SIP 033: What do you think of “side glide?”

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Should we get rid of side glide like sidestroke?

Side Glide:


What are the benefits? Are there even good examples of side glide that effectively teach freestyle breathing?


If you can do a streamline, do that first, then roll over on your side, put your top hand on your hip, and stack your hips. Rotate your hips and your shoulder to lean on your side. Breathe, and then put your face in the water and do it again.


The idea, is that you rotate your body to breathe which later on in swimming is generally the goal: connect your hips and your arms as they move on freestyle to have the best swimming. You should breathe by connecting your head rotation to the side with your hips. Breathe when your hips rotate.


Side glide is a good tool to use to teach safety only: learn how to breathe the easiest? Or quickly while staying at the surface when you have no understanding of swimming freestyle well.



  1. Promotes head up, chin away from the body at the surface. This requires a lot of retraining later on when we’re attempting to correct the head up, chin away from your body position. This makes the body sink, legs will fall down, and the head will raise up while swimming.
  2. Does not effectively teach face down position. This requires retraining when teaching freestyle correctly: body straight, face looking straight down where the crown or top of the head pushes the water, not the face.  When side glide is taught first, swimmers will lift their head and raise their chin away from their body causing their feet to sink, and make it more difficult to swim.
  3. When actually doing side glide, it promotes (and it encouraged by the teachers) to doggie paddle in order to breathe.  This actually encourages the participant to struggle on the surface. If you’ve head SIP 024 Why we never let participants struggle, you’ll remember that this loses trust and confidence in the instructor and is one of the absolute worst things you can do as a swim instructor. Never let the participant struggle, and absolutely never encourage struggling to breathe.
  4. It does not directly correlate to good swimming posture.  Side glide is based off of the Head Lead Balance with Rotation drill.  We have an awesome video/post on our website already! :       This is a great drill for advanced swimmers, and appropriate for beginners when done on the back. We only introduce this when swimmers know how to swim well already. It is a drill to reinforce hip and body rotation and keeping the head still, unless breathing. It does NOT work and is NOT effective when swimmers get out of alignment.  Because this is a difficult drill to do well as an advanced swimmer, it makes absolutely no sense to introduce it to beginners. Beginners need to have proper body line and posture before attempting this drill, because when the head comes out of alignment, then the drill loses its benefit. When you struggle at the surface and when you lift your chin to breathe, the drill loses its entire purpose: reinforce body rotation and balancing at the surface.


Our goal is to teach swimming well. #1 focus is to have a safe swimming, and have all our swimmers get in a pool or water of any type and be competent enough to swim at will and then exit the water. We want all participants to be able to leave the water on their own. To survive. Side glide will teach someone to struggle to breathe and maybe survive for a little while longer, but it does not teach how to swim freestyle well. With Swimming Ideas, we want to teach swimming well, and when you can swim well, you are comfortable enough and strong enough to get to the side quickly well, and to struggle well enough to save yourself.


What do you think? Does swimming well translate to being able to struggle to the side? Or do you think teaching survival swimming side glide with a safety focus is better and despite retraining later worth it?


Let me know. Comment below, or connect with me on Twitter: @swimmingideas or send me an email:

Better swimming.
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