Try Sneaky Breathing

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It's fair to say that if something is going to go wrong with your stroke technique, it will probably go wrong whilst you are breathing. One very common problem you might have in your own stroke without realising it is over-rotation whilst breathing.

On a normal stroke you might rotate your shoulders and hips to around 45-60 degrees, which is the correct amount:

When you breathe you tend to rotate a little more on that stroke and if this goes much beyond 60 degrees you are over-rotating. In fact it's common to see swimmers rotating to 80 or 90 degrees at this point in their stroke:

Over-rotation is a problem because it causes you to lose balance in the water, the result being a scissoring of the legs to regain your stability, creating a lot of drag:

Over-rotation can be caused by problems such as the lead arm collapsing whilst breathing (a classic Bambino problem) or a crossover in front of the head (a classic Arnie problem) and of course you should work on correcting those faults directly (we suggest you use the fault fixer processes in our new web-app coaching system to do that). However, even when you've corrected your stroke, over-rotation may remain in place as a bit of habit. To help overcome that, try the 'sneaky breathing' visualisation:

Sneaky Breathing

What you are trying to achieve is less rotation of the body when you breathe, you don't want to remain completely flat but there is little risk of this happening as we all feel a strong urge to rotate to breathe when swimming freestyle.

Moving from over-rotation to normal rotation will mean that the breath happens a little quicker than normal, feeling like you are taking quick or 'sneaky' breath in without interrupting the overall rhythm of your stroke.

To make this happen, ensure you are keeping your head low in the water as you breath, looking across the pool and angling your mouth like Popeye chews his spinach:

You've already exhaled into the water so you simply turn your head to the side as your body rotates, quickly inhale and then return the head back to the water. The whole process should happen quite quickly - in fact when you watch elite swimmers like Jono Van Hazel if you blink you might miss them breathing altogether:

So try using sneaky breathing the next time you swim. The result you are looking for is for your stroke to feel much more rhythmical and flowing with much less interruption from the process of breathing. Give it a try!

Swim Smooth!


Jonas said...

When we breathe, should we maintain exactly the same rotation angle as when not breathing?

Thank you.

Valerie said...

Really enjoyed this post! I tend to over rotate when I swim so I'm anxious to try out these techniques. Hopefully, I can shave some time off.

Adam Young said...

Hi Jonas,

Ideally you would but everyone rotates a little more (without realising) - perhaps another 10 degrees. Don't try and deliberately rotate more or you'll definitely over do it!

Hi Valerie, definitely give it a go and let us know how you get on.



A Sauve said...

I am a coach and I have a few swimmers that over-rotate, I always tell them to breath into their armpit and then have to assure them that there will be a pocket of air there waiting for them. But maybe I should try telling a couple of them to sneak a breath and try to not let me notice ;)

Also, have you seen anyone using string and an alligator clip? They attach the string to their goggles and the alligator clip to their suit around the area of their belly button. I've heard it keeps your head in the correct position because the string will become loose if you are looking to far behind and become extremely taught if you look forward. The purpose being to teach the swimmer to have an elongated, straight spine. What are your thoughts?

Iain said...

The latest circular on (over) rotating was very timely. I could submit a video taken by (Coach) Morgan 2 weeks ago of myself showing all too clearly things falling apart as a result of my all but 90° vertical angle. It does not take much imagination to picture a remedy. The problem is however that I suffer from a chronic oxygen deficit when freestyling more than a very short distance and, in the absence of a cure, I have to ensure absolute maximum air intake on each stroke. High rotation (the more so in choppy water) as videoed helps with this and I have even developed a minute pause in the recovery to assist. The idea of doing the opposite by taking quick "sneaky" breaths, whilst appealing in theory, would have the unfortunate downside of asphyxia :(

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