Friday, August 29, 2008

Easy way to Rotate your Body in Freestyle

5/26/11 Edit: OK, I am going to be the big man (never wasn't) and admit the advice I posted near the bottom of this post - on how to rotate - is wrong. It's been a while, so I'm not certain, but I want to believe my idea was to get novice swimmers to see what rotation felt like. I guess I overstepped and implied that one should do this as "proper" technique. They should NOT. Thank you to those who commented that the advice is poor - I respect your years of tenure. Note to readers, if you read the post below, please read the comments(aside from my first reply) and you'll see how wrong my advice apparently was.

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One secret to swimming faster freestyle is to rotate your body. Rotation can be a challenge for some but after reading this tip, you'll see that it was never supposed to be hard. The tip is quite easy to understand and do.

First, what is body rotation and why rotate in the first place? Optimally, when not in a rotation, the swimmer's body should be straight and parallel to the surface of the water and the bottom of the pool so it can stream through the water with less resistance. Rotation is when the body (maintaining the parallel) turns to the side, giving the body even less resistance.

I've used the pencil analogy in previous posts, but for this example I'm going to suggest using a ruler. Hold the ruler by either end with the length of the parallel to the floor and with the scale so it is facing the floor. Now turn the ruler so the scale faces the wall. Now turn it down to the floor again and make the scale face the opposite wall. Now imagine doing that with your body in the pool. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. That is rotation.

So why should you rotate? Rotation puts your body in position to have less resistance as it passes through the water. Notice from the ruler demonstration that when the scale is facing the wall, the shape of the ruler is more like a knife (or a fish). This position also puts you in position to have a more powerful pull stroke.

So, how can you guarantee you'll rotate? This is the easy part. Standing, put your arms over your head extended straight out, fingers pointing up. Now cross your arms at the wrist so the cross is directly over your head (keep arms fully extended). Note how each hand is extended beyond the center point. Now put one arm to your side and leave the other where it is. Now switch them.

Now just do this in the pool. When you extend each arm ahead, be sure to reach beyond the center point where the wrists would cross if they were there together.

What this does. The extended reach past the center point will force your body automatically into the rotation you are wanting to achieve. If you don't find yourself rotating enough, extend your reach further (i.e. hyper-extend). Enjoy!


  1. Do not follow this terrible advice. Crossing over centre will cause the body to snake, breaking the streamline. To rotate use your kick or reach directly forward in line with the shoulder and down or both. Repeat do not follow the advice given in this article

  2. Appreciate the comment, but I stand by my post. If you think about it, most every swimming move has some body counter move or else you would swim in circles or worse. Obviously my suggestions "can" pull the opposite leg to the outside. I'm not saying one should exaggerate the cross-arm thing which certainly would would lead to snake-like swimming (as you point out). A strong core will prevent this. I guess I did not take that into account and my advice is probably not the best for a new swimmer. BTW, your suggestions to "use your kick or reach directly forward" implies that rotating just happens. It does not.

  3. Robert A.May 26, 2011

    I have been coaching Master's Swim for 23 years and swam Division 1 for 3 years. Please, whomever reads this. DO NOT do what this article says. I cry with tutorials on the internet b/c everyone is suddenly a genius. Crossing over center is the #1 cause of shoulder in juries and leads to shoulder impingement. Further more when you cross center it's nearly impossible to breathe properly and worst of all it's sets you up for a very weak catch.

    Go see a swim coach anywhere, but please disregard this web site's advice as I hate to see new swimmers start off with bad mechanics.


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