Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Case for Breathing Every 3

Every swimmer should breathe every 3rd stroke during freestyle training. Many are reluctant to change. Allow me to state my case:

Exhibit A: Breathing bilaterally keeps your stroke even. Ever seen a swimmer who "limps" as they swim? Was he breathing every 3? Exactly.

Exhibit B: Breathing every 3 helps avoid neck and shoulder tightness. Swimmers who breathe only to one side try this: Turn your head to the right. Turn your head to the left. Is your flexibility equal in both directions? Most likely you can turn your head further to your breathing side.

Exhibit C: Head position determines body position. We breathe with our heads. In my observation, 99% of freestylers could improve their breathing mechanics. Thus with better breathing mechanics, almost every swimmer can improve her body position, reducing drag.

Exhibit D: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. To pick your head up or to pull your head to the side to side to breathe, you must support that position. Thus, unless your breathing mechanics are perfect, you are exerting energy and effort to support that imbalance. This is energy that could be used to propel you forward.

Exhibit E: "I get less oxygen when I breathe every 3rd stroke," say the every-stroke-breathers. Changing a habit is not easy. Learning a new skill takes time. At first, you will get less oxygen when you breathe every 3. As you develop your bilateral habit, you will learn to relax and breathe deeper. Soon you will be able to take in nearly as much oxygen as before.

Exhibit F: With imperfect breathing mechanics, the equal and opposite reactions can often cause stroke irregularities that can cause injury, most often to the shoulders. Who would have thought that simply breathing could injure you?

The floor is open for cross-examination.


  1. I'm new to the whole swimming more professionally thing but I can see these tips look good. I'm going to try thins technique out, thanks a lot.

  2. Like your insights and how you state your case in such a step-by-step manner. Great blog!

    Btw, like the countdown to 2012. :)

  3. Breathing every third stroke has been the bane of my swimming existence. And while I have to agree with some of Lucas' observations, the points you outlined are almost all spot-on.

    I've seen a lot of great swimmers choose to breathe every other stroke at times. But I've never seen a consistent breathe-every-other-stroker become a great swimmer.

  4. I saw an interview of Bill Boomer on Youtube where he explained that in training Michael Phelps often breathes on one side during one pool length then on the other side the next length.

    He said that when doing this the body rolls more often on the side. And you want to spend more time on the side as in that position the body is more slippery in the water.

    But he also said that you need to have options, so that you can breathe whenever to whatever side you need.

  5. RW,

    I'm the author of the web site. Could you please remove the above comment I made a while back, as well as this comment once is done?

    Thanks a lot...