One of the worst habits a freestyle swimmer can get into is only turning his or her head to one side to breathe. The practice can cause stroke inequality, where the breathing stroke is much stronger and more finished than the stroke made on the non-breathing side. With the following skill work and a lot of stroke practice, a lopsided stroke can be corrected.
The quickest way to subvert a lopsided front crawl stroke is to breath on both sides of the body. This forces your body to roll more completely to the weaker side. Breathing on your weaker side also causes you to reach further and pull through the stroke more to allow time to get a good inhalation.
One of the best ways to train your stroke for alternate breathing is to follow a 1-3-5-7 pattern. To follow the pattern you count your strokes between breaths, and breathe when indicated-on the first, third, fifth, or seventh stroke. Building strokes between breaths also helps gain better breathing control.
Often in a lopsided front crawl, one arm pulls more forcefully than the other. The weaker arm follows through before the dominant arm finishes its pull. It leads to a da-dum stroke rhythm instead of a more cadenced one-and-two stroke rhythm. Stroke work like fingertip touches breaks that uneven da-dum pattern to even out your strokes.
To start the skill, push off the wall with both arms extended in front of your head, one hand overlapping the other. As you begin the first pull, focus on extending your stroke so that when your arm leaves the water for recovery your fingertips brush the side of your thigh. Leave the other arm extended ahead of you. Before beginning the next pull, your recovering arm must re-enter the water and fingertips of the two hands must touch. Using a pull buoy is recommended to further isolate arm motions.
Weak Side Breathing
If your stroke is seriously lopsided, the 1-3-5-7 breathing pattern and fingertip touches may not correct it completely. If this is the case, concentrated breathing work using only your weaker side is a must.
It may take several sessions of weak side breath work to even out your front crawl strokes. It may take several weeks before you are comfortable and breathe efficiently on the weak side.
Your freestyle stroke may feel awkward for some time. Keep at it! Your stroke efficiency and swimming speed will increase quickly as you become more comfortable.