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Are you an asymmetric breather?
Is that a problem?
What are the benefits of bilateral or symmetric breathing?

As a swim coach, I can’t tell you how many times we hear


“I can swim but just can’t breathe properly or efficiently”


Often the problem is not the breath itself but a mobility shortfall stemming from poor rotation.

The first thing new swimmers need to understand is that there is a difference between a terrestrial breathing pattern and one which you might use when swimming. A swimmer cannot expect to breathe in time with their land-based breath, freestyle swim breath is very different and takes considerable practice and doesn’t often “come naturally”.

Working out your pattern and finding your own rhythm can take many hours of practice. It is important to understand that we do not lift our head to the breath but in fact rotate to air. Think about your spine being a central axis and rotating through that axis.


Many swimmers will say “I can breathe effectively on my right but not my left” think about why this might be the case. Often its simply because without sufficient external hip rotation, the swimmer is unable to rotate and release pressure on the lungs via the ribs therefore causing compression and limited ability to take on air.

Is that a problem?

Inability to breathe bilaterally is really just a symptom of poor rotation. Without rotation, a swimmer is not able to drive from the hip and gain the propulsion benefits that are unlocked following this process. A swimmer may choose to breathe from one dominant side and that’s totally fine as long as their rotation is still open and balanced.

Most swimmers with effective rotation can breathe bilaterally and will chose to do so when required: for example, during an open water swim event when the wind and sea condition are pushing water and waves into the swimmers’ mouth and nose, the ability to switch sides is important.


Bilateral breathing should be in your toolbox for use when you need it!!.

During the cooler season take the opportunity to work on your skills, focus on areas you would like to improve and use drills.

Repeat those drills and swim some distance practicing them.

If you are a 3km plus swimmer, do a minimum of 1000m drills, mindless miles are just that.

We see many swimmers (particularly middle aged and beyond) who have plateaued due to a lack of focus or ability to make change and commit to continuous improvement and learning.


Swimwell offer specific workshops that focus on particular areas of a stroke and during our squad sessions in both the pool and open water, there is always a focus.

Our number one goal at Swimwell is to help you on your lifelong swim journey, applying skills that will make the process easier and most importantly reduce the risk of injury and allow you to enjoy every minute. We have strong and confident swimmers in our sessions that are beyond the age of 80 and act as inspiration and mentors for others they interact with. Being able to train and swim a long distance with poor technique doesn’t make for a better swimmer, simply a more resilient and luckier one.

Start unlocking some new tools and reboot your technique this Winter!

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