Breathing and balance in side kick drill

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Breathing and balance in side kick drill

Postby Daniel » Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:36 am


This is my first post here so "Hello".

I have been working on my breathing and balance while waiting for a sore shoulder to heal. Specifically I have been working on the sidekick drill with one arm extended and the other at my side while swimming 25 meters at a time. I am having trouble doing this well on both sides and I am hoping that somebody might have helpful suggestions for improvement.

My good breathing side is on my left and when working the drill on that side I feel like I have relatively good balance, good breathing (long exhales followed by a bit of an explosive exhale before inhaling quick and low). I also feel relatively strong in the water on my good side in that I feel like my kick is really working for me.

But on my bad side there is much room for improvement. I feel a bit panicked with respect to my breathing and don't exhale well. In general I move much more slowly with poor balance on my bad side. One thing that seems to be important is that I often feel a little trickle of pool water at the back of my throat when side kicking on my bad side and that sensation seems to be setting off this panic response and all the bad stuff that comes with it. I don't get water in my mouth when swimming on my good side.

I am a bit confused about what I could be doing differently on the bad side that could be leading to such a lack of comfort. Does anybody have a guess at why I am having do much trouble doing the sidekick exercise on my bad side?

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Re: Breathing and balance in side kick drill

Postby cottmiler » Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:42 am

You need to be able to do this on either side:

It's from my thread "Pressing your Buoy" , Sept 19 , 2015.

It can help if you get someone else to watch what you are doing wrong when taking up this float position.
cottmiler is also on

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Re: Breathing and balance in side kick drill

Postby Shenaram » Mon Aug 22, 2016 3:03 pm

I am not a swim coach, but I would gladly express my opinion, with your permission.

The "pressing you buoy" video is excellent, I think. This highlights a common problem.

Again, without seeing yourself swim, it is somehow difficult to appraise if your problem is the same.
However, should it be the same, I noticed that two drills could perhaps help getting a better feel of the body balance while kicking on the side:

A. Holding a board under the arm, on the side (not the arm in the front), and making sure the body is aligned with it (shoulder and hip close to the water surface as the board).
B. Looking the side wall for a while (not turning the head down); the tiles help find horizontality, and maybe help being calmer, or not. The head should be turned, of course, to breath. Ultimately, the goal is to look down, not the side wall.

Generally speaking, I think that accessories are to be used for specific goals (improving feel for water, balance, strength, ...) but not every time like a crutch.
I hope that you will solve your problem.

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Re: Breathing and balance in side kick drill

Postby Sprinter » Mon Aug 22, 2016 8:56 pm

Hello Daniel,

are you using fins? If not, perhaps for the beginning you could use them. In general I think doing kicking on the side without fins is an excellent kicking and core-control exercise, but it might be too hard at the beginning.

Possibly you are kicking much weaker on your weak side. It seems that a certain difference in speed between the two sides is quite natural, but if the difference is too big, then on the weaker side you get into trouble.

Perhaps on your weak side, try kicking really hard, with a very stable core, and rather straight legs (and don't forget the extension backwards). Perhaps do this only for 10m and see how it feels

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Re: Breathing and balance in side kick drill

Postby Daniel » Tue Aug 23, 2016 8:09 pm

Thanks for the advice, everyone. I will give "pressing my buoy" a try this evening.

Is it common to have such a big disparity in balance from one side to the other?

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Re: Breathing and balance in side kick drill

Postby Shenaram » Wed Aug 24, 2016 10:51 am

In my opinion, it is not rare.
Perharps, it is more visible in non-elite swimmers?
Others may have another opinion, though.

The Dodo
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Re: Breathing and balance in side kick drill

Postby The Dodo » Thu Aug 25, 2016 10:12 am

Side-drill imbalance when using different sides downwards, could be due to various reasons - some of which have already been mentioned (e.g. "Sprinter"'s post). Could a simple "difference in neck flexibility to each side", be the answer in your case?

If you are just doing the "on-the-side" drill for flutter kicking practice over a length or so (i.e. not the "6 kicks on one side, one arm stroke with the lead arm and recovery of the former rear arm as one switches across to the other side for another 6 kicks etc") - then rather than keeping the lower arm outstretched below the surface (and possibly pushing a narrow wedge of water ahead of you because the outstretched/straight lead arm is not up by the surface enough (effectively slowing you down - as in that terrible demo in "cottmiler"'s clip - what a lot of drag!) - try letting it dangle down near your lower side, and occasionally use it like a rudder to keep you on a straight course - that's not as bad as pushing a wedge of water forwards!

Our one-time active coaching member "SolarEnergy" suggested at one time, that we could still benefit from the drill by rolling slightly onto the back, so that the eyes are looking more towards the ceiling than the pool side, and mouth well clear of the water for easier inhalation - then perhaps get back onto the side to exhale partly UW or partly across the surface.

I've never used the "Pressing the T" (aka "Pressing the Buoy") idea that "cottmiler" suggests when on the side - only when swimming on the tum, as a "trick" to raise the legs up to the surface, and for an instant to utilize the buoyancy reaction, by pushing (or nodding) the head/shoulders down a bit, to get the "upward bounce" making inhalation easier. I suppose it could be of some value if done on the side - pushing your head/lower shoulder further UW, and waiting for the upward bounce of the buoyancy reaction to snatch a quick inhalation. Somehow that idea doesn't appeal to me - the tip of looking up towards the ceiling more, when partly rolled onto the back, seems a better option for safe inhalations!

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Mike A
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Re: Breathing and balance in side kick drill

Postby Mike A » Fri Aug 26, 2016 8:07 am

Nearly everyone has a strong and a weak breathing side, to some degree. I have it bad. When breathing on my weak side my whole balance and body position feels totally different; it's not like a mirror-image of my "good side" stroke at all. If I try to make it like my "good side" stroke, I end up drinking pool water. It's not terribly surprising because I have a true (physical rather than functional) limb length discrepancy - one leg is about half an inch longer than the other - and as a consequence my hips, shoulders and neck are all kind of wonky. I guess I'm quite an extreme case - but most people have asymmetry to some degree.
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