Whats the optimal time to take a breath in front crawl swimming? I've looked at videos of Olympic swimmers and they all seem to (mostly) take a breath at the same side every 2 strokes (this excludes sprints).
I've watched this video about 100 times :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax77_hHq9Dc
It's Michael Phelps swimming a few lengths on his own. at 0:09 you can clearly see him turn to his right for a breath just as his right hand sweeps by his head. Also his body tilts about 45 degrees to the left so basically he's using his right hand to somehow "pull" himself up on the right side thus causing his body to tilt this way hence making it easier to go up for a breath.
When I watch swimmers at my local pool nearly EVERYONE does it the opposite way (Including the very fit looking people who swim lap after lap non stop). ie. If they're turning to the right for a breath they'll do it when their left hand enters the water and "hoist" themself up for a breath. In fact some of them even slap the water , using the water's surface tension then push down and back. I confess this is the way I always swam too and still feels most comfortable for me.
Anyway the other day I tried swimming the way Phelps does in this video and found it very counter-intuitive and difficult to coordinate it not to mention feeling strain in my neck due to lack of flexibility. Despite this, I persisted and managed to churn out a few laps this way and the best way I can describe it was it felt like I was "climbing" up the pool.
In terms of energy usage, The 2 methods felt about equal although the Phelps way requires much more concentration.
I'd like to hear from any competitive/experienced swimmers here about your opinion on these 2 ways of breathing. Am I making something out of nothing with this or is there a reason the pros swim like this? As I say, I watched lots of swimmers at my local pool and none of them swim like this. Are they bad swimmers or is there no "bad" way?
Front crawl breathing is a little different for everyone, due to length of limbs, level of fitness, bouyancy, So the short answer is whatever works comfortably for you is usually best. What changes this is if your breath at your "comfortable" time is interfering with your stroke power or stroke length. Phelps' stroke is roughly where my own would be at too, as my hand passes shoulder position in the water, I start to turn my head, and breathe out, as my right hand finishes propulsion and pops out of the water I take my inbreath and as my arm recovers over the top, my head looks back down. WHile mine is a bit lazier and less efficient than Phelps' the principle is the same, I am trying to time my breath so that it has the least impact on my arm-stroke power.
On the 2 strokes 3 strokes mono -v- Bilateral breathing, again it depends. In a flat out sprint one sided is usually quicker, but try it for a 500m swim, and you'll have a sore neck for yourself, so its all about muscle balance, fatigue and repetitive strain if you over-do it. I normally stick to bi-lateral breathing on every 3rd or 5th, even 7th sometimes if I'm just swimming easy.
If you watch an old Grant Hackett race, you'll see his breathing is very steady paced, his stroke is smooth and gracefull looking, he breathes to both sides. If you look at Thorpe or Phelps over a 50 or 100m sprint, their arms are absoultely flailing, their legs are absolutely pounding and they breathe on every second stroke. Its pretty much like comparing the Marathon runners stride to a sprinters.
Hope it helps
Yeah, breathing every 2 strokes could leave your body looking crooked unless you change your breathing side regularly. The way phelps swims in this video looks easy but is incredibly difficult to perfect this technique. If you watch him breathing his head turns about 10-15 degrees to his right while his entire body does most of the turning.
I suppose the reason the mono breathing works best is cause the body spends less time in the horizontal position and more time "cutting" the water,although its asymmetrical it results in a faster sprint
edit: In fact if you watch this video again, at 1:00 you can see his left hand sweep inwards and pull his left side up. I'm not sure about his feet but Im sure they're perfectly timed to assist the tilt perfectly. He's an incredible swimmer.
edit: I think you can improve a lot by watching these videos again and again and getting a feel for how it's done. Sure its important to train a lot but many people train "mindlessly"
THere is a certain benefit from "mindless" training, in the sense that as long as you are staying around 75% of MHR, it will have an aerobic benefit to you, but there is really no substitute for having a coach on pool deck, watching your stroke, and making little corrections to improve your overall technique. For many people this isn't an option due to lifestyle and work commitments and times, but it is possible to do a limited amount of self observation, by counting strokes, and putting time in on drills that will definitely be of benefit without the presence of a coach. Even to have someone to swim with and pace you is of massive benefit, push each other to keep the HR in the right zone.
No matter what HR you train at you will always benefit from your pool session,getting the feel for the water is the most important for everyone,breathing for everyone is different,do what you feel comfortable with,the main reason especially in tri's for bilateral breathing is to watch your competition and plot your course,relax ,be comfortable find your rythm and as you get fitter work on your breathing : } ps check out this website total immersion swimming
I'm a decent swimmer and I've done a fair bit of teaching and coaching but I've always had a weak backstroke. I got one of my friends to do a few sessions with me and it improved dramatically. I'm sure if I was standing on the deck I would have seen what I was doing wrong but in the water I couldn't figure it out.