his wife Mary, to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Dr. Gary Hall has now dedicated his life to coaching technique and training methods to children, masters, fitness and health swimmers, triathletes and others at The Race Club Camps.

View all 13 articles
 






    From the forums