Side-breathing is an important part of swimming freestyle, since it allows swimmers to breathe quickly and efficiently without disrupting their body position. Instead of breathing with their head up and face forward forward (which causes hips to sink), during side-breathing swimmers roll their face to the side to breathe. This can be challenging at first, but after enough practice it becomes second nature.
This iSport Lessons video will take you through a series of drills that teach proper side-breathing technique.
There are three things to remember when side- breathing:
Keep your head low. If you have on goggles, the lower lens will stay submerged. Remember that in order to breathe, you really only need your mouth out of the water.
Breathe in through your mouth out of the water, and out through your nose under water; this keeps water from going up your nose as you swim.
Time your breath for "the window": As soon as your arm starts its underwater pull, start your breath. Finish breathing as your hand exits the water on its recovery.
We'll start with a wall drill.
Hold onto the side of the pool with both hands lightly flutter kick to keep your legs at the surface. Take a stroke with one arm and roll your head to that side to take a breath. Keep the side of your face in the water and look slightly behind you. Roll your face back in the water, return your arm to the wall, and slowly blow the air out through your nose. When you're ready, take a stroke with your other arm and take a breath to that side.
Next practice side-breathing off the wall.
Hold a kickboard with two hands, arms straight out in front of you. Kick with your head down. Take a stroke while holding onto the board with your other arm, breathe, and then put your hand back on the board. Blow the air out through your nose underwater, and then repeat the stroke and breath on the other side.
Lastly, practice side breathing by kicking on your side. Stretch one arm out in front of you and let the other rest on your side. As you kick down the pool, practice rolling your head to the side, taking a breath, and rolling it back in. One the next lap, let the other arm lead and practice taking breaths to the other side.
When you've mastered that, incorporate a stroke. Kick on your side, take a breath, then take a stroke and repeat on your other side for an entire lap.
Let's review how to take a side-breath in freestyle:
Take a stroke, and roll your head to that side.
Keep your non-pulling arm straight out in front of you.
As you breathe in with your mouth, keep your head low, the side of your face in the water, and look slightly behind you.
Roll your face back into the water, and slowly let the air out through your nose.
Bring your arm back over the water to finish the stroke.
The more you practice side breathing, the easier it becomes. Using proper technique makes a big difference here, so don't be afraid to practice on the wall, with a kickboard, or even out of the water.