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swimming - 2 or 3 strokes per breath


I'm getting into my front crawl training and currently breathe every 2 strokes. So always to the same side. I've tried doing 3 strokes per breath and although I can get the hang of bi-lateral breathing, I seem to run out of breath very quickly. In the end I rush my strokes so I can catch another breath. This seem to happen when if I'm going the same pace as when I do 2 stroke breathing.

How often do others breath? What's the optimum? I'm thinking if I can get used to three per breath I'd create less drag, is that right?


  • andyb99andyb99 Posts: 229
    i'm not a very strong swimmer but i was taught bi-lateral breathing at school and have done it ever since...i breathe every three and if i'm training my practice drills is to breathe every 5...you have to concentrate on the strokes rather then distance...so do one length, breathe every 5...then another....after a while every 3 will seem easier
  • You should practice both 3 and 2, incase the waves are causing you problems on one side in an OW swim.

    Aside from that i go for 3

  • Jelly legsJelly legs Posts: 278
    could i suggest you time yourself doing say 250 metres doing two breaths

    and 250 doing three.

    Which ever is the quicker and it wont be much, is the way to go.

    Everyone is differant, and you have to find your own comfortable way to swim.

    But what ever you do slow down, well that what the swim coach says anyway, everytime i hit the water.
  • tridjwtridjw Posts: 4
    Best piece of advice I was given......breath when you need to!

    Weather it be after 2, 3, 5, 8 strokes just breath when needs be. When in open water many things could happen such as waves, being swum over, elbows/feet etc all of which could disrupt your breathing pattern so practice breathing when you need on both sides.
  • gdh250467gdh250467 Posts: 237
    There's no hard and fast rules on which to use. It's generally 3 (bilateral) or 2 (unilateral). Bilateral gives you a more even stroke, and generally reduces snaking when you breathe, so swim is slightly straighter. Bilateral also gives you opportunity to see both sides of you, which also aides navigation.

    However, if you stick with unilateral breathing, and say alsway breathig to your right, then one day there will be spray / waves / wind coming from that way, and you'll have difficulty breathing.

    I find the best option is to not restict your self to one method. Try to train doing 2, 3, 4 or even 5.

    Race day will be different to any training swims, and you may find that the firsy half you'll be fine using 3 strokes, but as you put more effort in and go into oxygen debt, then changing to breathing every 2 strokes will help. this is why it's worth training at a mixture of rates so you've always got that felxibilty to chnage as the situation predicts.

  • danny_sdanny_s Posts: 235
    If breathing every 3 is really tough for you, then just make sure you can breath unilaterally on both sides. You'll not get out of breath so much, but if you have waves or chop from the right then you'll be able to handle it and still get enough air. Breath isn't something that you should really feel is scarce if you need it every 2 or 4 if it has to be on the same side, then breathe!

  • CCSCCS Posts: 53
    I absolutely agree re the suggestion to just breath whenever you need to.

    I spent ages practicing breathing every 4 strokes in training, then got to my first race, and found that nerves got the better of me, and ended up breathing every 2 or 3 until I settled down.

    I think the key thing is to make sure you are confortable breathing on either side, as then you have plently of options.
  • risris Posts: 1,002
    i try to breathe every 3 but as intensity increases it goes to every 2. i don't think bi-lateral breathing is so much about drag as levelling up the stroke you aren't weaker / stronger on one side.

    i agree with the suggestions from others that you should breathe when you need to - if you practice breathing on your less favoured side then you always have it there when you need it (in case of wave, spray, other swimmer, etc).

    if you are finding that you are running out of breath swimming 3 then is there any way you can hold a lungful for 1/2 a stroke before you exhale it? if your breathing is geared up to 2 then you might need to just delay the breath out or slow the exhalation a bit so that you make it to the next breath.
  • jacjac Posts: 452
    I was told to try and breathe bilaterally..in training at least. Less chance of creating muscular imbalance/neck problems.

    But in a race scenario and the need to get oxygen into your lungs two is fine - according to swim coach!
  • md6md6 Posts: 969
    I tend to breathe as and when i need to. i start off bilateraly, but if i tire, or for some reason need to i switch to unilateral - to avoid neck problems muschle inbalances etc i alternate the side i breathe by lenght (i.e one length to the left - one to the right) it seems to work ok.
  • gdh250467gdh250467 Posts: 237
    The simplest ideas are always the easiest one, I think I'll try alternate sides / lengths tonight
  • husslerhussler Posts: 237
    Do whatever you are comfortable with.

    It doesnt matter if you breath every 1, 2, 3, ...10 strokes to performance..

    I breath every 2 strokes always on Left side.... and I swim 400 in 5:22, 1500 in 22 mins...
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