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🏊‍♀️ To bilateral or not to bilateral! 🏊‍♂️

SLS founder Keri-anne Payne shares her blog here about bilateral breathing.

"Wow, I hadn't expected the response I got to the question I asked on Twitter & Facebook about bilateral breathing - for some, the holy grail of swimming.


My question on social media

I was really interested in finding out about bilateral breathing - some say IT’S A MUST and some say DON’T DO IT. I wanted to explore the reasons why some people find it really easy and others find it really difficult to bilateral breathe.

The responses were staggering and so many people replied - Thank you so much!

The results look a bit like this;

Out of about 115 responses

61 people said they couldn’t/ don't bilateral breathe here are some of their reasons why;

7 Struggle with balance breathing on the other side

5 Take on water breathing the other way

15 Bad technique or I was never taught

10 I can’t rotate my neck the other way/injury

7 Laziness or bad habit stops me

5 I get water in my ear (So many people with hearing issues cant handle the water in the ear)

6 Gets in way of rhythm if I breathe the other way

6 Feels awkward to breathe that side

So I felt compelled to write a blog about it all.

First things first - Is it a MUST or is it a NEVER?

The honest answer about bilateral breathing is that ……. it doesn't matter!

When watching the Olympians in the pool, you’ll rarely see the men & women breathing both sides. WHY? Well in my opinion (& experience) it’s faster and it’s more efficient, especially when swimming at speed.

Yet switch to the Open Water events and you’ll see far more breathing both sides… Why? Well being able to bilateral breathe is a great skill to have in the open water as often conditions can be wavy & choppy and if the waves are coming from the side that you breathe, then being able to breathe to the other side is very helpful.


So if one side or both sides doesn't matter, what does? Well there’s two simple secrets to breathing:

Rhythm of the inhale & exhale

Breathing has to feel natural so getting into a good rhythm quickly will help, make sure you are only taking in as much air as you need, not a massive lung full of oxygen! More on this in a blog coming soon.

Full body breathing

Michale Phelps, Grant Hackett & James Guy all breathe to one side and yet crucially have a stroke that is balanced on both sides.


How do they balance their strokes? It’s Full body rotation.


If you watch these videos of Michael Phelps & Grant Hackett you’ll notice that even though they only breathe to the right, their whole body still rotates to the left when their right arm enters the water. This ensures that their strokes are balanced and every single ounce of energy propels them forward!

The trick to rotation is to think of it as a full body process - when breathing the head, hips & shoulders are moving together as one.

So next time you go to the pool try to keep the hips and shoulders moving together as one and rotate to both sides. Keep the eyes looking at the bottom of the pool until you are ready to breathe and then join in with the full body rotation. The extra bonus is that it will vanish neck and shoulder injuries. This approach means that you don't have to twist your neck.

It blew my mind too when I realised that my head never moved independently when turning to breathe. Check out the picture below.


Keri-anne swimming

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